Recently, the Lord has led some wise people from the East into my life; this morning, I want to share some of the “exceedingly great joy” (Matthew 2:10) they have brought with them.
By “wise people from the East” I mean some Christians from Iran who have begun to worship in our congregation. And I also refer to the “magi” Matthew depicts in chapter 2 of his Gospel.
Bible scholars have taught me that Matthew’s magi are not the “three kings from Orient are” that I pictured as a child on the basis of Christmas pageants. Matthew does not call them kings, and he speaks of three gifts, not three kings. So in terms of history, we do not know much about the magi. But in terms of Gospel theology, we can learn much from them.
The magi are Gentiles (non-Jews), and when they seek to worship the king of the Jews, they fulfill biblical prophecies about the nations streaming to God in order to live in peace. They teach us to beat our swords into plowshares and to learn the ways of peace instead of war. (Isaiah 2) They teach us to share our national treasures rather than to fight over them. (Isaiah 60). They call us to live out Jesus’ command to make disciples of all nations. (Matthew 28)
My new friends from Iran embody all these Gospel messages for me. They have literally risked their lives to worship the Lord Jesus. They make me yearn for peace and seek to make peace in whatever way I can. And they make the Scriptures come alive for me. As I prepare to preach Mark 13 on the first Sunday of Advent, I experience Jesus sending his angels to gather “his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.” (Mark 13:27) Like my friends from Iran, I seek to worship the King of the Jews who is also the Saviour of the world. With my friends from Iran I rejoice exceedingly with great joy when we worship together. (Matthew 2) Alongside magi from all times and places, I experience the coming of God’s new world even when people like Herod rule in the old world that is passing away.
On the first Sunday of Advent, we will baptize a young woman from Iran who has given us an inspiring profession of faith. I pass on to you the life-verse she has passed on to us. In John 16:33, Jesus says, “I have said this to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”