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Summary: God just might give you a star to capture your attention and to guide you. And if you follow that star, everything just might change. An intimate encounter with Jesus has a way of doing that to people.

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I love the story of the magi.

There was a time when the magi lived far away from Jesus. They were given a special star to capture their attention and to guide them. They followed the star, and it changed everything. An intimate encounter with Jesus has a way of doing that to people.

I love the picture that the story of the magi paints in my imagination: A special star shining bright. A stable illuminated by the star. A young woman kneeling by a manger, a new mother’s love radiating from her face. A man standing beside her, gentle and strong. A baby lying in the manger, a few pieces of straw grasped in his tiny fist. A sheep here. A cow there. And three exotic gentlemen bowing before the baby, their faces filled with awe, their hands outstretched with gifts too beautiful and too rich for a stable.

I must admit my imagination is affected as much by modern nativity scenes and Christmas pageants as Matthew’s gospel account. The magi didn’t arrive Christmas Day like the shepherds did, they arrived several days or weeks or months later. They didn’t find Jesus in the stable where he was born, they found him in a house that presumably became home to Joseph and Mary after the stable and before the flight to Egypt. And we don’t know if there were three magi. There were at least two. Maybe there were six. Three gifts, yes. Three magi, maybe.

Still, I love the picture. And at least some of it matches Matthew’s account. There was a star. And there were exotic gentlemen bowing before Jesus, awe in their faces and magnificent gifts in their hands.

There was a time when the magi lived far away from Jesus, so far that they knew nothing about him. They had heard of the God of Abraham, but they had no particular relationship with him. They didn’t live in Judea. They lived in Persia, or Arabia maybe. They weren’t Jews. They were Gentiles. In other words, the magi didn’t grow up in the church. They never prayed with their parents before bedtime—at least not to this God. They never went to Sunday school. They never memorized any Bible verses. Chances are they didn’t know Genesis from Job.

What an amazing thing—to be gifted with a special star to capture their attention and to guide them.

They followed the star, and it changed everything. The day came when these men found themselves in intimate relationship with Jesus. They bowed before him and offered him their very best. They knew he was king. They honored him as their king. They went home another way. That is to say, they traveled a different route on the map. I think it’s safe to say that they traveled a different route in their lives too. An intimate encounter with Jesus has a way of doing that to people.

There’s something to learn from this story of the magi. Something about special stars that capture our attention and guide us. Something about following those stars. Something about bowing before Jesus and offering him our very best. Something about honoring him as our king. Something about traveling a different route after that, because an intimate encounter with Jesus has a way of doing that to people.


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