Advent 2 – Were There Three? Were They Kings?

Magi   Wise Men   Kings

Two   Three   Five   Fifteen

Caspar    Balthazar   Melchior

Jews    Gentiles

 

Were there THREE?

Some reason three because of three gifts –

In reality, this would have been a dangerous journey for three – especially three who were carrying gold, Frankincense and Myrrh..

Thieves / robbers plagued many roads

This forced merchants/commoners to travel in larger groups/ caravans for safety.

THESE were not merchants or commoners…

Prominent men of society..

It wouldn’t be out of line to speculate that they and their servants were escorted by a full military unit.

Three? It could have been more like 300 when all told.

If it were a large caravan… their arrival to Jerusalem would have caused a stir – 200-300 people of obvious importance would have been news …

Then to have these strangers see King Herod without a problem solidified the suspicion they were men of power and prominence.

This was not just three people taking a ride into the next town… it was an intentional journey of great distance – with great danger.

It was an expedition that required months of preparation and then months to travel to the destination….

Thus most scholars believe these wise men didn’t arrive to see Jesus until 2  years after his birth.

The song tells us the Kings from the Orient “traversed afar”.

How far was “afar”??

Well some believe they may have traveled                                                                about 1000 miles to get to Bethlehem.

That’s exactly the same distance as                                                                             from here to Atlanta, Georgia

You or I could make the journey                                                                                     in about 15 hours…                                                                                                              but then we have 4 lane highways,                                                                                        and can travel at 65- 95  mph.

These Magi didn’t have those advantages.                                                            Some scholars speculate it might have                                                                     taken them 2 to 3 months to make it                                                                       to Jerusalem.

If they were on camel,

A camel walks at 3 miles an hour –

And averages 25-30 miles a day…

and the camel was able to do 27                                                                                     miles a day…                                                                                                                                 it would have taken 37 days at best….

Even the text hints at that. Matthew 2:11 tells us

“when they were COME INTO THE HOUSE, they saw the young child with Mary his mother,and fell down, and worshipped him…”

Where was Jesus born?

In a barn, in a manger – a feeding trough.   They’re not there anymore.

Joseph and Mary have moved out of the barn,    and settled into a home in Bethlehem    and Joseph is plying his trade among                                    the Jews of that area.

And it was at that house where the wise men                                                     found Him, and they fell down and   worshipped Him and gave Him            their gifts of gold, frankincense  and myrrh.

Now these wise men had gone to a great deal of trouble.

And they’d traveled great distance.

And they’d spent a great deal of money to get to their destination.

So the question comes to my mind…

WHY WOULD THEY BOTHER?

Why did they go to find the Christ Child?

Astrologers just following a strange star?

Men who were educated in the Hebrew                                                               history and prophecies?

Curious?

They were Gentiles – why would they                                                                           care about a King of the Jews?

Well, they were Magi FROM THE EAST.

A few hundred years before this,                                                                                   there had been Jews who’d been taken   captive and forced   to live in a land in the      East.        A place called Babylon.

How many of you remember the story about                                                  Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego?

How, about the story about Daniel and the Lion’s Den?

They lived most of their lives in Babylon…

IN THAT NATION IN THE EAST.

I’ve read that there is a possibility that the Magi                                                  may have been the descendants of those Jews in captivity, and that they had      become students of the prophecies                                                         of the Old Testament…                                                                                                   and of the Prophet Daniel.

That one prophecy could easily have led                                                                these Magi to look for a star that would lead them to find the ONE destined to hold the scepter of Israel.                                                                              The King of the Jews.

Whether Gentile or Jew –

These Magi were not INVITED by                                                                             an angel, like the shepherds were invited.

Their presence was not requested…

Here we see a parallel of how

Jews = chosen

Gentiles = Want to be part –                                                                                             and eventually are welcomed                                                                                            into the fold….

But they felt compelled… to seek out the                                                              child that had been prophesied.

ALSO – IN OTHER WORDS….

As positive Gentile characters in the Gospel narrative,

the magi tell us much about the evangelist’s views about the Gentiles and his universalistic perspective.

Many scholars make the general point that the magi who pay homage to the new-born Jewish messiah                                                                          represent the Gentile world; \

they therefore foreshadow the Gentiles who believe in Jesus in the time of the evangelist.

These are some of the reasons I believe the nativity  –                          crèche displays show the MAGI alongside the shepherds,                        angels and animals –

It provides a visual message that the Christ Child has come for                    ALL people, all creatures, all creation.

Advent 1 Why Shepherds?

  • ___________________________

Why Shepherds?  Luke 2: 8-20

Today’s message is not about God’s love for some shepherds, but rather about God’s love for us….

