Summary: Why are God’s people often not living counter-culturally or don’t seem to clash with culture? Maybe the problem has something to do with being intellectually or scientifically stimulated about Jesus and the mysterious cosmic phenomenon rather than experie
I read a fascinating article last week that invited me to watch a breath-taking phenomenon that only occurs once every 44 years. It is the aligning of Jupiter and Venus with the Moon. Added to this amazing spectacle, viewed best with binoculars because the evening light would make it hard to see with the naked eye, was the flight path of a 737 in the zone and as a result would cast a bright orange reflection on its underbelly. The account would occur at 4:13 local time. This spectacular show would not occur again until November 18, 2052. The article did not tell me the date or whose local time for this amazing show! I assumed it was four years to the day for the next scheduled occurrence so this stage show would occur November 18, 2008. In any event, I didn’t see the show.
The phenomenon of all times, never to repeat itself in history was the account in the Bible of a significant birth, signatured by a star in the east. To see it once was to view a spectacle that nature would never repeat again for the naked eye to see. It must have been incredible to say the least, to see something that magnificent even with nothing more than a scientific mind or a curious fascination of space. To consider the events from a spiritual and Christian perspective is nothing short of stunning.
It is why we need to embrace with new eyes and heart the story of the Magi. To understand what this event meant for them and did to them is to change our perspective forever. I hope your heart is eager with the anticipation of a child’s excitement when clamoring to the Christmas tree on Christmas day!
First, I was impressed with the awareness of a
1. Culture clash
2:1b – “Magi from the east came to Jerusalem”
When I was ten years old my dad’s career took our family to a small Newfoundland farm town called Codroy Valley, a predominant Catholic community and region. My Catholic school experience in grade 5 was a culture clash to say the least for a Salvation Army, protestant-raised evangelical! I remember my first experience in class as I knelt at my desk for morning prayers and with my personal prayer beads led the class through a series of “Hail Mary” prayers. I also relished the benefit that when the school was to have its school Mass it was a day off for the Protestants! It was in many respects a culture clash.
Magi were a Median tribe of priests or Persian Priests also believed to be Zoroastrian priests. A Zoroastrian is a follower of a religious system founded by Zoroaster. The worship focuses largely on a universal struggle between the forces of light and of darkness. From this we can understand why the Magi were completely fascinated with the amazing star that broke the darkness when Christ was born. One source suggests Matthew speaks of them in the context of being Babylonian astrologers thus the reason for their commitment to follow the direction of the mysterious star. Yet there is a significant faith element to their following, proven by their question and stated purpose to King Herod in verse 2 which we will explore in a few moments.
The Magi entered a world foreign to them. Their arrival did not please King Herod but unsettled and irritated him. Their arrival, news and search was perceive as a threat to his throne, one that must be terminated so he entered the guise of wanting to worship Jesus as soon as they brought him word. The Magi were warned in a dream not to tell Herod because of his execution plot for Jesus so they travelled home another way.
The Magi left their families and culture to find the truth of God in the person of Jesus Christ. They risked imprisonment, torture or possibly death by rejecting King Herod’s instructions. There was a lot a stake – religious culture clashed, social structures clashed and ruling authorities clashed.
Seeking Christ will clash with the world-view cultures that society exposes us too. Paying for the music we download (the Bible calls the alternative stealing), abstaining from sexual activity before marriage (the Bible calls the alternative fornication), or reporting all our income on our Tax Returns (the Bible calls the alternative fraud), is defining a culture-clashing response. It’s hard to hold such high, holy ideals and practices but it’s what happens when people go seeking Christ.
Why are God’s people often not living counter-culturally or don’t seem to clash with culture? Maybe the problem has something to do with being intellectually or scientifically stimulated about Jesus and the mysterious cosmic phenomenon rather than experiencing God personally. Our experience may be something like that of Lee Strobel, journalist and legal editor for the Chicago Tribune. He was an atheist. He is a type of modern-day Magi who, instead of seeking Christ to worship him, tried to disprove the claims of Scripture and the Messiah-claims of Jesus. I encourage you to listen to his 2 minute testimony in the following VIDEO and discover how experiencing God changes everything (PLAY VIDEO)