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Nine Lessons for Christmas

 

4.     The Magi Arrive in Jerusalem

 

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A reading from the holy Gospel according to Matthew.

 

When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea,

in the days of King Herod, 

behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem,

saying,

“Where is the newborn king of the Jews?

  We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.”

 

When King Herod heard this,

he was greatly troubled,

and all Jerusalem with him.

Assembling all the chief priests and the scribes of the people,

he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born.

They said to him,

“In Bethlehem of Judea,

  for thus it has been written through the prophet:

‘And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah,

    are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;

since from you shall come a ruler,

who is to shepherd my people Israel.’ ”

 

 T 2:1-6

 

Lesson 4

 

The birth of the Messiah brought hope to some, and concern to others.

 

In the days of King Herod: Herod reigned from 37 B.C. to 4 B.C. 

 

Magi was originally a designation of the Persian priestly caste.  The word became used of those who were regarded as having more than human knowledge.  Matthew’s magi are portrayed as astrologers.

 

It was a common ancient belief that a new star appeared at the time of a ruler’s birth.  Matthew also draws upon the Old Testament story of Balaam, who had prophesied that “A star shall advance from Jacob” (Numbers 24:17), though there, the star means not an astral phenomenon but the king himself.

 

Herod’s consultation with the chief priests and scribes has some similarity to a Jewish legend about the child Moses in which the “sacred scribes” warn Pharaoh about the imminent birth of one who will deliver Israel from Egypt and the king makes plans to destroy him.

 

Prayer

 

Loving God, help us remember the birth of Jesus, that we may share in the song of the angels, the gladness of the shepherds, and worship of the wise men.  Close the door of hate and open the door of love all over the world.  Let kindness come with every gift and good desires with every greeting. 

 

Amen.