 

Shepherds

  • One of oldest professions – Adam charged with dominion over animals….Abel =keeper of the sheep Jacob and his sons Moses         David
  • Rag-tag collection of sheepherders
  • Uneducated
  • Smelly
  • Low-class
  • Social/religious outcasts
  • Untrustworthy – word not trusted thieves
  • Not permitted to give testimony in legal proceedings
  • Suspicious
  • Little exposure to people- always in the fields
  • Unable to participate fully in religious life of community
  • Unclean
  • Last people you would expect God to notice

WHY the Shepherds?

  • Why did the shepherds receive the announcement of the Christ Child
  • Why did the shepherds receive an invitation to go see the child

WHY Not the Famous and Religious Leaders

  • Priests – Pharisees – Rabbis
  • Kings Generals Senators
  • Wealthy merchants
  • Head of Jewish Council
  • People of distinction

REASONS Why It Was the Shepherds

  • Jesus was later called the good SHEPHERD
  • God showed his love does not discriminate

Class, wealth, social standing

  • God proved no favoritism
  • Love is available to ALL

To show Jesus was not going to be only for kings, governors, popes and priests…but for all people … equally

God likes to use people who are humble –

Unexpected             average           common           unknown

Lowly       low abilities

So his power and wisdom are all the more evident.  

Makes more impact of God’s power

_______________

Inviting the shepherds to be the first to meet the Christ child – showed they were   special to God

Even though they were not beautiful people/..                                                             on the fringes of society –                                                                                           unable to go to temple or                                                                                                   make sacrifices …      didn’t fit in…

simple shepherds –who did what God    commanded, without having to see    other religious professionals  for a second opinion…         and went on to tell about the birth.

Wonder how the shepherds felt?

Doubt?   Can’t be US?  Why us?

What about the sheep?    (took them with them?)

_________

Another reason WHY SHEPHERDS…

WE CAN relate to those who are not                                                                        in the IN crowd

We understand we do NOT have to                                                                                                 be a genius – a rabbi –

Rich or famous…

WE JUST HAVE TO BELIEVE AND OBEY….

___________

When we think of the this story,

Let us remember that the angels                                                                              CAME to the shepherds –

Doing their daily tasks  —    living ordinary lives –

Isn’t that what Jesus is all about?   God meeting us where we are…

God coming to us in the everyday routine, not just on High Holy Days

God meeting us in our pain and loneliness                                                                  In our frustration and anger

In our everyday lives

____   Calling on the shepherds with the good news – lets us know this Christ child is for ALL people…

ILLUSTRATION:

His name was Bill.    He had wild hair, wore a T-shirt with holes                in it, jeans, and shoes with no socks.

This was his wardrobe during four years  of college.

Though mildly eccentric, he was a brilliant person.                                                                    He became a Christian while  attending college.

Across from the campus was a traditional church. They wanted to develop a ministry to students, but weren’t sure how to go about it.

One day Bill decided to go worship there.                                                                    He walked in with his wild hair, T-shirt                                                                    with holes in it, jeans, and shoes  with no socks.

The service had started.    Bill started down the aisle looking for a                            seat but the church was full.

By now people were looking a bit uncomfortable, but no one said anything.  Bill got closer and closer to the front, when he realized there were no seats.

He just sat down right on the floor.   Although perfectly acceptable behavior at a college fellowship,   this had never happened in this church!

By now the people were really uptight, and the tension in the air was thick.

_________

A deacon got up and slowly made his way toward Bill.

This deacon was in his eighties,  a distinguished man with silver-gray hair  and a three-piece suit.

He walked with a cane.  Everyone thought, “You can’t blame him for     what he’s going to do.

How could you expect a man of his age and background to understand some  college kid,                                                                                    thinking he can worship sitting on  the floor?”

It took time for the man to reach the boy.  The church became utterly silent, except for the clicking of the man’s cane  on the tiled floor.

All eyes focused on him.

When the elderly deacon got next to the boy,                                                          he dropped his cane to the floor.

With great difficulty he lowered himself and asked Bill,                                      “May I sit with you?”

The man sat down next to Bill and worshiped with him, so he wouldn’t be alone.

That’s what the birth of Christ means.

 

Church “Fight” Song

____________________________________________

There is No Place Like Old North Side 

  •     (tune Nebraska Fight Song)

 

There is no place like old North Side

I’m North Side through and through

Where the pastor’s here to feed us

The people are the sweetest

of any old church I knew

There is no place like old North Side

where they’re all true blue

                                    God’s kept us together,                                                                                                                                                             through all kinds of weather

                                Oh North Side, we love you.                                                                                          ___________________________________________________________ words by Rev. Jonathan Wilhoft 2016