Home > Devotions > Daily Reading – January 6, 2019

The Magi Were Led to Jesus

 

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet:

“ ‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.’ ”

Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.” After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. 11 And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. 12 And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.

– Matthew 2:1–12 ESV

Who were these “wise men” anyhow? The Greek word is magi, from which we get the words “magic” and “magician.” However, in the ancient world that had a different meaning from what we understand today. The magi were religious leaders and teachers who studied that ancient form of religion we call astrology.

It is ironic that Matthew, the most Semitic of the Gospels, begins (after a genealogy establishing the Jewishness of Jesus) with the visit of pagan religious leaders who seek to worship Jesus, and ends with a command to preach the Gospel to “all the nations,” where the word “nations” is the term for the Gentile world.

This story establishes that Jesus fulfills the hopes of all people and the sense of mystery that even those who are not physically descended from Abraham glimpse in part. Because God is the Creator of all people, God’s Son was born to redeem and save people from every race and nation.

For us who uphold the sanctity of life, this can give us hope. So often we are accused of “forcing our religious ideas on other people.” But in fact, one does not have to hold to biblical faith to realize the mystery and value of all life. We can find allies among people of other religions and of no religion, and perhaps our common work to preserve and protect life can open the way to further witnessing, as the star led the magi to seek answers to their deepest hopes.

We see how God wonderfully and surprisingly revealed the Gospel to the magi and led them to ask the questions that would finally show them Jesus, first in the Scriptures and then in Bethlehem. In a similar way, God can use our witness for life today to lead others to a full and deep faith in Jesus.

I’m sure that many faithful Jews would have rejected the magi as lost pagans, which indeed they were. But they were found by God and led to Jesus. So may we be open to God’s work of witnessing to Jesus as we seek to advocate for this wonderful gift and mystery of life.

Prayer: Lord, as you once led the magi to Jesus through the star, use our work for life to witness to your love, that others may come to see Jesus in us. Amen.

Pro-Life Action: Reach out to non-Christians and share your pro-life beliefs with them. Perhaps your passion for human life will lead others to discover the source of that passion: Jesus Christ, our Lord.

Today’s devotion was written by Rev. Steve Shipman, interim pastor at St. Timothy Lutheran Church in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania.

This year’s Advent devotions are written by the members of NALC Life Ministries. The devotional follows the daily Revised Common Lectionary for Advent and includes a Bible reading, commentary, prayer and pro-life action for every day until Christmas Eve.

As we move through the season of Advent, Scripture reveals the anxiety of an unplanned pregnancy, as Mary and Joseph ponder this miracle and seek to understand who this precious child might be. This devotional examines our responsibility to protect all human life in light of Mary and Joseph’s protection of Jesus, the savior of the world.

Our authors include Rev. Dr. David Wendel, Rev. Mark Chavez, Rev. Dr. Dennis Di Mauro, Rev. Dr. Cathi Braasch, Rev. Scott Licht, Rev. Sandra Towberman, Rev. Steve Shipman, Ms. Rebecka Andrae, Rev. Melinda Jones, Rev. David Nelson, Ms. Rosemary Johnson, Rev. Mark Werner and Rev. Steve Bliss.

Learn more about NALC Life Ministries

Isaiah 60:1–6 (ESV)

The Future Glory of Israel

60 Arise, shine, for your light has come,
and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.
For behold, darkness shall cover the earth,
and thick darkness the peoples;
but the Lord will arise upon you,
and his glory will be seen upon you.
And nations shall come to your light,
and kings to the brightness of your rising.
Lift up your eyes all around, and see;
they all gather together, they come to you;
your sons shall come from afar,
and your daughters shall be carried on the hip.
Then you shall see and be radiant;
your heart shall thrill and exult,
because the abundance of the sea shall be turned to you,
the wealth of the nations shall come to you.
A multitude of camels shall cover you,
the young camels of Midian and Ephah;
all those from Sheba shall come.
They shall bring gold and frankincense,
and shall bring good news, the praises of the Lord.

