“After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was.” Matthew 2:9
Many theories have been suggested as to what the Magi might have actually seen in the sky over Israel. Some have speculated that it might have been a concurrence of bright stars, a comet or a supernova. But all of these explanations based on natural phenomena fall short in my opinion.
First, if it had been a natural star it would have had to defy the laws of physics (stars usually travel across the sky from east to west. But the “star” the Magi saw led them from Jerusalem to Bethlehem traveling north to south).
Second, it led them to the precise location of a certain individual house, which of course a heavenly body, millions of light years from earth, could not do. There was something very different about this star.
The Scripture doesn’t tell us exactly what is going on here. And since we are left to speculate, I might as well give a theory of my own. It is possible that what they had seen was actually similar to something witnessed hundreds of years earlier by the prophet Ezekiel. He had seen how the glory of the Lord had departed from Jerusalem. It’s interesting that Ezekiel could actually trace the movement of the departing glory as it left over the Mount of Olives (Ez. 11:22-23) much like the wise men were able to trace the moving of the star to a residential address. Could it be that what the Magi were seeing was actually the Shekinah glory of God that had once departed; now returning to Israel?
Hundreds of years earlier, Isaiah had said, “Thus says the LORD: “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool; what is the house that you would build for me, and what is the place of my rest?” (Is. 66:1) Now Isaiah’s riddle was being answered. Yes, God’s glory had returned, but not to the temple in Jerusalem. Christ’s coming introduced a new era of history where God’s presence would not dwell any longer in tents or buildings, but for the first time in history, a suitable resting place would be found for God’s glory in Christ in whom Paul says, “dwells all the fullness of the God in a human body” (Col 2:9 NLT)
Whether or not my theory is correct, the point remains true. When Jesus came into the world it was the ultimate “Shekinah” and the ultimate dwelling of God among men. No wonder multitudes of angels announced his birth and worshipped God! Such a marvel the earth had never known. No wonder of creation or of human invention could compare to the miracle that God had wrapped Himself in human flesh and made his home among us. John says that, “The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.” When we celebrate Christmas, we are literally celebrating the fact that God came to live among us. Did you hear that? The one who Solomon said, “Dwells in thick darkness” became the light of the world and the one of whom John went on to say, “and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father…” (Jn. 1:14) What Ezekiel had seen departing from Israel had returned to dwell among us.
“Christ, by highest heaven adored;
Christ, the everlasting Lord;
Late in time behold him come,
Offspring of a virgin’s womb.
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see;
Hail the incarnate Deity,
Pleased with us in flesh to dwell,
Jesus, our Emmanuel.
Hark the herald angels sing
Glory to the newborn King.”
He came to dwell among us, and He remains among us by His Spirit, never to depart again. He said, “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). He said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). His incarnation was not a brief 33-year condescension. He remains a God/man. He has chosen to forever identify as one of us. Even now, as He sits at the right hand of the Father, He still has a human body. He still bears the scars of love that He received on the cross. He is one of us. He is for us. He is Emmanuel God with us!
That is the message of the Magi.
Be on the lookout for Part 3: “The Magi’s Gifts” tomorrow.