5 And now the LORD says-- he who formed me in the womb to be his servant to bring Jacob back to him and gather Israel to himself, for I am honored in the eyes of the LORD and my God has been my strength-- 6 he says: "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 you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth." 7 This is what the LORD says-- the Redeemer and Holy One of Israel-- to him who was despised and abhorred by the nation, to the servant of rulers: "Kings will see you and rise up, princes will see and bow down, because of the LORD, who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you." (Isaiah 49:5-7 NASB)The people of Israel have been waiting for the sign of God's forgiveness. Perhaps that's why Joseph, as we read yesterday, was able to believe the angel in his dream about the baby in Mary's belly. The angel said he would "Save his people from their sins."
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 in the east 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 Christ 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 be the shepherd of my people Israel.' " (Matthew 2:1b-6 NASB)
But Israel has only been thinking of themselves. Remember back when we read about how Israel was supposed to be a nation of priests, who would show the rest of the world what God was like? Well, since they returned from exile they have been thinking mostly about how to be free to rule themselves the way they like and not be burdened by all these other nations who won't leave them alone. Being a light to the nations is the farthest thing from their minds.
But when the prophet Isaiah was talking about the coming redemption, after exile, that's one of the main things he talks about. He talks about Israel being the place the other nations come to meet with God.
God's salvation, his new promises to Israel that he has made aren't just for them, they are for everyone, to the ends of the earth.
And now, as Israel's redeemer is born to Mary and Joseph, far from any palace. When his birth goes almost completely unnoticed by almost everyone in Israel, Magi, gentiles from the east, see a sign in the heavens and make the long journey to see the one who will bring salvation to the whole earth.
God's salvation, it was always for everyone. When Israel didn't show the earth the light of God, he came himself, as a little tiny baby, to get the job done. The light of the world was contained in the body of a girl, making a long journey, to a place foretold by prophets hundreds and hundreds of years ago, all the way back to Jacob as he lay dying and gave Joseph's son Ephraim the greater blessing, even though he was younger. For Bethlehem is in Ephraim, the land settled by Ephriam's descendants and named after him, after their tribe.
All those promises, all those prophecies are looking forward to this moment, this child, and what he will do when he becomes a man.
Do you know who he is yet?
Do you know what it is he did?