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Matthew 2:1-12

We know this story well. There are songs about the coming of the magi to the bedside of the Christ-child, and what manger scene would be complete without three lavishly dressed men, with their gifts and camels. And who has not seen a beautifully decorated Christmas card portraying the city of Bethlehem in the distance with the wisemen traveling toward the city staring up at an overly large star is shining over the peaceful city?

These men who traveled from a far-off country to visit the Christ-child are perhaps some of the most well-known characters of the Bible. What would Christmas be without these travel-worn men bringing expensive and all too fitting gifts to the newly born messiah, the king of the Jews? And yet, who were these men? What were they searching for?

As Christians and preachers, we have heard, and perhaps preached, their story year after year. We know it so well, that it can become tempting to skip the reading, the studying the research and just write a different version of what we wrote last year. What new gifts can these the magi bring to us this year, that we have not heard again and again? But as we come to this passage in Matthew once again this year, let’s try to hear the facts and understand the truths they have to offer, anew.

They were magi, astrologers, sometimes they are called wisemen who had great knowledge of the stars. How many of them there actually were, we do not know? We have come to the number three, simply because they brought three gifts and it has been decided that there was one for each gift. As astrologers spent their lives looking to the stars and the movement of the wandering stars, otherwise known as planets, and would find meaning in their movements. It is thought they may have been Zoroastrians who believed everything that happened on the earth was reflected in Heavens; the rise and fall of nations, directions as to when to go to war and their outcomes; the births and deaths of kings; everything of significance could be found in the stars. The movements in the heavens were thought to be key to understanding our existence here on earth.

They see a star rise into a particular part of the sky and they knew that a King had been born to the Jews. Why exactly they set out to pay homage to this king or if this is what they did every time such a thing occurred, we do not know. What we do know is that they headed out toward the land of the Jews to seek the new king and pay their respects to this young child. They immediately headed for the palace of King Herod; after all he was the “king of the Jews.”

Imagine Herod’s surprise when these astrologers from Persia or other parts East of Palestine arrived at his palace looking for one who was born king of the Jews. Herod himself is very old at this time and will die in but a few years. His sons are all grown. There were no kings of the Jews other than Herod and if he had anything to do about it, there would be no king of the Jews other than on of his sons.

Just to be “safe” he summons the chief priests and the scribes to see if there was anything, they knew that perhaps Herod did not. Indeed, they did, and so they inform Herod, from their study of scripture they know, the Messiah wil