Journey of the Three Magi to Bethlehem
Angels and Wise Men. I had never put the two together. Oh, our society has done that for a long time by having an angel near the stable with two shepherds, a few sheep, the holy family, and three Wise Men all gathered around the newborn Jesus.
But that’s not the way it really happened. The Wise Men arrived well after the Christ was born and His family had moved into more permanent housing. So, the angels weren’t present when the Wise Men approached
… Or were they? Bethlehem
Dutch genre and history painter, Leonaert Bramer (b. 1596, d. 1674) produced an image I had never seen before … nor even conceived of before. He pictures the Magi being led to
by torch-bearing angels. The
Magi have evidently arrived near enough to their destination to dismount their
horses. The servants are reacting to the horse that is rearing up out of fear
of the holy angels. The Magi seem oblivious to the angels before them and the
horse behind them. That’s how intensely focused on their destination they must
The Magi are getting ready to celebrate the Epiphany of the Lord. The Epiphany is God revealing Himself to the world in human flesh.
Epiphany is the day when the Church celebrates the coming of the Wise Men, the Magi, who traveled from the East to worship the newborn King of the Jews. Epiphany is also known as the “Gentile Christmas.” It is called that because, up to the time when these fine fellows arrived in
, the Christmas narrative is pretty much populated by
Jewish folk. The priest Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth (the parents who gave
birth to the forerunner of the Messiah) were both Jewish. Mary, the mother of
Jesus was Jewish. Joseph, the Lord’s foster father was Jewish; the shepherds
who responded to the angels’ announcement of good news of great joy were
Jewish. Everybody was Jewish. In fact, looking at the cast of characters in the
Gospels, a person might easily conclude that Jesus’ coming might be meaningful
only for that nation and people. Jerusalem
But the appearance of the Magi changes all that. With their arrival, God is going on record and telling us His Son, our Savior, has come to give Himself as the Sacrifice for all people. God is letting us know that the Christ has come to win freedom, forgiveness, and salvation for all peoples and in all places. Epiphany is the world's Christmas day.
We know so little about these Magi that we call Wise Men. Tradition says they were named Gaspar, Melchior, and Balthassar … but we don't know. Tradition says, because of their three gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, there were three of them … but we don't know. Tradition says they came from different races and different countries … but we don't know.
But we do know that the Magi arrived to worship the Christ who had come to be the Savior of not just one nation but all nations. That’s what we in the Christian Church celebrate on both the Festival of the Epiphany and throughout the season of Epiphany.
Epiphany is all about Christ coming for all nations. It is Christ coming for you. He was there for the Magi from the East so they could worship Him. He was touched by the cries of a widow who mourned the death of her son, and Jesus touched the coffin cot and gave the son back to his mother. Jesus reached out to the lonesome and isolated lepers who had been cut off from their families, and Jesus gave them back their life by giving them back their health. People came to Jesus and grew hungry. He not only fed their physical hunger with a few loaves and fish, but at the same time satisfied their spiritual hunger with forgiveness and peace. He was there for discouraged and damned souls.
Kneel down and worship Christ this Epiphany season. Join the Magi of old by bringing your gifts throughout this New Year. Jesus is the Savior of the world. He is the Savior of your soul. Come before the Savior who never turned away any person who turned to Him for help. Come to see the Christ who has never been too busy or too tired to meet the needs of suffering souls. He hears the cries of the needy. He quenches the throats of thirsty. He alleviates the sadness and sorrow of the heartbroken. He brings peace to the frightened; joy to the depressed; and friendship to the lonely.
The angels are leading you to approach the Christ in order to worship Him who came to save you.
Like the Wise Men, bring your gifts to Him who came as a gift to you.
The approaching Wise Men remind us every year of this – Epiphany is for everyone. It is for Jewish shepherds. It is for Gentile Magi. It is for you.