Thursday, December 24, 2009

Wise Men Still Seek Him

Tomorrow is Christmas Day. In preparation, there are nativity scenes in place. Several people I know would enjoy the one above – no wise men, no camels. I’ve heard people say they place the magi and their camels across the room to replicate their travel when the child was born. Matthew’s the only gospel mentioning them:

Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him. (Matthew 2:1-2 KJV)

So many of us are as they were – we’ve heard, we’ve become inquisitive, and we’ve looked in the wrong places. Some of us have found our own Herod and allowed him to misdirect our search for the King, although their Herod sent them on the right path for all the wrong reasons.

Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also. (Matthew 2:7-8 KJV)

Liar, liar!! We know what he had in mind. The wise men returned to their original guide:

When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh. (Matthew 2:10-11 KJV)

Perhaps the gifts are symbolic, but they were also practical, as the family had to flee and all three gifts were valuable.

And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way. And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him. (Matthew 2:12-13 KJV)

Herod did try to destroy him.

Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently enquired of the wise men. (Matthew 2:16 KJV)

The Bible does not tell us the date of Christ's birth, nor even the season. We know there were shepherds in the fields with their flocks, but nothing more. Over centuries, December 25 has represented that time, and I don't have a problem with that choice. I still enjoy the incorrect nativity scenes that show a manger, shepherds, wise men, sheep, camels and a mother with her child, surrounded by men who fell down, and worshipped Him.

I just want Christmas to be memorable due to the birth of Christ. I want the presents remembered as gold, frankincense and myrrh. I want the family gathered to understand why men fall down, still, and worship Him, as we do.

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