Psalm 72 (ESV)

Give the King Your Justice

72 Of Solomon.

Give the king your justice, O God,
and your righteousness to the royal son!

May he judge your people with righteousness,
and your poor with justice!

Let the mountains bear prosperity for the people,
and the hills, in righteousness!

May he defend the cause of the poor of the people,
give deliverance to the children of the needy,
and crush the oppressor!

May they fear you while the sun endures,
and as long as the moon, throughout all generations!

May he be like rain that falls on the mown grass,
like showers that water the earth!

In his days may the righteous flourish,
and peace abound, till the moon be no more!

May he have dominion from sea to sea,
and from the River to the ends of the earth!

May desert tribes bow down before him,
and his enemies lick the dust!

10  May the kings of Tarshish and of the coastlands
render him tribute;
may the kings of Sheba and Seba
bring gifts!

11  May all kings fall down before him,
all nations serve him!

12  For he delivers the needy when he calls,
the poor and him who has no helper.

13  He has pity on the weak and the needy,
and saves the lives of the needy.

14  From oppression and violence he redeems their life,
and precious is their blood in his sight.

15  Long may he live;
may gold of Sheba be given to him!
May prayer be made for him continually,
and blessings invoked for him all the day!

16  May there be abundance of grain in the land;
on the tops of the mountains may it wave;
may its fruit be like Lebanon;
and may people blossom in the cities
like the grass of the field!

17  May his name endure forever,
his fame continue as long as the sun!
May people be blessed in him,
all nations call him blessed!

18  Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel,
who alone does wondrous things.

19  Blessed be his glorious name forever;
may the whole earth be filled with his glory!
Amen and Amen!

20  The prayers of David, the son of Jesse, are ended.

Book Three

Ephesians 3:1–12 (ESV)

The Mystery of the Gospel Revealed

For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles— assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you, how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power. To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God, who created all things, 10 so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. 11 This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12 in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him.

Matthew 2:1–12 (ESV)

The Visit of the Wise Men

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet:

“ ‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.’ ”

Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.” After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. 11 And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. 12 And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.

Luther’s first statements concerning this matter we find in the marginal notes written by him in his personal copy of the Sentences of Lombardus, which, in 1510, as a Sententiarius he was called upon to teach. Here we find statements such as the following: “But you, dear reader, whoever you may be, take this as the word of a simple man: no one has ever yet had the experience that the vapors of the earth have illuminated the heavens, but rather that they hold back the light from the earth. By that I want to say that theology is heaven, or, to put it still better, the kingdom of heaven. Man is the earth, and his speculations are the vapors; now understand the rest and see for what reason there are such great di erences of opinion among the doctors. Note, too, that a swine has never been able to teach Minerva even though it o en imagines that it can.”   “All light must come from revelation, the human understanding is unable to understand supernatural matters.”   “For since no one has seen them, whatever is added to revelation is certainly nothing but human invention.”   “Arguments based on reason determine nothing, but because the Holy Ghost says it is true, it is true.” In connection with a disputed question Luther affirms, “though many famous doctors hold this opinion, yet they do not have Scripture on their side but only arguments of reason. But I have the words of Scripture on my side in this opinion that the soul is the image of God, and so I say with the Apostle, ‘Though an angel from heaven, that is, a doctor of the Church, teaches otherwise let him be anathema!’” (13)

–Johann Michael Reu, Luther on the Scriptures

This daily Bible reading guide, Reading the Word of God, was conceived and prepared as a result of the ongoing discussions between representatives of three church bodies: Lutheran Church—Canada (LCC), The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) and the North American Lutheran Church (NALC). The following individuals have represented their church bodies and approved this introduction and the reading guide: LCC: President Robert Bugbee; NALC: Bishop John Bradosky, Revs. Mark Chavez, James Nestingen, and David Wendel; LCMS: Revs. Albert Collver, Joel Lehenbauer, John Pless, and Larry Vogel.

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