The story of the Wise Men by almost any account is strange. Most Bible stories are about the people of Israel. The Wise Men or Magi are not connected with Israel or the Jewish people at all. And this story doesn’t take place at or before Christmas but long after Christmas in January.
But, most Nativity Sets and Christmas pageants have Wise Men. So, what can we learn? First, there is nothing in the Bible saying there are three. Likely, it was a caravan involving wise men, guards and servants. Second, the wise men are frequently called kings but more likely they are emissaries. The Greek word is “magoi” from which our term “magi” comes. In Eastern culture this referred to Zoroastrian priests of the Persian Empire (modern-day Iran). The wise men were likely priests and astrologers.
That’s interesting because Jews in the Bible didn’t mention astrology or do much star gazing. So, a caravan of Zoroastrian Priests travelling hundreds of miles in pursuit of a star is out of the ordinary. The Jews aren’t following a star. Yet here we see God giving a sign to priests of another faith, speaking through their religious language and traditions. I find this amazing!
These priests left their comfortable homes and traveled for weeks to a strange land, bearing expensive gifts. Upon seeing Jesus, they knelt before him filled with joy. Zoroastrian Priests get it when Jewish religious leaders looking for their Messiah never recognized God’s sign.
Have you noticed that when we talk to people of other faiths, we often end up in a debate? That somehow, we have to prove that we are right, and they are wrong? We are going to heaven, and they are going straight to…? Unfortunately, in a debate, one person wins and the other loses. So rather than help someone appreciate Christ, we may win the debate but the person we’re talking to is no closer to God than when we started. No one likes to lose.
The Wise Men show God loving people outside our circle and outside our comfort zone. God is demonstrating a unique way to share the gift of Jesus Christ. So, why is this important? I doubt any of us will be talking to Zoroastrian priests. The Jews believed the Messiah was their Messiah for their people. They served the One True God who would rescue them from their plight and offer salvation. The priests were outsiders. They didn’t belong. Their beliefs were wrong!
We too were once outsiders. We aren’t Jewish and most of us have little or no Jewish background. The Zoroastrian Priests remind the Jews that God came for everyone including you and I. Jesus was born for you, the outsider a non-Jewish person. Christ also came for today’s outsiders, people beyond our church.
We offer Christ not because we are right, and others are wrong but because we believe God came to save us all through Jesus who really is “the way and the truth and the life.” We share Christ because he offers the most complete picture of God and in following him, we experience the joy of salvation. We have received the gift of Christ and we offer that same gift to others.
The magnitude of this gift hit me like a ton of bricks about 2:00 AM one morning. I couldn’t stop thinking about this story. You know why? Because I am part of the church leadership running around, doing church stuff. I like to think that I’m touching lives. But at 2:00 AM I realized that if I’m not careful, I will miss the gift and miss the opportunity to drop everything and follow the star.
We take Christmas for granted. We don’t mean to, but we get so caught up in the hustle and bustle of Christmas that we forget to look for the star that guided the Wise Men. We forget the feeling of surrendering our comfort, our routines, and our lives to experience the sheer joy of seeing the Christ Child given to us as a precious gift of God.
When we celebrate Christmas, we remember the gifts of the Wise Men by providing our own gifts. Our gifts should symbolize to the world that we get it. We are honoring Christ.
Will we appreciate the true gift of Christmas, or will we be too caught up in our busyness?
God made for us a special gift, crafted with care. This gift is God’s sign we are loved. Do we accept the gift, understanding the effort and love that went into it or do we see Christmas as just another story of a baby born in a manger with animals, shepherds, and wise men? Along with the story of Rudolph and Santa Claus adding warmth to the season but little to change our hearts.
The Wise Men journeyed many miles under harsh circumstances because they believed there was something significant being pointed out by that star. In their searching, they found Jesus. Have you? When there is no Jesus, Christmas can be depressing! With Jesus there is hope for the future no matter what you are going through in the present.
The Wise Men, people of another faith got it while the Jews of that day, missed out. That same star, that same gift is available for you and I today. Don’t miss out.