Many miles from Israel, in a land where people didn’t really know God properly, men gazed into the skies - trying to find meaning and guidance from the stars. In their ignorance of God they looked to the stars to find out His plans, and, even though God wouldn’t want us to do the same thing today, He was to have mercy of these ‘wise men’ of the eastern lands.
And as they turned their eyes to the heavens something new appeared in the night sky, a star they had never seen before. These men were men of learning and wisdom and spent many long hours trying to discover what this new star could mean. And as they tried to find out, so God Himself started to reveal to them what almost no one else knew. This star was a sign from God to guide these men, from a far away land, to find – a King! A newborn King. THE - newborn King of the Jews. Just how God revealed all this to them we don’t know, it was a miracle. God was leading men from far away, people who weren’t Jews and who some thought had no right to even know about the King of the Jews – to seek out and find Him!
Overjoyed with their discovery and certain that everyone in Israel must know about Him already, the wise men loaded their camels and set out to find the newborn King of the Jews. It was easy, all they had to do was follow the star. But as the men came to Israel, the star that had so clearly lead them this far - disappeared! What were they to do? Well, to them it was obvious, go and see the rulers in Jerusalem and ask them where He was and how they could find Him.
Meanwhile, without any knowledge of the newborn King, the present king of Israel, Herod, sat on his throne. Old and ill this evil man ruled with a rod of iron – no matter who came against him, even if it were his own sons, they were shown no mercy! His fear of losing his kingdom would make him fight to his last breath to hold on to what he’d taken - no matter how many lives it cost.
But as the wise men arrived and started to ask their questions, at first they were shocked that no one in Jerusalem knew anything about the newborn King! Jerusalem was the capital city of Israel, why didn’t anyone know anything about this wonderful news? Why were they so ignorant? And so the wise men asked more and more people how they could find the newborn King. (P) Instantly Jerusalem was in uproar and it took no time at all for king Herod to hear of the strangers’ questions! And when he did, the evil old king was deeply troubled – who was this baby that would challenge him as king? (PAUSE) Could they be talking about the long awaited Messiah? Quickly, he called his religious advisers and demanded that they tell him where the Messiah would be born.
‘Bethlehem,’ came the reply. ‘The prophet wrote many years ago; 'O Bethlehem of Judah,
you aren’t just a lowly village, for a ruler will come from you who will be the shepherd for my people Israel.' (PAUSE) So it was Bethlehem! Bethlehem, just a short journey south from Jerusalem would be where the baby King could be found.
With this information in hand, Herod hatched his plot. He called the wise men to a secret meeting and with all his evil cunning - he fixed a holy and sincere look on his face. ‘This is such wonderful news,’ he lied, ‘My people have been waiting so many years for the Messiah to be born, and I too wish to go and worship him. Tell me, how long ago did this star first appear in the sky?’ (P)
The wise men could never have known the pain that their answer was to bring. ‘The star first appeared 2 years ago,’ they replied.
Then Herod continued, ‘The birthplace of the Messiah is Bethlehem. Go there and make a careful search for the child. And when you’ve found Him, come back here and tell me where He is - so that I too can go and worship.’ His face and voice may have sounded sincere, but there was murder in Herod’s heart!
With this news the wise men set off for Bethlehem - alone! All Jerusalem had been stirred by their enquires, and yet no one travelled to the next town to see the newborn Messiah. These wise men were truly wise, for they had travelled such a distance to seek the King of kings, and even though the star had disappeared, God had put it in their hearts to carry on looking - until they found Him. And as the wise men travelled, to their joy, the star that had led them before reappeared in the sky. Overjoyed at the return of the star, they followed it until it led them to the very house where the child was.
What must they have thought as they came to see the King of the Jews? The star had led them to the kind of house only poor people live in – this was no palace! But God makes no mistakes; He had sent the star to lead these men, men from a far off country - to find His Son. And even though He was found in a poor house, they knew God could be trusted. And so they entered the house where Mary and Jesus were and fell down and worshipped Him – worshipped the Messiah, the Saviour - the King of the Jews!
How God revealed so much to these men we’ll never know, for having worshipped the child, they opened their treasure chests and presented Him with three wonderful gifts. Gold – the gift for a King! Frankincense – burnt with a sweet smell to worship God. And Myrrh – used for burying the dead! For Jesus, God the Son – was the King who would one day die for us all. (P)
But by their very presence in Bethlehem, the wise men had put the child and His family in mortal danger! Herod had no intension of worshipping Jesus - he wanted Jesus dead! Herod had only one way of dealing with potential rivals – murder! And the wise men were due to return to Herod the very next day and tell him exactly where he could find the child! But that night as the wise men slept, God revealed to them in a dream that they mustn’t go back to Herod, but travel home by another road.
As soon as the wise men had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph. ‘Hurry, get up and escape to Egypt with the child and His mother, for Herod is going to try and kill the child! Stay there until I tell you to return.’ So that very night they packed up what they could and hurried away to Egypt, staying there until Herod died!
When Herod realised he’d been outsmarted by the wise men he flew into a rage and ordered soldiers to go to Bethlehem at once and murder every baby boy aged 2 years and below – any child born since the time the star had first appeared! (P) What terrible pain his wicked cruelty caused. (PAUSE)
It wasn’t too long until the evil king Herod died, and when he had, the angel came once again to Joseph and said, ‘Go back to Israel with the child and His mother, the one who wanted to kill Him is now dead.’ So Joseph returned to Israel, but when he realised that Herod’s son Archelaus was now king he was badly frightened. And after another dream warning him to go to Galilee, the family settled in the small village of Nazareth.