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Jersey responds to Christmas

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 … 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, … 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. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. 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… Matthew 2: 1-12

Is it possible that Jersey folk at Christmas AD 2013 are paralleled by similar folk recorded by Matthew, the first-century biographer of Jesus Christ?

Matthew recorded three responses to Christmas: that of the wise men from the east; that of Herod the Great, King of the Jews; and that of the chief priests and scribes. Is history repeating itself?

The chief priests were the politico-religious authorities In Jerusalem BC 0. The scribes (‘writers’) were the experts who recorded and administered the religious and legal system given by Almighty God to Israel over many centuries. These senior and capable leaders knew what the prophet Micah had written around 700 BC (see bold above) about Bethlehem. They knew that the promised Messiah (Greek: Christ) would come. But, having answered Herod, they did absolutely nothing about it.

That’s some response, isn’t it? To know the facts but do nothing?
‘Money – the greatest God below the sky.’ (Herbert Spencer, English philosopher, 1820-1903)

Then there’s Herod. He’s the King of the Jews. When foreigners knock on his door and ask him, the King of the Jews, where the King of the Jews has been born, Herod is understandably troubled – troubled about himself and his own autonomy. He does know that God’s promised Messiah is coming one day. King Herod, although aged 69, decides to fight God – to do away with God’s Messiah.

In order to deal a death blow to God’s Messiah, King Herod has to act confidentially. He must pretend one thing but do another. He needs to find out the precise date on which the star rose in the sky. With that date he will know the exact present age of this baby – and arrange things in his own favour.

Strange, isn’t it? King Herod, a believer in God, knows that a star rose in the sky months ago to mark the birth of the Messiah in Bethlehem. He knows that God is at work. But he also believes that he, Herod, King of the Jews, is more important that all of that. He needs to stay happy by thwarting Almighty God. (Actually, within a few weeks it was King Herod who was dead.)

The wise men are from east of Jerusalem. Matthew the biographer uses the word “magi” to describe them. Philo of Alexandria (BC 20 – AD 50), a Greek philosopher and writer, in a different context, depicts “magi” as being, in a word, sub-religious people – people below the religions, beneath all faiths.  That – and the star – gave them a head start.

The star signalling the birth of the King of the Jews rose in their sky hundreds of miles away. They travelled to Herod’s Jerusalem to worship that baby.

After listening (it’s good to listen) to Herod they went towards Bethlehem. As they set out from Herod to travel the six miles south, that same star – the star which they had seen when it rose in their own sky – re-appeared.
‘I looked to Jesus, and I found / In Him my Star, my Sun; / And in that light of life I’ll walk, / Till travelling days are done.’ (H Bonar, Scottish minister, 1808-1889)

At that they rejoiced – exceedingly - with great (mega) joy. Why? Because they then knew, without any doubt whatsoever, that the star was for them – to show them the way to the King of the Jews. The star was for them – the sub-religious, those far away from God’s people and God’s laws and, at that time, God’s Temple in Jerusalem.

No wonder they fall down, open their treasures, and give.
Richard Syvret

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