Let’s look today at more of the reactions to the news that the Messiah was born. In Matthew’s Gospel we are told about three wise men, or Magi, who came from the east after seeing a new, bright star appear in the sky. Their arrival in Jerusalem alerts King Herod to the news.
In Nativity plays, the Magi are always grandly dressed, and sometimes presented as kings. They came from the east, perhaps Babylon, and might have been similar to the wise ones that Daniel had commanded centuries earlier. The word ‘Magi’ referred to those who said they could interpret dreams, and who were interested in astrology and predicting the future. Some were genuinely seeking truth, but others were out and out fraudsters. Their reputation among Jews was not good. Matthew certainly would not have made up a story about Magi from the east to impress his readers as it might have had the opposite effect. The only reason for including this is that it actually happened.
However these men came to understand that the Messiah had been born, their response was clear: they came to worship him. They brought him gifts fit for a king. Like the shepherds, they knew good news when they heard it!
On the other hand, Herod had a quite different response. He was alarmed. He gathered his best people to investigate this claim. He felt threatened by the talk of a new king. After all, wasn’t he the king? When he instructs the wise men to tell him where the child is so that he can “worship him as well” we get the sense he’s not being truthful. The warning the wise men receive in a dream confirms our suspicion.
Jesus is Good News. Yet then and now this Good News can provoke some strong reactions. Those who want to protect their own position will always reject the Lordship of another. And yet we see in the Magi that those who are wealthy and wise by human standards are still able to humble themselves before the Lord if they choose. Let us not be proud before the Lord like Herod, but instead, humble ourselves and worship him.