By Will Hall, Message Executive Editor
ALEXANDRIA, La. (LBM) –The Christmas story is so special to me because it declares the Savior has come; and, I find it remarkable in its message because of the multiple perspectives it shares to extend that message to every person in the world:
— Mary and Joseph are humble parents with royal blood.
— Zacharias and Elizabeth are faithful ministry servants whose obedience to God is rewarded beyond their wildest imaginations (She was the first person recorded to have called Jesus “Lord”; and, their unborn son was the first to worship Him, leaping for joy in Elizabeth’s womb at the presence of the Christ in Mary’s womb).
— The shepherds are the unlikeliest of invitees to the birth of the King of kings, and yet are the special guests of Heaven.
— Simeon and Anna are honored for their dedication, being present in the temple to proclaim to Israel that the Messiah has arrived.
But, perhaps no other individual or group speaks to me as much as the Magi who came from Babylon to celebrate the birth of the Christ child.
All the others have bloodlines to Israel, but not the Magi, and for me their special part in the Christmas story has implications for the salvation message. Indeed, their inclusion in the account of Jesus’s birth on earth gives texture to Isaiah 49:6, which declares it “too small a thing” that Christ should come just for the benefit of Israel and that He is “a light to the Gentiles” so that salvation “may reach the ends of the earth.”
A PLAN FOR THE AGES
Remarkably, God’s plan to include these Gentiles in the special events surrounding the birth of His Son could be seen to unfold 600 years or so before the angels sang “Glory to God in the highest” to announce Jesus’s birth.
Included in the many reports of faithfulness recorded in the Book of Daniel is an often-missed detail: after Daniel revealed and interpreted the king’s dream, Nebuchadnezzar named him chief of the wise men in Babylon. These were the Magi, a guild of astronomers recognized as priests and sometimes referred to as Chaldeans to identify them as men of learning and wisdom.
But the key point is Daniel was named chief among them.
Moreover, it is obvious Daniel taught them to look for the coming Messiah and likely shared with them his prophecy about the timeline for the birth of the Christ (Daniel 9:24-27) and the prophecy a star would mark His birth (Numbers 24:17).
I can imagine Daniel caused those early scientists, whose predecessors had plotted the movements of stars and planets for hundreds of years, to redirect their work for the new purpose of identifying the date and place of the birth of the Savior. And they passed along this mission to the next generation of stargazers, who did likewise.
The Christmas story reveals Daniel changed the spiritual trajectory of that influential group in Mesopotamia, because 600 years later at least a team of them traveled between 800 and 900 miles, likely a trip of more than 30 days, to ask, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him” (Matthew 2:2).
When the sign that Daniel predicted finally manifested itself, the Magi did not just record the event for prosperity, but instead went to Jerusalem seeking Him.
AN ETERNAL RESPONSE
Herod responded to their question by sending for the chief priests and key teachers, who shared the prophecy of Micah 5:2 that Jesus would be born in Bethlehem.
What happened next was extraordinary:
— The priests, knowing Jesus would be born in Bethlehem and being part of the priesthood that anticipated His coming for more than 1,400 years, chose to return to the temple, about a four minute walk from the palace.
— Later, Herod, fearing Jesus had been born in Bethlehem, chose to send troops to try to kill the King of kings.
— But the Magi, who had received the passed down Good News from Daniel, shared nearly 600 years earlier, chose to travel five more miles to worship Christ. They truly were wise men!
The Bible notes the Magi brought gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to honor the Savior. But their response to the Good News passed down to them after 600 years, showed they realized the “light to the Gentiles” was a gift to them – salvation that reaches “the ends of the earth.”