1 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem 2 and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

 3 When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. 5 “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:

 6 “‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,

    are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;

for out of you will come a ruler

    who will shepherd my people Israel.’”

 7 Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. 8 He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”

 9 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. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

Matthew 2:1-12

My wife recently started making a cauliflower casserole. She tried making it a few months ago and it was so good that we have begun having it a few times a month. I’ve always been a cauliflower fan, but this dish really works for me because it has one of my favorite ingredients of all time, bacon. Bacon can make almost anything taste good and even the smell of it gets most people’s mouths watering. In fact, even talking about it can make people’s mouths water. I can always tell when I get home from work that my wife has made one of these cauliflower casseroles because I smell the bacon right when I get open the door. She always laughs when I open the door and yell out words of thanksgiving. I can’t imagine someone coming into our home that smells like bacon and not be excited at the promise of having a casserole filled with bacon. Whenever we sense the signs that someone has made bacon or some other mouthwatering meal, we just have to get closer to it in the hopes that we can enjoy a piece or two. In our gospel lesson from Matthew 2, the Magi saw the sign that the King of the Jews had been born, so they traveled to worship him. All of us are gathered here because faith travels to worship the Savior.

We’ve all traveled here this morning from different places to worship our Savior Jesus, but traveling to get to the Savior was not as easy for the Magi as it is for us. Before we get into their travels though, we need to clarify just a few things about the Magi. First, there were not three Magi. They did bring three gifts, but we aren’t actually told how many there were. Second, they were not there with the shepherds the night Jesus was born. We know that the Magi came to see Jesus after he had been circumcised on the eighth day and presented in the temple like all Israelite boys. Also, Mary and Joseph were no longer in the stable, but at a house. Finally, the trip the Magi made from the east likely took months, and even if they left right when the star appeared at the time of Jesus’ birth, it is likely that Jesus was at least a few months old when the Magi arrived. Third, they were not kings as the Christmas carol, “We Three Kings of Orient Are,” would have us believe. Instead, they were astrologers, astronomers and diviners, which would be akin to our modern scientists or even college professors. The Magi then were a group of well-educated men who had traveled a great distance after seeing the sign that the King of the Jews had been born. They were likely waiting for the sign because the Jews had shared the promise of the Savior with the Magi’s nations in the east after being overtaken and deported there by the Assyrians and Babylonians centuries earlier.

Once the Magi arrived in Jerusalem, they went to King Herod to find out where they could find the newborn King to worship him. The sign of a star that God had put in the sky for the Magi to follow brought them to Jerusalem, but now they needed the exact location of the newborn King. Unfortunately, King Herod was useless to the Magi because he was the only king in his eyes. Herod was not looking forward to the birth of the Savior and, in fact, he put many people to death in order to preserve his own position of power. King Herod had no idea what to tell the Magi, but he took their coming all the way to Jerusalem to see this new king seriously. After talking with the religious leaders of the Jews, Herod found where the child was prophesied to be born.

7 Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. 8 He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”

King Herod had no intention of worshiping the newborn king like the Magi. Instead, he wanted the location and time the star appeared so that he would know the age of his latest threat and be able to keep the newborn king away from his throne no matter the cost.

We get why King Herod hadn’t dropped in to congratulate Joseph and Mary on the birth of the Savior and we get why the Magi were coming, but the group that seems out of place were the religious leaders. When Herod didn’t know what to tell the Magi when they asked about the location of the King of the Jews, the chief priests and teachers of the law knew exactly where to find him. In fact, they quote the prophet Micah,

6 “‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’”

They quoted the words of the prophet Micah who lived hundreds of years earlier, which means they had known where to find him for hundreds of years.

The excitement and anticipation that the Savior of the nations who promised restoration of Israel, reconciliation, peace and prosperity between God and man should have been overwhelming for the chief priests and teachers of the law. Instead, they acted like they were being called on in a high school history class for an answer about some king from some country from long ago and far away that to them didn’t matter near as much as what might be served for lunch in the cafeteria. When we read this account, we should hear that Herod couldn’t find any of the chief priests and teachers of the law because they had all moved down to Bethlehem to be closer to their King. The Magi shouldn’t have needed to go to King Herod at all because the overwhelming joy of the chief priests and teachers of the law ought to have spread faster than a viral video of a kitten eating an ice cream cone.

