The unfailing love of the LORD never ends! By his mercies we have been kept from complete destruction. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each day. I say to myself, “The LORD is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in him!”
Lamentations 3:22-24 (NASB)
In another place, God was revealing the next piece of His Christmas puzzle—the star. Contrary to our modern-day interpretation of Christmas symbols, the star was likely a subtle sign and not a bright heavenly body hovering over the stable in Bethlehem. Had it been a glaring white light, the whole countryside would have seen and wondered, but the Bible doesn’t say that. Instead, Magi, wise men from the East, noticed something different in the sky. These men from a powerful, priestly tribe, many miles from Bethlehem, were astronomers, and they determined that this was “His star,” the Messiah. Matthew 2:1-2 tells us: After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”
The Bible goes on to suggest that King Herod was clueless about the star and also Christ’s birth. He felt threatened when he heard about this King of the Jews, so he called his religious leaders and asked what the scriptures said about the Messiah and the place of His birth. Then Herod sent the Magi to Bethlehem. “Go and search carefully for the child,” he said. “As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.” (Matthew 2:8)
The star acted differently then. It appeared to move, and it led the Magi directly to Jesus. They bowed down and worshiped Him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route. (Matthew 2:11-12)
Herod felt furious that the Magi had betrayed him. He had just enough information to know the approximate time of Jesus’ birth and where He might be. So, Herod ordered his soldiers to go to Bethlehem and kill all the baby boys ages two and under. This foreshadowed Jesus’ fate. Throughout His life there would be those who wanted to kill Him. But, for now, the young Messiah, King of the Jews, was safe.
Just as an angel was the first piece of God’s Christmas puzzle, so it was the last. An angel appeared in a dream to Joseph and warned him of Herod’s plan. Now, all the pieces of God’s Christmas puzzle were in place. The angel told Joseph to take Mary and Jesus and flee to Egypt and later to Nazareth where they would raise the boy.
Shrouded in the silent simplicity of that first Christmas, God had begun working His mighty plan of salvation. He continues to work that plan today, quietly, piece by piece, out of our sight and apart from our comprehension. As we approach this new year, we can only imagine what 2012 will hold. Like Mary, a young woman, unmarried and pregnant, we go forward in faith, trusting God and believing in His power to lead us and provide for us.
I pray that all of you will have a happy, healthy and prosperous new year.