After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” Matthew 2:1-2
Christmas is over. It’s time for us to take the ornaments off the tree, roll up the garland, and toss out the mistletoe. I admit that taking down the Christmas decorations is always a little sad to me. I’d rather not put it all away. My least favorite decoration to pack is the manger scene. I prefer leaving Mary and Joseph and baby Jesus where I can see them. I feel kind of odd removing these figures, like they don’t matter anymore.
The shift from Luke’s telling to Matthew’s telling is quite dramatic: exit shepherds, enter wise men; exit stables, enter palaces and a house; exit poverty, enter wealth; exit angels, enter dreams. Mary’s lullaby is hushed, and instead we listen to Rachel’s wail for her lost children.
Move the Bethlehem set off stage and lower the backdrop that stretches from the shores of the Mediterranean Sea to the Far East. You see, this story is set in a global context. The Magi come from the East, how “far east” we don’t know, but probably from Babylon or farther.
The Gospel writer Matthew has a wide-angle lens; he is known for his panoramic approach. He wants us to understand that God is not just for the Jewish people, but for the Gentiles as well, not just for the chosen of Israel, but for “all those who sit in darkness who have seen a great light.” God is not just for those people back then and over there, but God is for us right here and right now, too.
We are included. We are included, and as comforting as that feels, we must be careful to hear his pronouncement to us, as well. God is not just for us, not just for the Methodists; not just for the Bulldogs, but also for Yellow Jackets too. God is for us all. God is for both Alabama and Clemson. The God of the Bible is an equal-opportunity God, available to all people everywhere. So whoever you are, God is for you too.
When we read Matthew’s gospel we must remind ourselves to look up, look to the horizon, keep our eyes on the bigger picture. You see, we do not know exactly where these Magi came from, or what they were really doing when they saw the star. We have no information to suggest that they became followers of Jesus in any way. They just mysteriously show up with precious expensive gifts from some exotic far-away place, and just as mysteriously, they disappear again. But their message is clear: Jesus is the true King of Kings.
Jesus is the King, which seems like a contradiction in the context of tiny Bethlehem, manger in a stable, shepherds in their fields. But the story of the Wise Men is a clear statement that Jesus is the Messiah, Emmanuel, God with us. This helps us to realize that the baby born in Bethlehem has come for a distinctly adult purpose; indeed, the baby Jesus has come to be the savior of the world!
Which is Good News. Good news… Christmas is good news because we know we are loved: “For God so loved the world that he sent his son.” We are loved with an everlasting love, a sacrificial love, loved with the power and faithfulness that only God can provide.