FROM THE DESK OF
THE PATRIARCH AND PRESIDING PRELATE
HH, Sir Godfrey Gregg D.Div
There came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him–Matthew 2:1-2
God Speaks Our Language
One of the first lessons of this passage is that God speaks to men in ways they can understand. These Chaldeans had been stargazers from childhood; the study of the nightly heavens was their passion. They had watched the stars with patience and accuracy such as are never suffered to go unrewarded. And now by the aid of the stars they loved so well and on which they had meditated with such unwearied devotion, they are brought to the feet of the Infant in the manger. The shepherds were not Chaldeans, they were Jews. They had been trained in the doctrines of the angels. I dare say they never went out to the pasture at night without hoping to see some shimmer of angel’s wings. So it was by the long-expected voice of angels that the shepherds received the tidings of the Christ. But the Chaldeans had not learned the lore of angels; it was the lore of stars they were familiar with; God spake to the separate companies in separate voices, but the voices were those that each could understand. That is always true. His voice is the sound of many waters. He is a Father, and you never heard of a father who took his children on his knee and answered their questions in Latin or in Greek. We shall never understand the Bible truly, nor shall we ever value aright all that we learned in childhood until we have grasped this simple yet profound truth, that God speaks to men in ways they can understand.
People Led to Christ in Unlikely Ways
Another lesson of this passage is the unlikely ways in which men may be led to Jesus. We know that the prophets pointed to Jesus; so did the law–Christ was the end of the law. So did the sacrifices on the Jewish altars, and the stern summons to repentance of the Baptist. All these things were intended and adapted to guide men into the presence of Messiah, and multitudes journeyed to His presence so. But a star–do you think that was a likely leader? Is that the duty and the function of a star? Yet by a star, as surely as by the angels, were men conducted to Bethlehem. Let us be taught, then, that by unlooked-for ways men may be led to light and love and liberty. Let us never limit the power of the Almighty in opening up avenues to Jesus’ feet. There are men who have heard a thousand sermons and been deaf to the whole range of evangelical appeal, who have yet been won for Christ by a stray word in passing, or by some act of self-sacrificing kindness. There are women whom all the praise of the sanctuary has not moved, but who have been turned to God by the ceasing of childish laughter. The star is a type of strange and unlooked-for way in which men are led to the feet of Jesus Christ.
The Intense Curiosity of the Wise Men
The third lesson of this passage is the intense curiosity of these men about the King. Nothing would satisfy them but that they must leave home and kindred, and set out on a long and toilsome journey, and brave a hundred dangers on the road, all for the sake of worshipping Christ. Had it been a king of the whole East who had been promised them, I could have better understood their curiosity. For there is a strong desire in the heart of a loyal subject to get a glimpse of his own future sovereign. But it was not a king of Chaldea they were seeking–“Where is He that is called King of the Jews?” And when I think of that passionate inquiry for the unknown monarch of an alien race, and how they travelled hundreds of miles to see Him–and how they troubled Jerusalem about Him, and would not be baffled nor beaten in the search, I am amazed at the mysterious interest excited by the new-born Savior. The strange thing is that from that hour to this, that curiosity has never died away. In the whole of history, Jesus is the supremely fascinating figure. More thoughts are directed to Jesus in one day than to Caesar or Napoleon in ten years. More books are written about Jesus now than about any hundred of earth’s greatest men. There is an inexplicable mystery and charm about that simple Galilean figure, and the world is still as curious about Him as were the wise men when they saw His star.
Anxious Inquiries by Those Far Away
Again, the most anxious inquirers about Jesus were men who were very far away from Him. I wish you to compare these pilgrims from the East with the men gathered in the inn at Bethlehem. The Chaldeans were many a long mile away, and the company in the inn were at the manger. Yet it was not the latter band, it was the former, who were eager about the newborn Savior.
There were ninety-and-nine that safely lay
In the shelter of the fold,
But some were out on the hills away,
Far off from the gates of gold.
Away on the mountains wild and bare,
Away from the tender shepherd’s care–
yet who was the nearest to Jesus Christ that night–was it not those who were so far away? That is a parable of what often happens. At home, in the bosom of a Christian country, we are always in danger of careless unconcern. We are exposed to that worst indifference that springs from the dying of the sense of wonder. Meantime, from distant countries like Chaldea, come tidings of the kingdom being taken by violence. Once again the most anxious seekers are men whom we should say were far away.
The Apparent Insignificance of What They Found
Lastly, let us not fail to observe the apparent insignificance of what they found. When the Queen of Sheba set out from Arabia and entered with her fine retinue into Jerusalem, she saw such lavish glory there that her heart sank under the wonder of it. But when the wise men from the East came to the inn, expecting perhaps some sight of royal majesty, they found in happy innocence–a Child. I wonder if they felt a touch of disappointment? Was it worthwhile to make that tedious journey, and this–this little Babe–the end of it? We know now that it was well worthwhile; that Infant of days was the eternal Lord. So there come times to every one of us when we are tempted to ask, “Is all our effort worthwhile?” We pray and serve and struggle through the darkness, and the end of it all seems (as it were) a manger. But for us, too, the eternal dawn is coming when the King in His beauty shall meet us with a welcome; and I think we shall find then, like the wise men from the East, that the journey to Bethlehem was well worthwhile.