Title: The infancy of Jesus in Bethlehem
Scriptures to Read: Matthew 2:1-12
Mythbusting a few Christmas traditions
Myth #1: Jesus was not born in a barn- He was born in a stable and was visited by the wise men in a private house.
Myth #2: The Jewish shepherds and wise men never met each other- Their encounter with Jesus was separated by at least two years.
Myth #3: The Bible does not say that Jesus was visited by Kings- It says they were wise men, the Greek word “magi” which means “astrologers.”
Myth#4- The Bible does not say that there were three kings- “Men” implies plural and so we know it was at least two. But it could have been 200 men for all we can know.
Myth#5- These wise men were not from China- “East” here is a reference to Mesopotamia or more specifically to Babylon.
O Star of wonder star of light, star with royal beauty burning bright
What was this “star” that led these wise men to Jesus? There are five things in the text about this star that will not let us interpret it as a literal star:
1. This star appears and disappears on at least two or more separate occasions.
2. Notice in verse 3 it is called “His star”. It has a possessive pronoun, the Messiah’s own personal star, in a way that would not be true of any other star God created. It was his privately owned star.
3. This star will move from east to west.
4. It will also move north to south.
5. It comes down and literally hovers over one house in Bethlehem. Any star like our sun, which is a star, that comes down and hovers over one house in Bethlehem will destroy this entire planet!
“His star” refers to God’s Shekinah glory
This is not a star as we know it. It does not function or act as a star. The Greek word for star has it root meaning “radiance or brilliance”. So what we have here is the same thing we had with the Jewish shepherds. This is the Shekinah glory announcing the birth of the Messianic King to these Babylonian Astrologers.
The prophet Daniel gave the wise men the time of the Messiah’s arrival
Why would they want to come and worship Him? Back when Israel was in captivity they didn’t want to worship a Jewish King. So why now? Being Babylonian, how would they even know about a Messianic Messiah? The answer is the prophet Daniel. Daniel prophesied many years before the coming of the Messiah (Daniel 9:24-27). Unlike most books in the OT, Daniel was not written in Israel but written in Babylon. In fact, half of Daniel is not written in the Hebrew language but in Aramaic, the language of the Babylonians. Nebuchadnezzar saw Daniel with his ability to interpret dreams and looked on Daniel as a superior astrologer. Daniel never received any of his interpretations from the stars but from the Creator of the stars, the God of Israel. The astrologers of Babylon in Herod’s day had in their possession a copy of Daniel, that gave the timetable of the coming of the Jewish Messianic King. So when they saw this unusual brilliance in the heavens, they took that sign to mean the Messiah was born.
Balaam the prophet gave the wise men the sign of the Messiah’s star
Nowhere in Daniel does he connect the coming of the Messiah with a star though. For that we had one other biblical source. The connection is the story of Balaam (Numbers 22-24). By profession Balaam was an astrologer (Numbers 22:5; Deuteronomy 23:4). He was also from Babylon. The king of Moab called Balaam to come and curse Israel and four times he tried and each time God took over his tongue and blessed Israel. In Numbers 24:17 you have the prophecy of Balaam: ” I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near: a star shall come out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel; it shall crush the forehead of Moab and break down all the sons of Sheth.” The word “scepter” is a symbol of kingship and it was Balaam who connected the Messianic person with a star. Babylon kept historical records and the wise man had access to these things.
The wise men are the first Gentiles to worship Jesus
The wise men are the first record of Gentile worship of the Messiah. Notice the first Jewish and Gentile worship was initiated the same way by the Shekinah glory of God. Also, the wise left behind three kinds of gifts – gold, frankincense and myrrh. All of these have Old Testament symbolic meaning:
1. Gold – the symbol of kingship (Jesus is the King)
2. Frankincense – the symbol of deity (Jesus is God)
3. Myrrh – the symbol of death and sacrifice (Jesus the final sacrifice for sins)