Posted on: December 12, 2022 Posted by: vudfc Comments: 0

By Brock Bondurant

The Gospels according to Matthew and Luke are known, especially at this time of year, for their accounts of Jesus’ birth. But gospel writer, John, also has his own birth narrative. In Revelation 12, John describes the birth of the Messiah. However, this account appears to be the description of an astronomical event: “A great portent appeared in heaven…” (Revelation 12:1). This portent, or sign, gives us insight about how to think about the star that appeared and guided the three wise men in Matthew 2.

To understand this story, we must come to recognize a couple of things: 1) In biblical or ancient understanding, what is a star; 2) who were these “wise men”; and 3) who did they find there?

In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men [OR astrologers/magi/diviners] from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” – Matthew 2:1-2

The first Christmas prophecy came from the mouth of a guy named Balaam back in Numbers 24:17. Balaam prophesied that, “a star shall rise out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel.” What is a star? Modern science would suggest that stars or heavenly bodies (planets, galaxies, etc.) are giant balls of gas burning trillions of miles away. But to take a biblical worldview, whether they are in fact gas balls or not, stars are at least symbols of created heavenly beings. This would certainly be the ancient/Hebrew worldview of the night skies. For on the fourth day of Creation God said, “‘Let there be lights in the dome of the sky to separate the day from the night; and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years,…’ God made the two great lights – the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night – and the stars. God set them in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth, to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness,” (Genesis 1:14-19). After creating the lights to govern the heavens, God then creates man and woman to govern the earth (Gen 1:26-31).

Being that the lights were for signs and for seasons, we can understand how it was that the wise men came to recognize when and where the Christ had been born. They were, after all, astrologers by trade. They may have also held this view that stars represented heavenly “rulers,” only there was something unique about this star. But how did the wise men know? Who were these guys?

It can be assumed that these magi from the East came from Babylon. Babylon is known for its dark magic and keen astrology, ancient practices resurrected in the New Age worship that takes place so prominently today in our culture. While I would never promote the venture into these versions of astrology – the Bible being very clear on sorcery and divination – taken at its original intent, astrology was not such a bad thing. One of the most faithful Hebrew men in all the Bible, Daniel, came to be chief astrologer of this dark empire. Through his wisdom and devotion to Yahweh, he became “chief prefect over all the wise men of Babylon,” (Daniel 2:48). I find it pretty telling that the name for these astrologers of Babylon in the Old Testament matches the name for the three magi of the New Testament: “wise men.” Is it from Daniel’s time as leader of the wise men that the prophecy of the Messiah’s birth would be passed down to those of Matthew 2?

Who the wise men found, in following the star, was the one who was ruler of the heavens and of the earth – ruler of ALL creation: King Jesus. St. Athanasius, in the early 300s, writes “Of Christ’s birth the witness was not man, but a star in that heaven whence he was descending. … For he it is that caused the star also to mark the birth of his body; since it was fit that the Word, coming down from heaven, should have his constellation also from heaven, and it was fitting that the king of creation when he came forth should be openly recognized by all creation. Why, he was born in Judea, and men from Persia came to worship him.” This isn’t just any star or heavenly being, this is the one who came to dwell among us.

Every star or constellation was placed purposefully by God. The constellation forming the astronomical event of Revelation 12 must have been in put in place from the dawn of time, set in motion when God spoke it into existence. All the moving parts that make up our heavens (sun, moon, stars, and planets) formed this event at one brief locale in all of history: the very night Jesus was born. This means that the coming of Jesus was not God’s ‘plan b,’ but was set in motion from the very beginning. The miracle of all miracles, according to C.S. Lewis, was that the God of the universe would become incarnate as one of us. From Creation, God set in plan his rescue mission to come and dwell among us, taking up our very nature to restore us in his kingdom. For we too will one day rule and reign with him (Revelation 5:10).

The wise men knew how to read the signs of heaven and navigate them to find the infant king, Jesus. Therefore, we can infer a few things about them: they were expectant, obedient, and reverent.

The wise men were expectant in that they knew the time of the Lord’s birth from the alignment of the stars. They were watching, waiting, anticipating this sign to appear at the precise time that it did, expecting to encounter this prophesied king at the end of their venture.

They were obedient in that they went. Seeing the star, they put their walking shoes on and traveled hundreds of miles to locate this king. They were also obedient when God warned them to not tell Herod about Jesus’ whereabouts, playing a role in the safe passage of Jesus to Egypt while Herod killed all boys around Bethlehem age 2 and under (Matthew 2:12-18).

And finally, they were reverent. They traveled all that way to “pay homage” to Jesus. They brought meaningful gifts to lay at his feet – gifts of great reverence for who this newborn was.

During this season of advent, we too can and must take up the attributes of the three wise men. We await the promised coming of Jesus with great expectation. We respond to his loving lordship over our lives in obedience. And we look back upon the birth of this baby to look forward with great reverence to our soon-coming King.

Expectant, obedient, reverent, we wait; ready for your kingdom reign to make the earth as it is in the heavens. Come, Lord Jesus.

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