Summary: Surely one of the great stories of Christmas is the account of the visit of the Wise Men from the East. This delightful tale of strange men from some faraway land who brought Christmas presents to the baby Jesus is filled with mystery and intrigue.
The Three Seekers
In our series that we’re calling Christmas Characters, we looked at Herod two weeks ago:
- Herod was preoccupied with power.
- Herod was preoccupied with possessions.
- Herod was preoccupied with prestige.
- Herod was preoccupied with paranoia.
Last week we focused on Mary, and how she is both overestimated and underestimated. The Bible teaches that she was an A.D. Woman:
- She was available.
- She was a disciple.
This morning, we’re going to take a close look at some of the most fascinating Christmas Characters the Magi, or Wise Men.
According to recent survey, 90% of Americans say Christmas is their favorite holiday, but only 20% say they enjoy Christmas shopping! (Emerging Trends, 1997).
That reminds me of two men who were next-door neighbors who decided to go sailing while their wives went Christmas shopping. While they were out in the boat, a terrible storm arose. The sea became very choppy and they had a difficult time keeping the boat under control. As they steered toward land, they hit a sandbar and the boat grounded. They both jumped out of the boat and began to push and shove with all their might to get the boat back into the water. As the waves bounced him against the side of the boat, and his hair was blowing wildly in the wind, one of the men said with a smile on his face, “It sure beats Christmas shopping, doesn’t it?”
When I was growing up, I would put my shopping off until Christmas Eve day. It was always a drag for me trying to find presents for four sisters! As I raced down the aisles, I grabbed whatever I saw, providing it didn’t cost too much, and threw it in my cart. When I got home, I dumped the four measly gifts out on the floor and decided who should get what. I then grabbed some newspaper and duct tape and wrapped them up. I don’t understand why my sisters never liked what I got them I worked so hard on their gifts.
Now that I’m married, I’m much better at my shopping I just let Beth do it! I heard about a dad recently who suggested that his family get him a gift that everyone could get something out of. So they did they bought him a new wallet!
It’s not easy to know what to buy your spouse, is it? One husband asked his wife what she wanted for Christmas. She said, “Just surprise me!” So he did. At 3:00 a.m. on Christmas Day, he leaned over in bed and shouted, “Boo!”
We don’t know if the wise men had a hard time shopping but we do know they found three pretty cool gifts. By the way, we don’t really know if there were 3 Wise Men -- someone has suggested that there were actually 4 but the fourth guy’s gift was fruitcake and he wasn’t allowed on the trip!
The Wise Guys
Surely one of the great stories of Christmas is the account of the visit of the Wise Men from the East. This delightful tale of strange men from some faraway land who brought Christmas presents to the baby Jesus is filled with mystery and intrigue.
We’re introduced to these mysterious men in Matthew 2:1-2: “After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, ‘Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews?’”
Right away we discover something interesting. The Wise Men show up in Jerusalem after the birth of Jesus. That runs contrary to many of our nativity scenes that show the shepherds and the Wise Men arriving in Bethlehem at the same time. The shepherds were there the night Jesus was born. The Wise Men came sometime later maybe up to two years after the birth of Jesus.
One of the things that intrigues me about this story is the incredible wrong turn these guys took as they neared the end of their trip. Instead of following the star to Bethlehem, they stopped off in Jerusalem to ask Herod for directions (someone has suggested that this is why the wise men are so famous they’re the only men in history known to stop and ask for directions!).
Who were these Wise Men? They were the professors and philosophers of their day, originating from the country we now call Iraq. These professionals were brilliant and highly educated scholars who were trained in medicine, history, religion, prophecy and astronomy. Our modern word “magistrate” is a direct descendant of the word magi. Since these men thought deeply about life, it certainly makes sense to call them “Wise Men.”
They were also trained in what we would call astrology. Back then, astrology was connected with people’s search for God. The ancients studied the skies in order to find answers to the great questions of life--Questions like: Who am I? Why am I here? Where am I going?