Visitors from the East
Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the reign of King Herod. About that time some wise men from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking, 2
“Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him.”
Lord, how did these men know so much, and act with such confidence in what they knew? Jerusalem was full of religious men who studied Your word and supposedly were looking for the Messiah, but none of them noticed You. Yet these men from far away somehow knew a great king had been born.
Father, I know I have filled my life with "stuff" and worries. Am I like the Pharisees in Jerusalem? You, the living King of kings is right under my nose, and I don't notice You? I'm sure I am. Please Lord, awake in me the same desires and open mindedness You gave those wise men so I can notice You all around me, every day.
These wise men didn't then just sit on what You revealed to them, they acted on it. They were so filled with the desire to worship You that they spent large amounts of their time and money, and even risked their lives travelling dangerous routes for a long time, just to spend a few moments praising You. But I Lord, can't focus my mind on You for an hour at church on Sunday. Where is my desire to praise You?
Jesus, change me. Awake my heart and fill it with a fire of praise for You. Make me willing to travel the days of my life, giving my fortune and my time, risking the "life" I have here in this material world, to praise You forever, here and in paradise. Change me Lord, Change me.
3 King Herod was deeply disturbed when he heard this, as was everyone in Jerusalem.
Lord, why am I and my family not more "disturbed" by You? You have suffered and died for us. You, the Son of God, are alive and among us. You can be easily found near us every minute of every day. And yet I go through so many days with my actions and words scarcely changed at all. My days go by with drudgery and boredom. I should be disturbed. I am a sinful man living in the presence of Your complete holiness because You suffered for me…and I am not disturbed.
Rouse me Lord. Shake me up. Change me. Stir my heart. Set me on fire. Don't let another minute go by without my soul bursting with desire to praise You! Change me Lord Jesus. Change me Holy Spirit. Change me Father. Awaken my mind to Your wisdom and life. Disturb me!
3 King Herod was deeply disturbed when he heard this, as was everyone in Jerusalem. 4 He called a meeting of the leading priests and teachers of religious law and asked, “Where is the Messiah supposed to be born?”
5 “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they said, “for this is what the prophet wrote:
6 ‘And you, O Bethlehem in the land of Judah,
are not least among the ruling cities of Judah,
for a ruler will come from you
who will be the shepherd for my people Israel.’”
7 Then Herod called for a private meeting with the wise men, and he learned from them the time when the star first appeared. 8 Then he told them, “Go to Bethlehem and search carefully for the child. And when you find him, come back and tell me so that I can go and worship him, too!”
Lord, I am like Herod , and the religious teachers. I say I am looking for You, but I don't actually go where You are. All of Jerusalem was supposedly "disturbed" by the news of Your birth, but only the wise men actually went to Bethlehem looking for You. I would have thought Bethlehem would have been overrun with people looking for You.
But things have not really changed much in all those years. I know where to find You. You are among the poor, the sick, the imprisoned, the misunderstood, but I don't go there. I may send a little money for others to go, but I myself don't want to leave the comfort of my life, my Jerusalem.
Lord, I am so sorry. I insist on living my life, my way, sinning almost constantly. I think I have something, but it is a filthy rag. Change me Lord. Soften my heart. Make me hate my worldly life with all its comforts. Help me to throw it away and run to meet You, where You are. Change me into a wise man traveling in a foreign land who finds the King of Kings.
9 After this interview the wise men went their way. And the star they had seen in the east guided them to Bethlehem. It went ahead of them and stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were filled with joy!
Lord, where do I begin? Your Word says so much in so few words. The wise men had their meeting with Herod, a worldly king and a very wealthy and powerful man, but returned to their mission. They weren't sidetracked by the world. They were focused. I can't stay focused on serving You for an hour. My mind wonders even now. Work, money, my family: perhaps all somewhat important, but they should not keep me from my mission of serving You. But they do. Change me Lord. Help me focus on You.
"When they saw the star they were filled with joy." Being guided by You, gave them joy. I refuse to let You lead me, and they joyfully followed You. Help me Father to delight in Your guidance. I need it so bad. When I go my way I sin and fall and bring You shame. I feel so hopeless at times. Why can't I keep from doing what I know is sin? When will I learn that joy is following You?
Please Holy Spirit, change me. Keep me focused on following You. Somehow, some way, change me Lord. No effort of mine seems to work. I need a miracle Lord. I know You lead like the star, You don't push, but I need to be pushed!
No, I will not push you, but I will make you into a child who will follow my lead. I will change you, not push you.
11 They entered the house and saw the child with his mother,
Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasure chests and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
Lord, how do I become like these wise men? They came looking for a king, following a star. Surely they did not expect to find a poor child with poor parents. Yet they followed the light, accepting where the light led them, and gave You what gifts they had.
Lord, help me to follow You, wherever You lead me. Help me to find You as You are, not as I think You should be. Help me to find You among the poor and unnoticed… or among the rich and popular. Help me not to judge but to simply follow You and find You, and give You all that I have.
Follow You. Find You. Give You what I have. It sounds so easy, why do I fail? I so often don't even notice the star! Lord, I know You are near to me now, just as You were near the people in Jerusalem, in the little village of Bethlehem. Help me to follow the light and find You.
