Summary: Christmas Series
THE ADVENTURE IN THE ADVENT (MATTHEW 2:1-12)
Three weeks before Christmas, I was tricked by the moderator who wished worshippers with a “Happy Holidays” greeting at the start of worship. I echoed the same in return instead of saying “Merry Christmas!” For many years I was dismayed with the commercialization of Christmas. Beginning from the day after Thanksgiving, otherwise known as Black Friday, the barrage of sales and advertisement reaches stratospheric proportions. Increasingly stores are playing Christmas songs and having Christmas sales even before Thanksgiving.
A spokesperson for the United States Postal Service says that on the second-last Monday before Christmas, roughly 1 billion packages, cards and letters are mailed at the post office. (“For Last-minute Shoppers, it’s All about the Shipping,” USA TODAY 12/17/07)
Further, Christmas is no fun for people suffering from the Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) during winter time when the days shorten, the nights lengthen, the temperature drops and the mood suffers.
This year I have a change of heart. The day after Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, I heard my first Christmas song while in a store: “Hark the herald angels sing, ‘Glory to the newborn King!’” Another: “Do you hear what I hear?” and other hymnal classics. I said to myself, “All is not lost. What an unexpected, unusual and unparalleled way to testify to the Lord’s birth.” We can sing our mouths dry and our tongues rot but not do what the hymns do. Saturation of songs is a problem, but not a problem to the Lord, who deserves our praise. When the Pharisees wanted Jesus to silence the rowdy disciples praising Him, Jesus replied, “I tell you, if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” (Luke 19:38-40)
The adventure of the magi is as inspiring a story as any for people who are down, disheartened and depressed at this time of the year. Most scholars believe the magi’s visit was much later than the shepherds’, maybe two years after He was born. The magi’s visit completes the angel’s message to the shepherds: “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for ALL THE PEOPLE.” (Luke 2:10)
Why do we celebrate the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ? What are we so joyous about? How do we rightly celebrate Christmas?
Schedule Time to Witness the Savior
2:1 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem 2 and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.” 3 When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. (Matt 2:1-4)
I have a lot of relatives whose very lives, like many Chinese people, are chained to, if not paralyzed by, superstitious beliefs. On a trp to Singapore (2006), I noticed my mother buying breakfast without fail for her elderly neighbor suffering from a broken leg. What she said the next day reveals the depth of her blind but firm belief in Chinese folk religions and fengshui. She said all the bad luck started when the neighbors wanted to sell their house for $1 million Singapore dollars. When visitors offered much less due to uncertain economic times, they balked at the offer and decided not to sell. After all, they were just testing the market. The damage, however, was done, according to my mother, because house hunters entering the couple’s home walked up and down the stairs viewing the home, thereby trampling upon their good fortune, resulting in the elderly man breaking his leg not only once, but twice, the second time when his son-in-law tried to pick him up.
I used to live in a corner house on a T-section, exactly on the south-west corner of a “T” junction. Another relative bluntly remarked that it was bad luck, and that’s why I was without a job for six months, the time I resigned from my first church in the States to study for a Doctor of Ministry degree.
Who are the magi? I met a group of Assyrian Christians on a plane once. The patriarch sitting next to me told me the majority of Assyrians today are Christians, which was surprising to me since they were the bad guys in the Bible! He also told me that according to Assyrian legend, the three wise men include a Persian, an Assyrian and an Ethiopian. Matthew Henry says that the Magi among the Persians were their philosophers and their priests. Some traditions suggest three to 14 wise men.
The “magi,” as the word suggests, were simply the “magicians” in their day. What kind of magicians were they? Not those that dabble in fortune telling, palm reading, black magic or tarot cards. They were students of astronomy, not astrology. Astrology (study of stars) and astronomy (law of stars) were historically the same discipline but separated in the 17th century. Astronomy is accepted as a science today and is a widely studied academic discipline for its study of objects and phenomena beyond the earth’s atmosphere. Astrology, on the other hand, uses the apparent positions of celestial objects as the basis for psychology, prediction of future events and other esoteric knowledge. The latter is not widely regarded as science and is typically defined as a form of divination. The scientific community considers astrology a pseudoscience or superstition. (Wikipedia)