Summary: Seek, worship and rejoice in Jesus.
A KING BORN
It is unusual for somebody to be born already possessing the title of “King” – but this was the case with Jesus. Matthew’s report simply states that Jesus was born in Bethlehem (Matthew 2:1): but he quotes the identity of Jesus as “born King” from the lips of the Magi (Matthew 2:2).
The chief priests and scribes in Jerusalem, quoting Micah 5:2, acknowledged that the ultimate Ruler was to be born in Bethlehem, but (unlike these strangers from the East) did not care enough to check out the rumour of His birth. Head-knowledge of the Bible is not enough, if we will not take the trouble to seek the One to whom the Scripture was always pointing (John 5:39). Wise men still seek Him.
What brought these students of the stars, astronomers rather than astrologers, to the palace of Herod the usurper king, in Jerusalem? Evidently they had been following a “star” which they saw “at its rising” (more usually translated “in the East”). To the naked eye a planet or a comet, or a conjunction of two planets, appears as a star.
These sage travellers were no doubt aware of the expectation of the nations (Haggai 2:7), that One was to be born in Israel who would be a King of universal significance to the whole of mankind (Numbers 24:17). As they travelled westward they had the faith to believe that they were following His star, but when they drew near Jerusalem (where they expected Him to be born, in the king’s palace) they seem to have lost sight of the star. ‘Bad company corrupts good manners' (1 Corinthians 15:33), and it was not until they left the duplicitous Herod that they could truly resume their quest.
When the Magi left Jerusalem, they again saw the star which they had seen at its rising, and followed it to the place where it appeared to stop (as seen from the perspective of people standing upon the surface of the earth). It is no wonder that “when they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy” (Matthew 2:10). Wise folks still rejoice in Him.
The visitors had been forthright with Herod: they had come to worship the new-born King (Matthew 2:2). For all his pretensions (Matthew 2:8), Herod had no intention of doing so - as the murderous sequel will prove (Matthew 2:16).
In keeping with their promise and their hope, having come into the house where the infant Jesus was, the wise men fell down and paid homage to Him (Matthew 2:11). Truly wise people still worship Him.
The first recorded Christmas presents, we might say, were gold, frankincense and myrrh. It had been prophesied that Gentiles would come to the Lord’s light (Isaiah 60:3), bringing gold and incense, and showing forth the praises of the LORD (Isaiah 60:6). The gifts are personalized when they are offered to the Messianic King (Psalm 72:10).
‘All nations shall serve Him’ (Psalm 72:11). This is the true meaning of Epiphany.