Now that Christmas is finally here, I've been jamming out to my favorite Christmas songs. Starting at Midnight Mass, I was struck for the first time by how many songs make a reference to the wise men who visited Jesus.
We've all heard the story of Jesus' birth so many times that it's easy to take for granted some details which seem subtle or inconsequential. Three wise men or kings came to visit Jesus by following the light of a star. Sure. Heard it a thousand times. But if we were reading the Gospel of Saint Matthew with the eyes of a first century Jew, we would realize how absolutely radical it is that the three wise men came to pay homage to Jesus.
A few weeks ago I finished reading Dawn of the Messiah by Edward Sri. Allow me to share some of his insights regarding the wise men:
"For many first-century Jewish readers, this plot [the story of the Magi] would sound all too familiar. It would recall the Old Testament story of Balak, Balaam and he prophecy of Numbers 24. Balak was the king of Moab who feared the Israelites so much that he called upon a pagan prophet from the east named Balaam to put a curse on them. However, when Balaam tried to curse Israel, words of blessing mysteriously came out of his mouth. Three times Balaam attempted to cast a spell on the Israelites, but each time God intervened to cause him to utter blessings.... All this prefigures the story of Herod, the Magi, and the star in Matthew 2. Just as the wicked King Balak wanted to use a pagan from the East to destroy Israel, so the wicked King Herod tries to use the Magi from the East in his plot to kill Israel's new born Messiah. Similarly, Balaam prefigures the Magi. Just as Balaam did not cooperate with Balak's plan to harm Israel but ended up blessing God's people, so do the Magi refuse to cooperate with Herod and instead end up paying homage to Jesus and bringing him gifts fit for a king. "
Jesus fulfills hundreds of prophecies from the Old Testament, including the prophecy that He would bring together all nations. The Magi from the East are not Jews. They are the first gentiles that God brings back into His covenant through Christ. The gifts they bring allude to the Kingship of Christ, His Divinity, and His death.
How crazy is it that these men come to worship a little baby and recognize Him as the Savior?!! They don't have knowledge of the Old Testament, but God moves in them and allows them to take part in His plan for the salvation of the world.
St. Stephen, pray for us.
Check out this a cappella version of The Little Drummer Boy by Pentatonix: