Three Kings From the East
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What Came Before:
FOR SOME TIME AFTER Jesus was born, Joseph and Mary stayed with him in Bethlehem. The little baby was not kept long in the stable, sleeping in the manger; for after a few days they found room in a house; and there another visit was made to Jesus by strange men from a land far away...
THE WISE MEN AND THE STAR OF BETHLEHEM
In a country east of Judea, and many miles distant, were living some very wise men, who studied the stars. One night they saw a strange star shining in the sky; and in some way they learned that the coming of this star meant that a king was soon to be born in the land of Judea. These men felt a call of God to go to Judea, far to the west of their own home, and there to see this new-born king.
They took a long journey, with camels and horses, and at last they came to the land of Judea, just at the time when Jesus was born at Bethlehem. As soon as they were in Judea they supposed that every one would know all about the king; and they said, "Where is he that is born the King of the Jews? In the east we have seen his star; and we have come to worship him."
But no one of whom they asked had ever seen this king or had heard of him. The news of their coming was sent to Herod, the king, who was now a very old man. He ruled the land of Judea, as you know, under the emperor at Rome, Augustus Caesar. Herod was a very wicked man; and when he heard of some one born to be a king he feared that he might lose his own kingdom. He made up his mind to kill this new king, and thus to keep his own power. He sent for the priests and scribes, the men who studied and taught the books of the Old Testament, and asked them about this Christ for whom all the people were looking. He said, "Can you tell me where Christ, the King of Israel, is to be born?" They looked at the books of the prophets, and then they said, "He is to be born in Bethlehem of Judea; for thus it is written by the prophet, 'And thou, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, art not the least among the princes of Judah; for out of thee shall come forth one who shall rule my people Israel'. "
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Then Herod sent for the wise men from the east, and met them alone, and found from them at what time the star was first seen. Then he said to them, "Go to Bethlehem, and there search carefully for the little child; and when you have found him bring me word again, so that I also may come and worship him."
Then the wise men went on their way toward Bethlehem, and suddenly they saw the star again shining upon the road before them. At this they were glad, and followed the star until it led them to the very house where the little child was. They came in, and there they saw the little one, with Mary, its mother. They knew at once that this was the King, and they fell down on their faces and worshipped him as the Lord. Then they brought out gifts of gold and precious perfumes, frankincense and myrrh, which were used in offering sacrifices, and they gave them as presents to the royal child.
That night God sent a dream to the wise men, telling them not to go back to Herod, but to go home at once to their own land by another way. They obeyed the Lord, and found another road to their own country without passing through Jerusalem, where Herod was living. So Herod could not learn from these men who the child was that was born to be a king.