This Christmas Doug decorated the pergola leading to our garden with a star shining high above. Every night Grace “Ooo’s” and “Ahhh’s” over it. The other evening as we pulled in the driveway Gracie shouted: “Oooo! The star! Mama, let’s be wise men and follow the star to Bethlehem to find Jesus!” (She watches a lot of the Tommy Nelson Jesus Movie!) Such true words are found in her imagination! “Let’s be Wise men!” As my favorite bumper sticker says: “Wise men still seek Him.”
One of my friends recently experienced a shock over the Wise men. After being a Christian all her life she only just learned they were not actually at Jesus’ birth. All these years she had been led to believe the Wise Men were there. Who could blame her, since every Nativity scene perpetuates the idea?
Personally, I have to admit I am not much of a stickler when it comes to the details of things like “When did the wise men arrive?” Not that I don’t think Biblical accuracy is important. I do! But, scholars still have different theories about the wise men. Did they follow a star? Some say it may have been a super nova the Chinese recorded for more than 2 months in 5 BC. Others have charted stars and shown that in 7 BC Jupiter and Saturn lined up with the Pisces Constellation to create a mass of celestial brightness. In the Ancient Eastern Horoscope Jupiter represented kings, Saturn represented the Jews, and Pisces represented the Jewish homeland. Knowing this and the prophecies from Isaiah scholars theorize the Magi discerned this was the time of the Messiah.[i]
Super Nova or aligning of the stars? Again, I’m not a stickler on it. Whether the Magi arrived to bring gifts and worship Jesus on the night he was born or two years later is not as important to me as why they were there, and how we can apply that.
Matthew Chapter 2 records the Visit of the Magi:
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem 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.” …. they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 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 and of incense and of myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route. (Matthew 2: 1-2, 9-12, NIV)
We can gain a lot of wisdom from the wise men. They show us four qualities of spiritual journey: Seeking, Worshiping, Giving, and Going.
The thing that stands out first is that they were looking for Jesus. They didn’t stop seeking until they found Him. I ask myself: How often do I go through my days intentionally looking for Jesus? How much of my spiritual journey is spent eagerly seeking Him, refusing to stop until I find him? In every situation good, ill or ordinary— He can be found. The wise men epitomize the teaching of Jesus in “Seek ye first…”[ii] First, go look for Him, and keep your looking for Him first among all things you do!
When the Wise Men found Jesus they were overjoyed! They bowed down and worshiped him. It’s a pretty powerful experience when you find Jesus. Knowing Him is not just a cerebral experience. It is a deeply transcendent experience. And it shouldn’t be a one-time encounter. I know I can say I want more God-encounters and I want to embrace a joy that seeps into my soul and pours out in abundant worship. But I have to ask myself: AM I doing that? It’s easy to say, but is that what I do? Do I bow down overjoyed every day with every encounter… or just on Sundays when I’m “supposed” to?
Then the Magi gave Jesus gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Each was an extravagant gift. What does that mean for me? Do I do that? Am I bringing Him extravagant gifts? Am I laying out treasure that will expand His kingdom? Am I giving in a way that will spread the sweet aroma of His love and salvation to anyone close enough to breathe it in? I want to give like that… abundant and savory, extravagant with a lingering sweetness that attracts others to His throne.
Finally, the Magi returned home. This may not be Biblical, but I wonder… can that be it? They really just go home— end of story? That seems a bit anti-climactic. If this were a group of men profoundly overjoyed at the hope of the Messiah, I doubt they would have returned home without spreading stories of their fantastic journey and their encounter with the King.
My study Bible says: “Of the Four Gospels, Matthew alone tells of the visit of the Magi, or Wise men. This incident shows that people from other parts of the world, not just from Israel, were anticipating the Messiah. The Magi’s visit underscores the fact that Jesus came for all people, not just the Jews. The last words of this Gospel [Matthew] spell out that mission very clearly”[iii]
What are those words?
“Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations….” (Matthew 28:18)
Did the Wise Men just have some one-time encounter with God and then go home? I have my doubts. If this was truly a momentous occasion, a real encounter with the Messiah, I bet they went home and spread the good news… that a King who had all authority in heaven and on earth, a King who’s kingdom would never end, had finally come for the world.
We may not have Biblical account of it, but I would guess their journey to and from Bethlehem was something the Magi couldn’t stop talking about. I imagine their witness of this moment with Jesus to the people in the east probably sowed the ground for the first missionaries of the early church. And then I wonder at myself. Am I being a good witness? Am I so exuberant with the joy of my encounters with Jesus that everyone who encounters me knows it? Does the witness of my life sow in others the grounds for the Gospel to grow in their hearts?
Whether the wise men arrived the night of Jesus’ birth or sometime later is not as important to me as what their journey tells us about how to live our days…
Seek Him until you find Him.
Be overjoyed when you do.
Bow down and worship Him.
Give to Him extravagantly.
Go and tell everyone about the joy of your encounters with Him!
Indeed, “Let’s be Wise Men!”
[i] Miller, Stephen M., The Complete Guide to the Bible, Barbour Publishing, Uhrichsville, OH, 2007. P. 304-305
[ii] Matthew 6:33 “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness.” (NIV)
[iii] The Holy Bible, New International Version, The Student Bible, Notes by Philip Yancey and Tim Stafford, Zondervan Publishing, Grand Rapids, MI, 2002. p. 1006.