We know that King Herod and the religious leaders stayed away from Jesus and the Magi went to worship him, so the question for is “Where are we in relation to Jesus?” The answer is that we are with our Savior because he traveled to earth to save us. Sitting here, we are separated from Jesus’ birth place in Bethlehem by far more miles than the Magi were, we are separated by far more time from his birth, we are separated because we don’t see a shining start, but black and white words on a page, but all of that doesn’t matter because what truly separated us from the newborn king was our sin.

Herod was separated because he was an unbelieving tyrant and the religious leaders were separated because they were filled with pride and faith in their own ability to keep God’s laws that there was no room in their hearts for faith in the Savior. On the other hand, the Magi knew they needed to come and worship Jesus because he was a King and they wanted to worship him as their King.

The account of the Magi makes it clear that those without faith stayed away from the newborn King, but those with faith came near.

Through what Jesus has done, he is the King of more than just the Jews or the people of his time, but King of all. The Magi and the majority of the world are not descendants from Israel, but that doesn’t exclude them from Jesus’ kingdom. In Isaiah 49, God said,

“It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.”

Isaiah 49:6

God’s promise of the Savior was always meant for more than just one nation. God created all things and rules all things, and he is the King of all people, but our sin separated us from God. Our sin makes us unworthy and unable to live in his kingdom because God cannot stand to live in the presence of sin and evil. Jesus came to save all people from the sin that separated us from God. Jesus came to save both Jews and Gentiles, both Israelite and all nations, because all are sinful as Paul wrote in Romans 3,

“There is no one righteous, not even one; 11 there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. 12 All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.”

Romans 3:10-12

All people need Jesus as their King because without him, we are separated from God and lost to sin, death and hell. Jesus restored our relationship with God through his perfect life sacrificed for us on the cross. Last week we heard that

Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.

Luke 2:52

His perfect life was the sacrifice for all our sins as we hear in the book of Hebrews,

but he has appeared once for all at the culmination of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself.

Hebrews 9:26b

The Magi were undaunted by whatever sinister tone they might have heard from King Herod or whatever apathetic answers they might have heard from the chief priests and teachers of the law. The Magi knew God’s promise of a King, they had seen the star and they were going to see their Savior.

9 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. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.

The Magi’s travels to worship their King was over. They saw the Savior, the true King, who would be their ruler beyond the temporary borders of this world. Jesus would be their King forever in heaven.

We share the same joy the Magi had when they saw their Savior. In Romans 10:12, Paul wrote,

“For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him.”

The Magi traveled so far to worship their Lord because they knew the King had the power to bless them. We aren’t sure what the faith of Magi understood about their Savior, but God had given them the promise, the sign and protection to travel to worship Jesus as their own King and Savior. Thus, Isaiah’s words from our first reading were fulfilled in their worship,

“Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.”

Isaiah 60:3

These words are fulfilled in our coming here to worship too. We are the other nations who worship Jesus, who recognize him as the light that came into our dark world of sin and death to bring forgiveness and light. We have faith through the work of God through those who saw Jesus and then took his gospel to the world. We share the same faith as those in Israel, in Jerusalem, in Bethlehem and those from the east that Jesus is the Savior of all, as Paul shared in our second reading from

Ephesians 3:6

This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.

After hearing all our Savior has done to save us and bring us together as one, he deserves our worship. As soon as the Magi Matthew 2 11

11 … saw the child with his mother Mary…they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

They would not let their King be harmed, and by God’s direction, Jesus was kept safe to grow up and complete his mission as Savior of the world.

When we come to worship we bring our thanks and praise to God, and we give of our time, talents and treasures in his service, but the greatest part of traveling to worship the Savior is that we hear again what he has done for us. He has saved us from our sins and death. He has opened the kingdom of us heaven. He finished the work on the cross and he has freed us from the temporary sufferings we endure in this world so that we can worship him in peace and joy in heaven forever. It isn’t the smell of bacon or a bright star that guides us to worship the Savior, but the message. We pray then that God would preserve his Word among us to keep our faith in Jesus because faith travels to worship the Savior. It travels here to worship and one day it will bring us to our heavenly home. Amen.