Chasing the Star of Jacob

The weather starts turning, the days become cloudier and even possibly the first snow has fallen.  Winter season is upon us once again, which means Christmas is just around the corner. Christmas can mean a lot of things to a lot of people. It can be a joyous season with family and laughter. Christmas can also be a season of terrible sadness with deep scars that never seem to heal. A season that is meant for joy and celebrating has brought so much pain to some, whether they have lost loved ones, or experienced financial issues. Even through the pain, through the heartache, a story stands firm through time. A journey and a birth that brings hope to the brokenhearted and the lost. A baby that brings comfort to the weeping, and salvation to the sinner. The birth of Jesus changed history, and even through we may experience pain through this holiday season, we must know that there is still hope in Christ.

The trek begins in Nazareth for Mary and Joseph as they are commanded to go back to Joseph’s home town of Bethlehem for the Caesar’s census. About nine months earlier, an angel appeared to Mary to inform her that she would become pregnant with the incarnate Son of God. No angel had appeared to anyone for at least 500 years, and Mary was next in line. The angel told her to name the Child that would be born “Jesus.” He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High (Luke 1:31b). This virgin-born child was the rightful Heir to the throne of king David. He is the root of Jesse and the Branch of the LORD.

During their long trip to Bethlehem, Mary was pregnant, and as they arrived in the prophesied city, the birth pangs begun. The census had brought droves of Israelites to their respective hometowns, so every single place around was overflowing with visitors, including the inns. It might be safe to speculate that Joseph and Mary stayed with relatives, in a packed household, Mary had no choice but to give birth in the bottom floor, were the house animals resided. The most adequate place was a feeding trough. And so, the One who dwelt in everlasting glory before the face of the Father came down to His creation in the humblest way possible. Instead of being born as a king in a royal suite, he was born in a meager house in the place where animals were fed.

As all this was taking place, a big party was travelling from the far east, being led by “Three Wise Men.” The Bible isn’t clear on how far they walked from, but it says they came from the east, which can be understood as Persia or Babylon. These men, who were not only three (travel in those times happened in big caravans), were adherents of Zoroastrianism, an ancient, monotheistic religion which expected the triumph of good over evil and had a high interest in prophecy. They held the Old Testament Scriptures in high esteem and were likely familiar with Balaam’s announcement of a future king, who would rule Israel like no one else did. “I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near: a star shall come out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel; it shall crush the forehead of Moab and break down all the sons of Sheth (Numbers 24:17).”

The Magi  (Wise Men) were experts at recognizing kings from surrounding nations, and they knew that this one-of-a-kind King would arise from Jacob. The star from Jacob arose before their eyes. Astounded and perplexed, they immediately followed the sign of the prophecy and were eager to meet this unique King. They came to worship Him, not knowing what to expect. This is the hope that Christ brings. At the first sight of Jesus, they fell down and worshiped, they came seeking the King of the Jews and found Him, this precious baby who was destined to die for the sins of God’s people. This voyage was well worth the time for these three mysterious men, they met a King unlike any other they had ever laid eyes upon.

As we are a week out from the celebration of the birth of Christ, we enter a time for many that is difficult. We experience a raise in emotions as they could face the first Christmas without a loved one, or it’s a reminder of a tragic year in the past. While we should also hold these dear to ourselves, we should never forget what the purpose of season is, to celebrate the birth of Christ. The savior being born brings us hope of something better. The journey of the wise men was a long road, and possibly faced with many difficulties. Their origins shrouded in mystery, but their goal was to welcome and greet the King. While we face the unknowns of another Christmas, know that all our destinations need to be Jesus. He is our hope, and our faith. I pray for everyone reading this to find the joy in the season, find joy in the journey and find joy in the difficulties. Keep your eyes focused on Jesus this Christmas season.

Written by Alex Zenk, @reformed_lifestyle

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