December 11, 2017
New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.”
The Hope of Christmas
For some people Christmas is only about Santa Claus and getting gifts. That perspective influenced two letters that children wrote Santa Claus. One said, “Dear Santa, you did not bring me anything good last year. You did not bring me anything good the year before that. This is your last chance. Signed, Alfred.”
Phillips Brooks captured the heart of Christmas with one line in the carol he wrote, O Little Town of Bethlehem. That line summarizes what Christmas means to us: “The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.” In the little town of Bethlehem, God met the hopes of all humanity by birth of His Son, Jesus.
There was the hope of the Gentiles who didn’t have the advantage of an Old Testament and its prophecies. The magi from Persia were eagerly looking for a Savior. Matthew described them in his Gospel.
“After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, ‘Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him’ ” (Matthew 2:1-2).
The star they saw was a sign from God designed to alert these Gentiles to an event in Bethlehem that was intended for them as well. Researchers have discovered tablets in Persia dating from Jesus’ day. Those tablets predicted that a great king would be born in the West and justice, righteousness, peace and joy would mark his reign. They even had a name for him, Sosiosh. These men were astronomers who searched the sky for signs that would guide them. God provided the ultimate sign, a supernatural star that would lead them to the Baby who came to bring hope to the world.
Because they were Gentiles and pagans, we might not have invited them to participate in the birth of God’s Son. But, God responded to their hunger for truth. He still responds to spiritual hunger. One of my favorite bumper stickers is, “Wise men still seek Him.”
The good news of Christmas is that God brought hope to all people, regardless of their background. That included Jews and Gentiles both. The angel’s announcement to the shepherds made that clear.
“But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10-11).
Hope is a powerful force in our lives and Christmas brings hope. Christmas is also for those who have been longing for a Savior. They may have been devout in their religious observance, but still understand that their only hope is for God to come to them. They have been waiting for God to show up. He has!
This Christmas may God fill each of our hearts with hope. The angels expressed what that hope means: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests” (Luke 2:14).