Joseph and Mary lived in Northern Israel – in Nazareth. However, the Roman Emperor Caesar Augustus decreed that a census should be taken, and one of the requirements was that each family had to return to its geographical roots. Joseph and Mary’s people came from Bethlehem in Judea, so they had to make the journey south, even though by this time Mary was heavily pregnant.
Bethlehem was primarily famous for being King David’s home and Joseph and Mary were descendants of David. Remember, the prophet Micah had foretold that the Messiah would come from Bethlehem. Bethlehem itself means – house of Bread, and later Jesus claimed to be the Bread of Life.
I wonder when it first struck home to Mary and Joseph – Mary was pregnant with the Messiah but they were living in Nazareth – yet the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. They had no plans to move south. They were happily settled and getting ready to celebrate the birth of their firstborn – a son. One of the greatest privileges for a Jewish couple was the birth of their firstborn and if it happened to be a boy, the whole family would be there to celebrate it in style.
That would not be realised for Mary and Joseph because they would have to leave their neighbours and friends and move south to Bethlehem. Whilst it was the home of their ancestors, the place was thronged with visitors. Everyone who claimed to be a descendant of king David was there. Consequently, the tourist and family accommodation was exhausted.
The only place left was a cave in the back garden. And it was in that exposed cave used to shelter animals in winter and in a crude trough used for animal feed that Jesus, the Saviour of the World, was laid.
It was into that scene that the Magi came – those Eastern nobles. They came from Iraq to worship a King. They were not only nobles but also probably priests who studied philosophy and natural science, including astronomy. They watched the stars and would have noticed anything different from the natural sequence of the moon’s phases and alignment of the stars.
They journeyed to Jerusalem to find the King, expecting Herod to know. But he had to ask the religious leaders who found that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. Herod therefore sent them on their way with a request to be told where he could go and also worship the new king.
We always think of three kings or nobles – probably because of the three gifts they gave. Gold, incense and myrrh. I love those gifts. I believe God made them give those gifts as His way of revealing to the world that His Son had arrived.
Gold for a King. Representing truth, purity and priceless value.
Incense for a Priest. Representing the fact that He is God. Incense is used in worship. Jesus is worthy of our worship.
Myrrh for a Saviour. Myrrh used in embalming the dead. Jesus would die to make a relationship with God possible.
Yes, through those gifts, God the Father showed for all to see that Jesus was the Son of God – the Way, the Truth and the Life, and the only Saviour of the world.
The Magi came not to see Joseph and Mary; they came to see Jesus. But how did Joseph feel? Jealous? I don’t think so. I expect he was overwhelmed. All he believed about Jesus was now open for all to know and accept.