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A Christmas Lesson from Some Pagans: Worship Him!

By Dr. J. Mark Beach 

“Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, ‘Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him’ ” (Matt. 2:1-2 ESV).

The story of the Magi from the east has always mystified me. It starts as the story of an alluring star. These wise ones follow the star, which guides them to the place where Jesus lay, in order to worship Him—the King of the Jews. These are pagans. These are persons from another land, another religion, another set of beliefs and longings. They are star-gazers; they have superstitious habits of heart. But God uses these very conceptions to move them to set out on an expedition with the aim to worship Jesus. They follow a star that is no ordinary star! This is also from God.

Noteworthy, too, is that the miraculous star was insufficient. The Magi also needed God’s special “word” revelation. Herod, in getting wind of this infant king, was troubled and sought from scripture-scholars where the Messiah was to be born. Micah 5:2 provided the answer. Herod in turn directed the Magi to Bethlehem. Isn’t it curious that pagan wise men heed this word of God in Scripture, as does the pagan King Herod, while none of the chief priests or scribes of the people, who know Micah 5:2, pursue the matter further? Heathens follow the alluring word of God in nature and heed the word of God in Scripture, while covenant people sit passively unconcerned. Are Christians today afflicted with a similar passivity and unconcern? Don’t forget: the word of God in nature and the word of God in Scripture still call us to seek Him—even as the signs of the times and the signs of nature, with the word of God in Scripture, call us away from passivity and unconcern to stand ready and expectant for Christ’s second coming. Indeed, why shouldn’t we long for this King to rule our lives and our world? Why shouldn’t we daily inquire after Him, for He is the Lord whose yoke is easy and whose burden is light? He is the King who will judge with equity.

The word of God in nature allured these pagans to seek out Jesus the King; and the word of God in Scripture directed them to find Him in Bethlehem. But it is the Word of God in the flesh, Christ Himself, who brings them to fall down before Him and worship Him: “… they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh” (vs. 11). Their actions stand as an abiding testimony to all people, to believers and unbelievers alike. To be sure, they worship Him in their ignorance and superstition. Yet they worship Him who alone is to be worshipped! They worship God’s Anointed One—the King who is Savior, the Savior who is King. They worship the King of the Jews—who, it turns out, is also the King of kings and the Lord of lords, who is our King. They worship Jesus, who has come to bring salvation to every tribe and tongue and people and nation.

Many of us have neighbors who wouldn’t cross the street to worship Jesus. They either dismiss Him; or they dismiss the church; or they dismiss organized religion; or they dismiss God altogether; or perhaps they figure that God is such a softy that He doesn’t much mind if they pay Him no mind. The pagan Magi-astrologers disagree. They make an extended road trip to worship Jesus. They present Jesus with costly gifts. May we do any less? That is, shouldn’t we daily offer ourselves to Him? In fact, in worshipping Him the rest of our lives are directed along the trajectory of praise and service. One day everyone will worship Him—every knee shall bow and every tongue confess Jesus Christ as Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Phil. 2: 10-11). Take a lesson from some pagans: worship Him!