Figures that I would mess up right at the end: Sorry about missing yesterday, so here are the final two meditations. Hope they have been helpful!
JANUARY 10—Twelfth Day of Christmas
9When they heard the king, they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was. 10When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy.
Today brings to a close our celebration of the 12 days of Christmas. Tomorrow opens a new season; the season of Epiphany. On this day our reading reminds us of the marvelous way in which the birth of our Savior was announced to the Gentile nations. The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death Light has dawned. (Matthew 4:16).
Many questions have been raised about the star that the Magi saw and the way in which it guided them to the place of our Lord’s nativity. Wrangling about whether the star was really a star or maybe a comet or perhaps a miracle of some sort misses the point. Whatever the Magi from the East saw, the important thing to notice is what they did when they saw it. They obeyed the revelation they were given. They followed the star. And when they understood that the star had come to stand over the place where the child Jesus lay they responded with exceeding joy.
Christmas is a time for Christians to revel in the great goodness of God’s revelation in Jesus. All of us were in darkness until the light of Christ shone upon us. Blindly we stumbled about until the dawn of the birth of God’s dear Son. These past 12 days we have rejoiced in the gift of Christmas. The Father has sent his Son into the world to give us the light of life. He has sent forth the message to us, not in the form of a star this time, but in the Gospel message. Like the wise men from the East each of us must obey the Gospel word we have been given. We must “walk in the light as He is in the light” (1 John 1:7). And we must, like those men from the East, rejoice greatly that we have now seen the Child of Bethlehem. This is the stuff of exceeding great joy, not only for the 12 days of Christmas, but for every day in every season.
—Pastor Jeff Harlow, Trinity Reformation Church, Salem, Oregon
Almighty God our Heavenly Father, we adore You for the gift of your dear Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. We humbly thank you for shedding abroad the light of the Gospel among us. We were darkness. Now you have made us children of light. Give us grace that we might continue in that light all our days and grant us that same exceeding great joy in which the Magi rejoiced. Glory be to you great Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, ages to ages the same, AMEN.
Discuss with your family how each of you can show gladness for the coming of Christ and for the Good News of the Gospel. How can you follow God’s light today like the Magi followed the Star? Think about what it must have been like to live before the light of Jesus had dawned upon the Gentiles. Give thanks that the light has come!
JANUARY 12—The Epiphany of Our Lord
11And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12Then, being divinely warned in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed for their own country another way.
Have you ever received a gift at Christmas that you didn’t understand, or that didn’t mean very much to you at the time? Maybe you received a Bible before you knew how to read, or a watch that belonged to your grandfather before you knew how to tell time.
Matthew tells us that the wise men gave “gifts” to Jesus when he was very young. But if we think of their gifts as Christmas, birthday, or “just because” gifts, they seem kind of strange. Gold was very costly and valuable, and so were the spices of frankincense and myrrh. But they wouldn’t have meant much as gifts to a little dark-eyed, pudgy-faced, Jewish toddler.
So, if the gifts of the wise men weren’t just normal presents, what were they?
Hundreds of years before Jesus was born, King David prophesied a day when God the Father would give the Gentile nations, all the Gentile nations, to his Son as his inheritance (Psalm 2:7-8). The gifts that the wise men brought Jesus were not like the presents that we give one another. They were royal gifts with special meaning. The gold, frankincense and myrrh were products of the country that the wise men came from, and represented their country’s homage (honor and willing submission) to Jesus, the real “King of the Jews” and the “Son” spoken of in Psalm 2.
We Christians are so used to thinking of ourselves as “God’s special people” that we sometimes forget that it wasn’t always so. At the time Jesus was born, most of the world in the Americas, Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia (including your ancestors, unless you’re Jewish!) did not know or worship Yahweh God. And so we should remember to read with great joy and thankfulness the story of these wise men, these “firstfruits” from among the Gentile nations. For they were not only the first trickle of the flood of nations that would pour into God’s Kingdom after Pentecost. But as such, they are our spiritual ancestors. Thanks be to God for His mercy to the Gentiles!
—Pastor Gene Helsel, Trinity Church, Wenatchee, Washington
Gracious Heavenly Father, just like You promised, You have given all the nations to Your Son Jesus as his rightful inheritance. You have placed all things under his feet, given him rule and dominion over everything in heaven and on earth, and caused wise men in every age to seek him. Help us to worship You, in Jesus our lord, by the power of Your Holy Spirit. And use our humble worship and joyful obedience to bring our whole nation into the glad service of King Jesus. AMEN.
Where were your ancestors at the time Jesus was born? What were they doing then? When did the Gospel of Jesus Christ come to your ancestors? Is your country living today in joyful obedience to King Jesus? The wise men offered their gifts, themselves and their country to Christ. When you worship God on Sunday morning, do you remember to represent and pray for your country as you do?