After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in the territory of Judea during the rule of King Herod, magi came from the east to Jerusalem. 2 They asked, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We’ve seen his star in the east, and we’ve come to honor him.”
3 When King Herod heard this, he was troubled, and everyone in Jerusalem was troubled with him. 4 He gathered all the chief priests and the legal experts and asked them where the Christ was to be born. 5 They said, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for this is what the prophet wrote:
6 You, Bethlehem, land of Judah,
by no means are you least among the rulers of Judah,
because from you will come one who governs,
who will shepherd my people Israel.”
7 Then Herod secretly called for the magi and found out from them the time when the star had first appeared. 8 He sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search carefully for the child. When you’ve found him, report to me so that I too may go and honor him.” 9 When they heard the king, they went; and look, the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stood over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were filled with joy. 11 They entered the house and saw the child with Mary his mother. Falling to their knees, they honored him. Then they opened their treasure chests and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12 Because they were warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they went back to their own country by another route.
A child was born of unexpected means in an unexpected place in Bethlehem. Could we ever have imagined that from the humblest of circumstances there could ever be an event that would so dramatically change the world? Yet even with the humblest of beginnings, Jesus’ birth got the attention of an earthly king, Herod, and of the magi coming from the east who saw a star and came to worship Him.
We don’t have many facts about the magi; we don’t know from which country they came or how long their journey was; we don’t know what undue circumstances they encountered on the way. We know only that the magi came. Whether they traveled familiar paths or ventured through the wilderness of God’s unbroken earth, the magi followed the star, creating a timeless journey remembered throughout the ages. No maps, GPS, or tracking devices; no special equipment or travel by high-tech means. We only know that the magi had each other and a commitment to find and serve a newborn king, Emmanuel. (We might say that they had EPS, “Emmanuel’s Positioning System.”) We know they had a sense of God’s calling and commitment to follow that path, despite the unknowns.
God’s path for our lives may be far and involve life-defining moments, or it may be as simple as the next step forward. Whatever the pathway, we know that the journey of a thousand steps begins with just one – by saying “yes” to the way.
By Barbara Carlson
For Pondering & Prayer
Whether we sense the next steps in our life-long journey or we feel uncertain with every step, God is with us. In this season of Christmas, reflect on how you have experienced Emmanuel this holiday. Pause and think about your coming journey for the new year. What next steps for the world or for yourself feel comforting? Which steps will seem hard or challenging? How might the steps of your journey ease the path of another?
Prayer: God, thank you for offering the world life through the birth of your son, Jesus. Thank you especially for my journey and for walking with me in my daily steps. In the coming year, help me to trust in you that I might walk a path that honors Jesus’ way for the world. Amen.