Go to Bethlehem and search carefully for the child…. Matthew 2:8 (NLT)
We condemn ourselves when we give advice we refuse to follow ourselves. When the wise men followed the star in search of the newborn King, they found themselves on what possibly was a two-year journey. We’re not told how far they traveled but that they came from distant eastern lands. Strangely, the star they were following stopped short of Bethlehem in the City of Jerusalem. Being wise men, they stopped in the city and asked for directions.
News about these wealthy-looking strangers seeking a Messiah spread quickly throughout the city. In fact, Matthew tells us that everyone in the city including King Herod was deeply disturbed by their inquiry. Herod called a meeting of the leading priests and teachers of the law to find out where this Messiah was supposed to be born. The religious leaders rightly directed Herod to the prophecy written by an Old Testament Prophet named Micah some 750 years before that said the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. With that information, he called for a private meeting with the wise men and told them to 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!”
What a ruse that was! Herod only wanted to know so he could kill this newborn King. The wise men followed the advice to go to Bethlehem and, as they started out from Jerusalem, just as mysteriously as it had disappeared, the star in the East re-appeared directing them to the place in Bethlehem where Jesus was staying. We know the story. They find what they were searching for when they see the child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped Him presenting their gifts. What amazes me about this story is the contrast between these wise men and the religious leaders. I believe God intentionally led them to Jerusalem to disturb the city with their search. I believe it was God’s way of extending the invitation for anyone else to seek His Son just as these wise men were doing. Isn’t it strange that the religious leaders could tell them where to find the Messiah and, yet, remain in the city? Wouldn’t you think they would seek Him as well? How tragic that they missed their opportunity! They were good at giving advice. Bethlehem was only five miles away from the city.
That’s the trouble with religion though. It stops short of finding the real deal! Satisfied with its rituals and traditions, comfortable in its social and political settings, religion will never lead us to experience what we can only find in Christ – a personal relationship with God! This Christmas, don’t stop short of experiencing the Christ of Christmas! It’s time to find what you’re looking for!