12 When it was time to leave, they returned to their own country by another route, for God had warned them in a dream not to return to Herod.
They went home by a different route. Lord, when I do find You, change me. Don't let me go back to Herod (the sinful world). Change me Lord. Change the course of my life. Change my route, my way. Please Lord, I feel like time is so short. I want You to change me in an instant into the perfect person I will be in heaven. But that is my way, not Yours. I don't know why You choose to change me over time, but please, change the course of my life so it is Your course, Your route, Your way…Your life.
The Escape to Egypt
13 After the wise men were gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up! Flee to Egypt with the child and his mother,” the angel said. “Stay there until I tell you to return, because Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”
14 That night Joseph left for Egypt with the child and Mary, his mother, 15 and they stayed there until Herod’s death. This fulfilled what the Lord had spoken through the prophet: “I called my Son out of Egypt.”[e]
Such obedience! You told Joseph what to do, and he did it…that same night! He left everything he knew and had, and everyone he loved and trusted behind because of a dream. I could say that I would obey if an angel spoke to me, even in a dream, but I bet I wouldn't do what Joseph did because of a dream. You have given me Your clear Word in the bible: "Do not steal", "Do not commit adultery", and yet I don't obey You. I can't believe I would even come close to obeying the way Joseph did.
And so You discipline me. Thank-you Lord. If You didn't discipline me, You wouldn't love me. I have prayed for change, and You are trying to change me. And I am stubborn. Lord, teach me to obey like Joseph. To jump at Your word. To obey without hesitation. To trust You with all that I have and everyone I know. Lord, why am I so slow to obey You now. Have You not proven Yourself enough? Forgive me Lord.
And I noticed another thing in this story. It appears Joseph and Mary owned almost nothing. They traveled from Nazareth to Bethlehem where You were born. They obviously stayed in Bethlehem for some time. Did they have nothing to go back to Nazareth for? Did You want to make sure Joseph and Mary cared only for You and obeying You so You made sure they had no worldly possessions? Or did they love and obey You so much, that their worldly possessions just didn't matter? Lord, I have so many possessions. Will I have to lose them all to completely follow You? I can tell by the worry I have over that question that I love them too much. Help me Lord, not to love my stuff.
Father, Jesus, Holy Spirit, change me and forgive me. Help me to follow and obey. Help me follow You with reckless abandon.
16 Herod was furious when he realized that the wise men had outwitted him. He sent soldiers to kill all the boys in and around Bethlehem who were two years old and under, based on the wise men’s report of the star’s first appearance. 17 Herod’s brutal action fulfilled what God had spoken through the prophet Jeremiah:
18 “A cry was heard in Ramah—
weeping and great mourning.
Rachel weeps for her children,
refusing to be comforted,
for they are dead.”
I cannot imagine the pain in Your soul Jesus. You knew from all eternity that Your coming would rouse the hatred of Satan and his followers in this world. You knew, and told us, that the innocents would be slaughtered in an effort to stop Your salvation plan. We are such a wicked rate. Why would You not just destroy us?
Yet, You call me to believe that You make all things, even this extreme violence against these innocent children, to work together for good. How many of the parents of these children later put their faith in You because there was no other relief for their grief? How many people have come to believe in Your Word because it has so many fulfilled prophesies? I'm sorry children had to die and parents wail in grief to make a prophesy graphic enough to get my attention.
Lord, I know others have suffered, more than I can know, to bring me to You. Thank-you for being willing to see through the moment and sacrifice Yourself, and others, to save me. Someday we will all be in heaven and will rejoice together where there is no more pain.
And Jesus, help me to accept the suffering that comes my way, and to believe that it is used by You for some good purpose. You have asked so little of me, and I have complained so much about it. Lord, my life is Yours, use it as You will. It would be an honor to suffer for You.
The Return to Nazareth
19 When Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt. 20 “Get up!” the angel said. “Take the child and his mother back to the land of Israel, because those who were trying to kill the child are dead.”
21 So Joseph got up and returned to the land of Israel with Jesus and his mother. 22 But when he learned that the new ruler of Judea was Herod’s son Archelaus, he was afraid to go there. Then, after being warned in a dream, he left for the region of Galilee. 23 So the family went and lived in a town called Nazareth. This fulfilled what the prophets had said: “He will be called a Nazarene.”
Jesus, You and Your family are wondering nomads! I am so amazed. I have read that based on genealogies, Joseph would have been Judah's king, if they had one. You Lord, created the entire universe and are its King of kings. Yet You, Mary and Joseph have no real home. Joseph and Mary move away from family and friends without hesitation to do what You call them to do.
I see from this that I am not to have a home here on earth either. I have friends and family, but even they must be a distant second to You. This world really had nothing to offer its greatest King: You. Why do I think it has something to offer me? If I am not a wondering nomad in this life, I really am not following You.
I know You aren't calling me to leave my wife and children. I know You are calling me not to love my house, cars, bank accounts etc.. And maybe there will come a time when You call me to travel to help spread Your good news. Now I am called to help meet the needs of those who You have called.
Lord, keep me from loving this life and this world. Help me see it for the foreign land that it is. Help me treat everything in it as temporary. Help me to do Your will without hesitation, like Mary and Joseph.