“Where is he who has been born King of the Jews? We have seen his star in the East and have come to worship him.” – Matthew 2:2
Two groups of people visited baby Jesus – first shepherds (Luke 2:8-16), then wise men (Matthew 2:1-11). The shepherds came the night that Jesus was born. The wise men came months later. [They couldn’t have come during the first forty days because Joseph and Mary were too poor to buy a lamb for the temple sacrifice (Luke 2:22-24).]
No one seems to notice that this series of events signifies two advents. Jesus Christ came to earth two thousand years ago as the Good Shepherd, to give “his life for the sheep” (John 10:11). We know when he came, even if we don’t know the exact year or day of his birth. It’s hard to miss a baby, just as it was hard for the shepherds to miss a bunch of angels in the night sky. If that weren’t enough, they told everyone what they’d seen and heard (Luke 2:17-18). But it’s easy to dismiss a baby too. The shepherds alone praised God; everyone else “marveled,” while they conducted their daily business (2:18, 20). The locals felt no threat from a poor baby born to poor parents and announced by poor sheep-herders. How could this Jesus be a “Savior” to Israel, the promised “Christ” or Messiah (2:11)?
In his first advent, Jesus Christ came as Savior – the Anointed One who paid the price of sin. But from the moment of his birth until now, most people have dismissed the person and work of Jesus. Instead of worshipping the divine gift in the manger, they marvel and then conduct business as usual. A suffering servant who made himself a doormat on the cross often produces contempt, not awe. Sinners want the pomp and circumstance of an earthly king who reflects their self-image, not a humble and homeless shepherd who reflects the poverty of their sin-sick souls.
Remember: first shepherds, then wise men. The shepherds came empty-handed. The wise men brought “gold, frankincense, and myrrh” (Matthew 2:11). They also called Jesus “King of the Jews” (2:2). If a baby announced by poor shepherds doesn’t snap us to attention, then a king announced by rich astrologers should. No wonder that King Herod and all Jerusalem were “troubled” (2:3)!
Jesus Christ will return to earth one day. He won’t come as a shepherd but as King of Kings and Lord of Lords (2 Timothy 6:15, Revelation 19:16). Jesus won’t come as Savior either, but as Judge of “the living and the dead” (Acts 10:42, 2 Timothy 4:1, 1 Peter 4:5). All those who ignored his first advent will be troubled, their “hearts failing them from fear” (Luke 21:26). They’ll hide in caves, unable to stand in “the great day of his wrath” (Revelation 6:15-17). However, no one knows the moment of Jesus’ return (Matthew 24:36, 42-44). It might be easy to miss signs of this Second Advent, just as all but the wise men missed the star. They alone looked up, believing that their redemption had drawn near (Luke 21:28). So they journeyed to Bethlehem, where faith became sight.
Those who “look for new heavens and a new earth” hope Jesus will find them “without spot and blameless” (2 Peter 3:13-14). Knowing that “the Judge is standing at the door” (James 5:9), their lives are governed by “holy conduct and godliness” (2 Peter 3:11). They’re purified through hope (1 John 3:3). Like the wise men, are we reading the signs of the times (Matthew 24:4-51, Luke 17:22-37, 21:8-36)? Do we watch and pray (Matthew 24:42, Luke 21:36)? Or are we like Jerusalem’s political and religious leaders, our hearts “weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life” so that the Day of the Lord arrives “unexpectedly” (Luke 21:34)? As in the days of Noah and of Lot, Jerusalem conducted business as usual (Matthew 24:37-39, Luke 17:26-30). They didn’t know that, with each passing day, the wise men’s camels inched closer to the city gates.
One day, every knee will bow and every tongue will “confess that Jesus Christ is Lord” (Philippians 2:10-11). Will we worship like the believing shepherds and wise men, or tremble like unbelieving Jerusalem? Will we bow in faith now, or bow in fear later? Will we embrace the Good Shepherd, or hide from the King of Kings? The choice is ours.
The King is coming
The King is coming
I’ve just heard the trumpet sounding
And now His face I see
Oh, the King is coming
The King is coming
Praise God, He’s coming for me
 New King James Version (NKJV), unless otherwise noted