After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was.
When you travel to a foreign country, there is a learning curve. You need to learn what currency they use, how local transportation works, maybe a few phrases in their language, what their culture is like so you don’t make a fool of yourself. There must have been a learning curve for the Magi who visited the young child Jesus. They are from the east, from a foreign country likely hundreds of miles away across the desert. When they arrived in Jerusalem it must have been challenging for them to find their way around, to talk with locals, to pay for necessities.
Whenever we study the Bible, it’s a little bit like traveling to a foreign country. The scriptural record takes us to foreign places and times in history very different from our own. There’s a cultural learning curve involved.
That's manageable. There is, however, a bigger gap for us to overcome than that. When we read the Bible we are in contact with the Lord and his Word. He is holy, and in our sinful flesh, we are not. The evil we’ve inherited... the godless thoughts we’ve entertained... the careless words we’ve spoken: we’ve pushed God far away, each one of us. What right do we have to approach him with our requests, to talk to him about our problems, to be anywhere near him? As far as the east is from the west, so far have we pushed him away from us.
But see how he invites the Magi, our fellow sinners. The Bethlehem star was more than an invitation for them to go visit a foreign country. It was an invitation to be with him. He draws you and me, too, not with a star, but with his Word and Sacraments. As with the star, they are ordinary in and of themselves. Just words on a page, water, bread and wine. But the Lord puts these ordinary things to extraordinarily good use. As with the star that moved ahead of the Magi until it stopped above where the child was, so also in his Word and Sacraments the Lord is always pointing us to Jesus.
And what do we see when we find him? Jesus is raised in a culture and at a time very different from our own. He is the Son of God, holy and infinite, and we are not. But the differences and the distance between him and us all melt away when the Lord shows us who this Savior is and what he has come to do. The Son of God has become flesh. He is our brother, our substitute, our Savior.
My fellow sinners, this Savior has carried all of our sins to the cross and left them there. As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. Now you and I belong close to him, right next to him, forever. And not just you and me. He came to be the Savior of us all.
The Magi were overjoyed when they saw the star. In their joy they brought their Savior extravagant gifts. Let that same joy and generosity be yours, fellow believers. And follow God’s Word and Sacraments to your Savior often. You don’t have to cross a desert like the Magi did. Just open your Bible, remember your baptism, come to the table, and he will be there for you, right next to you, your Lord, your brother, your Savior.
Prayer at the Close of Day Devotion, January 3, 2024
Author: Pastor Jon Zabell
Copyright (c) 2023, St. Paul Lutheran Church, Green Bay, WI 54301
Bible text, NIV (c) Biblia, 2011