As we come to another year of celebration of the birth of Christ, we also finish our study on the Christmas story. Our final thoughts will center on the wise men. There are many interesting misconceptions about the wise men we have adopted in the western world. Some would include: They were there when Christ was first born. There were three of them. They were “wise men.” All three are false.
First, they met Christ when He was probably about two years old. They finally settled in a house where they lived. They had established themselves within the community and made new friends. Jesus was probably saying His first words by this time. Mama and dada were probably rolling off His tongue when the wise men arrived.
As a side note: This is why I believe the “star” in the sky was a manifestation of God and not an actual star. We might remember that the star “appeared” in the sky. It was not always there. It apparently stayed in the sky for perhaps a year. After the wise men leave, we never hear about the star again. Is it still in the sky? Could it have been the North Star or another star that “died?” For me, I find this to be unlikely.
Second, there is this myth that there were only three wise men that visited Jesus. We get this because the wise men gave three gifts. Men of their honor would have been much grater than three. They could have traveled in a group or caravan of as many as 30 people. We are also not told how much of each gift they brought with them. It could have been a substantial amount. Three men would not have these kinds of gifts without the proper protection from thieves and people. There could have been music and fanfare when they entered the city. Just as one would recognize a rabbi from afar, anyone would have recognized a wise man. The way they dressed would have given them away immediately. Something big was going to happen and the people knew it.
The wise men begin their occupation under Daniel’s leadership. They knew the prophecies of the King of the Jews – the Messiah that would come. To them, the sign of this star was all they needed to see. Wise men are really not a good term for these men. They were stargazers of a different kind. They spent years studying the Scriptures in order to understand the prophecies of the Old Testament. And the wise men were looking for a star. A star would be the sign that fulfilled a prophecy that the Messiah was in the world. The wise men knew it – they saw it – so they went in search of the Messiah.
Mary and Joseph must have been humbled when these men of great honor bowed down to a two-year-old child. How ridiculous this must have seemed to those who had gathered by Mary and Joseph’s house to see all that was happening. These men, dressed well, rich, and knowledgeable in every respect, were bowing down to a two-year-old child. What on earth could this have meant?
So the wise men came and brought gifts. We are not sure exactly what Mary and Joseph did with the gifts they were given. I can only assume that they tithed it and used the rest of it to provide for Jesus. For Joseph, he would be able to buy Jesus tools to work with stone and become a carpenter. For Mary, she would be able to buy food. And, for Jesus, He would be able to go to the best school and study perhaps under the best teachers of His day, which almost seems ridiculous because we know that Jesus amazes the scribes and the teachers when He is twelve. They would also have enough money to travel to Egypt. For what its worth, the wise men understood what so many people today – people in high, powerful positions do not – that bowing down to a two-year-old child was the best thing they could have done at that time. They knew He was the Christ. He would save His people, Israel from their sins and die on their behalf. They were not prideful – Jesus humbled them. Maybe this Christmas, we could learn to do likewise. No matter what our financial or communal status in our sphere of influence, maybe we could learn to bow down to a two-year-old child named Jesus and worship Him as Lord. God bless – and Merry Christmas.
Do yourself a favor today: Spend today with your family, turn off your computers and your cell phones and spend the day worshipping God. He is worthy of it. God bless.