Thursday, December 13, 2012

Christmas Character Spotlight: The Wise Men

In the few weeks leading up to Christmas, let’s take a step back from the decorating, shopping, and commercialism, and focus on the true meaning of Christmas - the Bethlehem story. One person at a time, we’ll go through the story in a character-study format, and try to put ourselves in the shoes of those individuals that were there on that first Christmas. Want to do some study for yourself? Here is the schedule:

November 29: Joseph
December 4: Mary
December 6: Gabriel
December 11: Shepherds
December 13: Wise men
December 19: Herod
December 24: Jesus
Today's character: the Wise Men that followed the star

wise men

For some reason, the story of the Wise Men has gotten terribly messed up over the years. I can’t figure it out.

The shepherds story stays the same.

Most people can get the rest of the nativity story right.

But the wise men? Their story gets maaaaajorly messed up! Sometimes I feel like, lets not talk about the wise men, because everybody’s version of the story is so wrong! But if we stick to the Bible, we can see the real story and learn something from these wise men.

Some of the common misconceptions about these guys….

They came to the manger.
They didn’t. They came later, possibly even a year or more after Jesus was born. Matthew 2:11 tells us that they entered a house, not a stable, to see little Jesus. Mary and Joseph made the decision to stay in Bethlehem after Jesus was born, and clearly they didn’t reside in the stable for months on end!

There were 3 of them. Truth is, we have no clue how many there were. The number 3 myth comes from the fact that there were 3 different presents brought - Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh - but nowhere does the Bible mention how many men. There could have been 2. There could have been 24. Who knows?

They were kings. Sorry, whoever wrote “We Three Kings”...they weren’t kings over any nation. They were very wise men {wise enough to follow the star, after all!} and they were astrologers {who studied the stars and noticed when the pattern was different, Matthew 2:2} and they were also historians or students of the Scriptures {they knew the Old Testament and historical prophecies concerning Jesus’ birth}. But not kings.

So why is their story important to us?

> They are an example of faith. Their faith led them to leave their homes for an indefinite amount of time in search of a baby. It reminds me of Abraham, who, by faith, went out, not knowing wither he went. They trusted their knowledge of scripture, history, and astrology and let God lead them to the promised Messiah.

> They are an example of obedience. They fully planned on obeying King Herod, who told them to come back and tell him where the child was. In reality he was planning to kill Jesus, but we’ll talk about him next week. :) The wise men were warned of this plan by God in a dream {Matthew 2:12} and obeyed without question. They were willing to do whatever God needed them to do.

> They are an example in giving. They gave expensive gifts to this King of Kings: Gold, a present fit for a King; Frankincense, used in worship, and Myrrh, used to embalm the bodies of the dead. Their gifts showed their faith in His promise of redemption.

We might not have the means to give expensive gifts or vast amounts, but do we give what we have? We all have at least one important gift to give Jesus - ourselves. We can act in obedience just like the wise men!

A common questions about the wise men is why did they stop in Jerusalem? Why not follow the star straight to Bethlehem? If only they never would have gone to Herod!!

Even that was part of God’s plan.
I believe that they first went to Jerusalem because it was the most likely place for a king to be born. Additionally, Judea was at this time under the Roman empire - being from the east, the wise men very likely were from a country not under Roman bondage. They may have had to go “through customs” so to speak, or in some way announce their intentions in the country.

Jerusalem was, at the time, the natural place for these things to be taking place. And since these men from afar knew about the Messiah, wouldn’t it be logical that the Jewish people would too? Even the shepherds had proclaimed the good news to everyone they met...but apparently it did no good. No one in Jerusalem knew a thing about the Messiah that was currently living in the form of a small Jewish boy. What a shame! May we be more aware of the workings of God in our lives, and, like the wise men, follow His leading.


2 comments:

  1. An interesting thought for you on why the wise men may have been called kings. When doing some research for school I came across this informaiton: The wise men were called Magi in some earlier texts and some believe that the job of the magi in the Parthian kingdom was to elect kings. Interesting thought...they are still not kings, but it definitely correlates the two.
    Thanks for the insightful post. I get really frustrated over this and almost decided not to include the wise men in my crocheted nativity set...it's so Biblically incorrect!!! But, I conformed to society's standards and did anyway, sigh. =)

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    Replies
    1. That is interesting, thanks for sharing!

      I think it is important to include the wise men in the Christmas story - after all, the Bible does - but we just normally make a separate display with them instead of putting them at the manger. That way it just looks like they are still on their way to find Jesus. :)

      I thought of it too late, or I probably would have ordered a set of your crocheted nativity for my pastor's sons...oh well! Maybe next year! :)

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