Wednesday, 01 February 2023

First Lutheran Corner: Dreams of Christmas – Wise Men dream of a dangerous king

"And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod they returned to their country by a different route." – Matthew 2:12

Have you ever had a vacation ruined by bad news?

It can happen at any point in the process. Maybe you've planned a trip to the Holy Land. You've bought your tickets, booked your rooms, gotten your itinerary. Maybe you've even packed your bags. Then you learn of a recent terrorist attack. The State Department warns against travel to that area. Disappointed, you cancel.

But at the last minute the travel agency comes up with an alternative. It's safer in Turkey; you can go there. You can see all the places St. Paul visited. It's not Jerusalem, but it's safe. So you go.

The Wise Men had their trip to Jerusalem ruined, not before they started out, but as they were going home.

In a dream, the second of five dreams in Matthew's nativity, the Wise Men learn that Herod is a danger to the Christ Child; they are not to return to him with news of where the child lives. They are to go home a different way. What a disturbing conclusion to such a joyous journey.

But let's go back to the beginning of their story. Who are the Wise Men and where do they come from?

There's much debate over almost every detail in the account. The word Matthew uses to identify the Wise Men is a strong clue as to their homeland. They're called magoi. Magoi is a Persian word for astrologer or magician. And they tell us themselves that their journey began in the "east" where they saw the star. Persia is in the east. Magoi is a Persian word. Where else can they be from but Persia?

Some draw a contrast here between the first visitors to see baby Jesus, the shepherds, and these visitors, the Wise Men.

Shepherds were poor, humble and despised members of society. They were the outcasts. The Jews of the time would classify them with the sinners, tax collectors and prostitutes.

But now these Magi from the east come to see the new king. They're rich, learned and skilled in the sciences of the ancient world. So, in shepherds and Wise Men we have the whole spectrum of mankind, from least to greatest represented.

Not so fast. These men would be no more acceptable to a religious Jew than the shepherds. Astrology and the magic arts are condemned in the Bible, and that's what they practiced. And they're not Jews but Gentiles.

"Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews?" they ask. "We recognize him as king, as the promised Messiah, but we're not Jews," they are in effect saying.

So they've got two strikes against them, an ungodly occupation, and the wrong religion. And strike three comes when Herod asks about the child’s whereabouts. Three strikes, and yet they came, believing they would be welcomed, if not by the people, at least by the King of the Jews.

No one likes a bad dream. But thank God the Wise Men had one. They not only followed a star that led them to the Savior, they heeded the dream, not returning to Herod.

And because of that, you and I have a Savior, one who would grow up to take our place on Calvary's cross, dying for our sins, and rising again that all who believe in him might have forgiveness and eternal life.

Join us at First Lutheran Church this Sunday to hear the whole story of this “Dream of Christmas.”

Worship is at 11 a.m., with lunch immediately following the service. All are welcome so come as you are.

Chris DelCol is pastor of First Lutheran Church in Lucerne, Calif. The church is located at 3863 Country Club Drive, telephone 707-274-5572. Email Pastor Chris at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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