THERE was great glory about our Lord Jesus Christ even ill His state of humiliation. Go back in thought to that memorable period, and try to realize what then happened. See, Jesus is born of lowly parents, laid in a manger, and wrapped in swaddling-bands; but, lo! the principalities and powers in the heavenly places are all in commotion concerning this unparalleled event. First, one angel descends to proclaim the advent of the newborn King, and suddenly there is with him a multitude of the heavenly host singing, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”
Nor is the commotion confined to the spirits above; for in the heavens which overhang this earth there is a stir. A bright particular star is deputed to appear on ‘behalf of all the stars, as if it were the envoy and plenipotentiary of all worlds to represent them before their King. This star is put in commission to wait upon the Lord, to be His herald to men afar off, His usher to conduct them to His presence, and His body-guard to sentinel His cradle. I suppose you have each one his own imagination as to what this star was. It would seem to have been altogether supernatural, and not a star, or a comet of the ordinary kind. It was not a constellation, nor a singular conjunction of planets; there is nothing in the Scriptures to support such a conjecture. In all probability, it was not a star in the sense in which we now speak of stars; for we find that it moved before the wise men, then suddenly disappeared, and again shone forth to move before them. It could not have been a star in the upper spheres like others, for such movements would not have been possible. If the star was in its zenith over Bethlehem, it would have been in its zenith over Jerusalem, too; for the distance between them is so small that it would not have been possible to observe any difference in the position of the star in the two places. It must have ‘been a star occupying quite another sphere from that in which the planets revolve.
We believe it to have been a luminous appearance in mid-air; probably akin to that which led the children of Israel through the wilderness, which was a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. Whether it was seen in the daylight or not, we cannot tell.. Chrysostom and the early fathers are wander-fully positive about many things which Scripture leaves in doubt; but as these eminent divines drew upon their imagination for their facts, we are not · under bonds to follow them. They aver that this star was so bright as to be visible all day long. If so, we can imagine the wise men traveling day and night; but if it could be seen only by night, the picture before us grows far more singular and weird-like as we see these Easterns quietly pursuing their star-lit way, resting perforce when the sun was up, but noiselessly hurrying at night through slumbering lands.
But, whatever it may have been, it was the means of guiding to the Savior, from far-off lands, the most studious minds, of the age. Making a long and difficult journey, these representatives of the Gentiles at last arrive at the place where the young Child is. Lo! the kings of Seba and Sheba offer gifts, “gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.” Wise men, the leaders of their peoples, bow down before Him, and pay homage to the Son of God.
Wherever Christ is, He is honorable. “Unto you that believe He is an honor.” Even in the day of small things, when He is denied such entertainment as He deserves, and is hidden away with things which are despised, He is still most glorious. Christ, though a Child, is still King of kings; though among the oxen, He is still distinguished by His star.
It would not be possible to tell how far off the native country of these wise men lay; it may have been so distant that the journey occupied nearly the whole of the two years of which they spake concerning the appearance of the star. Traveling was slow in those days, surrounded with difficulties and dangers. They’ may have come from Persia, or India, or Tartary, or even from the mysterious land of Sinim, now known to us as China. If so, strange and uncouth must have been the speech of those who worshipped around the young Child at Bethlehem, yet needed He no interpreter to understand and accept their adoration.
Why was the birth of the King of the Jews made known to these foreigners, and not to those nearer home? Why did the Lord select those who were so many hundreds of :miles away, while the children of the kingdom, in whose very midst the Savior was brought forth, were yet strangely ignorant of His presence? See here again another instance of the sovereignty of God. Both in shepherds and in ]];astern magi gathering around the young Child, I see God dispensing His favors as He wills; and, as I see it, I exclaim, “Even so, Father; for so it seemed good in Thy sight.” As of old, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elias the prophet, yet unto none of them was he sent, but unto the woman of Sarepta, a city of Sidon, so there were many among the Jews who were called wise men, but unto none of them did the; star appear; but it shone on Gentile eyes, and led a chosen company from the ends of the earth to bow at Emmanuel’s feet.
Sovereignty, in these cases, clothed itself in the :robes of mercy. It was great mercy that regarded the low estate of the shepherds, and it was farreaching mercy which gathered from lands which lay in darkness a company of men made wise unto salvation. Mercy, wearing her resplendent jewels, was present with Divine sovereignty in the lowly abode of Bethlehem. Is it not a delightful thought that, around the cradle of the Savior, as well as around His throne in Heaven, these two attributes meet?
He makes Himself known, — and herein is mercy; but it is to those whom He has chosen — and herein He shows that He will have mercy on whom He will have mercy, and He will have compassion on whom He will have compassion.