They went to the logical place, don’t you think, to discover the newborn Jewish King. Where else but in Jerusalem? The capital city! But they arrive to the party all dressed up and on time to find that there is no party whatsoever. No one is excited in the city. Business as usual. Buying and selling, marrying and being given in marriage. The daily round. And they are perplexed. “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews?” they ask. To the astonished faces around them they add: “For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship him.”
When word reached old King Herod that there are rich visitors from the Eastern lands sitting on his doorstep and asking about the birth of new king of the Jews, the Messiah, he is troubled. And we are told not he alone. “And all Jerusalem with him.”
The advent of the Lord Jesus in our flesh and blood is trouble. Trouble for all who want to be kings themselves. Who want to have the say so over their lives and what they do and how they live. For He comes as King. A King is one to whom obedience is owed. Of the Messiah the Patriarch Jacob prophesied long ago: “To Him shall be the obedience of the people.” (Gen. 49) For none may call Him Lord and do as they like with their lives with impunity. On the last day He shall ask all such: “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord’ and not do the things which I say?” (Lk 6:46)
So Herod and all Jerusalem is troubled by the news, and Herod knows where to turn. He calls in the all the chief priests and scribes of the people to ask them where the Christ was to be born. Scripture gave the answer: In Bethlehem of Judea. So the prophet Micah had foretold centuries upon centuries before. Bethlehem, that insignificant little town whose only claim to fame lay in it being the birth place of King David - and that a thousand years before! - Bethlehem was the place.
Doctor Luther finds great significance in the fact that for the wisemen to find the baby Jesus they needed more than the star. They needed the Word of God. Us too. Not in the signs of nature - not in beautiful sunsets and mountain peaks shimmering with snow will we find the Lord Christ. For though these are all His and declare His glory, the place to find the Lord Jesus is in the Words that He Himself gave, in the words His Spirit inspired, in the Scriptures.
But how great is the grace of God! For after giving them the Word that pointed them directly to where the Christ was, He also added the star again. This time unfailing until it came to stand right over the place where the Child was. And how they needed that little extra confirmation. For when they got there they found a teenage mother with a little baby living in poverty. A perfectly ordinary baby. Not wrapped in “velvets soft and silken stuff.” Rather, laying on “hay and straw so rough.” Here was the long-promised King of the Jews. Was there a feeling of let-down? Of disappointment? That this King they had sought for so long and from so far should be so utterly wretched and ordinary. Just a peasant’s babe?
But look what they do! They do not say: No, this can’t be the One. This is no King. But they close their eyes to what their eyes see and they fasten before their eyes of their hearts the very Word of God. They believe, contrary to all that they see. They believe that what God has said is true. That the star has not lied. That here is the Babe whose goings forth are from ancient days, from eternity. They believe that this is the promised King come to be King not only of the Jews but of all people, of all who rest their final hope and confidence in Him. And so they fall down on their knees, yes on their faces, before the Holy Child and they worship Him upon His mother's lap.
“Ah, Lord, though you created all, How weak You are, so poor and small, That You should choose to lay Your head where lowly cattle lately fed!”
Thus might the Wise men have sung! They did not stumble at His poverty and His lowly appearance. Instead they brought out their gifts and offered them to Him. Gold - the confession of His Kingship. Incense - the confession that He is true God, for “incense owns a Deity nigh”. Myrrh - the confession that He would die, the sacrifice for the sins of all. His whole life prophesied in the gifts bestowed.
And there is in the Christian, in the one who falls down in worship of this King, the most certain desire to give to Him - yes, to give to Him as the Wisemen did of old. Here is the One who was given for us, to be Himself the bearer of our sin, the sacrifice of atonement for us, that we might stand before His Father without stain, wrinkle or blemish, a people beloved. He came to give us all. And so we desire to give to Him. But what can we give Him but ourselves? What greater do we have to give than our very hearts? To throw open the doors of our lives to Him and say to this One who came as a little Child - “Ah, dearest Jesus, holy Child, Prepare a bed, soft, undefiled, a quiet chamber set apart for You to dwell within my heart” Such is the prayer of those who renounce their own rights over their lives and surrender completely to Him. And with Him that is the way it must be. No half-hearted and compromised discipleship. For we are all either Wise men who fall down in worship before the Christ and give the gift of ourselves to Him who gave the Gift of Himself, or we are Herods, out to do away with the King, so that we can be the big boss in our lives and in the lives of others - for it never stops with just us.
This Epiphany to you is given again the gift of forgiveness - forgiveness for all those times you have played the part of Herod and have killed in your heart the voice of Him who spoke, calling you away from sin and to live under His Kingship. To you He says: “Come, child, renounce all your rights and be my own and live under Me in My Kingdom in everlasting righteousness, innocence and blessedness. Follow my Word to where I promise forgiveness to be located for you. Not now in Bethlehem but there: in the bread and the wine. Here is My Body and My Blood. For you. For forgiveness. Here I give you the very offering of Calvary’s cross that you may know that I am your King forever.” And what will you say to the kind invitation of Your King? May your answer be: “Lord, let your Light rise to shine on me and I will be yours forever.” Then truly you too will be filled with exceedingly great joy.