Welcome to the best birthday celebration of the year! Today we remember that more than 2,000 years ago God wrapped Himself with humanity and came to earth as a baby boy to fulfill a long-standing promise to His image bearers. He came as the Prince of Peace to calm a worried world. As Christ the Lord, the Promised One, to rule. As Jesus, Son of the Most High, to submit. As the Morning Star to push out all darkness. And as the Lamb of God to atone for the sins of His people.
While We Three Kings is a popular Christmas song, it’s unlikely that the wise men, known as magi, who visited Jesus were actual kings from the East. Rather, the Greek word μάγοι, or magoi, indicates that they were learned Gentile men considered magicians in their time. But they weren’t magicians or wizards as we define them today. Rather, magi were men skilled in astronomy, religion, and medicine and were known for interpreting dreams and most likely worshiping heavenly bodies.
Today we meet Simeon and Anna in Jerusalem as their longing for a Messiah is recognized in the Baby nestled in a young mama’s arms. They spot Him not because a golden halo hovers over Him or an audible voice declares, “This is the Messiah.” No, they recognize the Son of God incarnate as a baby because they are living set apart for God, ever in His presence.
One night sometime after 8 B.C., the year Caesar Augustus decreed the world’s population should be counted, shepherds tucked their flocks safely inside the rocky folds at Migdal Eder outside the sleepy town of Bethlehem just as their forefathers for countless generations had done night after night. Charged with watching over the temple sacrifices pastured just south of Jerusalem, theirs was an important albeit quiet, monotonous life’s work until the night when an angel appeared to them with a loud, life-changing announcement. Their deliverer, the hope of a waiting world, had been born.
Before the angel of God appeared to Zechariah and then to Mary and to Joseph, God’s voice had been silent for 400 years. His people could trace God’s scarlet cord of hope from Adam through the prophets, and they knew the promise that a messiah would come to make all things right again. But one century spanned into the next, and their hope for a rescuer to break into their world grew dim...