I still remember when my Dad turned 40. I was a second grader at the time. Honestly I don’t have a ton of memories from my early elementary years, but I remember that day. My mom had planned a special celebration for my Dad’s birthday A surprise party was planned and guests were invited. In addition to a number of “in town” friends, my mom intentionally sent invites to my dad’s brothers and sisters. Even though they lived a great distance away, they were personally invited to the party and made plans to attend. On the afternoon of his birthday I was playing outside at my uncle’s house when I saw the rest of the family arrive from out of state. I came running into the room where my dad was sitting and exclaimed, “You are never going to guess who just pulled up!!!” Much to everyone’s surprise, my Dad calmly said, “I bet it is the rest of the family!” Somehow he had caught wind of the plan and was actually expecting their “surprise” arrival.
I was thinking about that experience today as I read Matthew 2:1-12. These verses talk about a birthday party for Jesus Christ when He was quite young. We saw last Sunday from Luke 2 that invitations went out to some local folks (shepherds) who were invited to celebrate Jesus’ birth. But in Matthew 2, we find out that God the Father also invited some out-of-towners to come to celebrate the newborn King. Magi from the East had been summoned and invited to attend the party. At first glance, this seems like quite the surprise.
However, upon further review, we should not be taken aback. While the method of invite (the Christmas star) is a bit unusual for us, it was not unusual for God. After all, He had used this method of guidance to lead the people of Israel years ago (remember the cloud by day and fire by night?) But even more, we might be surprised that Iranian Astrologers were invited to the party … but again, we should not be confused. When these distant, Gentile, foreigners showed up, you can almost imagine Joseph running in to the house and exclaiming to his Son, “You are never going to guess who just arrived!!!!” Jesus (a toddler at this point) calmly responds saying, “Yeah! The rest of the family has shown up!”
Jesus was ALWAYS to be the gift for all people … including those who lived at a “distance.” God had told Abraham in Genesis 12 that through his descendant, ALL the people of the earth would be blessed. Isaiah talks about foreign Kings bowing before the Jewish Messiah, and people from ALL the earth gathered to worship Him (Isaiah 60:1-3). The Psalmist even knew this was coming when he wrote, “Let THE NATIONS be glad and sing for joy (Psalm 67)” The Great Commission was not a new idea for God, but an added emphasis to an old idea … the culmination of His ultimate plan.
The reason why Christians are so evangelistic and mission minded is because the mission of God is not local but global in scope. It should not surprise us. It has been that way from the beginning … and the Iranian Astrologers (the Magi) being invited to the party let us know early on the intentions of His advent.
This Sunday, December 20, 2020 at Wildwood Community Church, we will be continuing our Christmas Sermon Series “The Gift” by looking at Matthew 2:1-12 and being reminded that Jesus is THE GIFT for the Distant. Hope you make plans to join us in our 9:00, 10:15, or 11:30 services (or online at wildwoodchurch.org/live beginning at 10:15), and bring friends! This is a “surprise” we don’t want to miss.
P.S. Our worship band has prepared their annual rendition of “Carol of the Bells” and will be including it in this Sunday’s service! Don’t miss it!