Summary: The Magi - their openness and responsiveness to God’s leading is an example for us today.
Christmas is a wonderful time of year, don’t you think? The lights, the songs, the decorations… they all seem to add so much. And there are a lot of traditions and a lot of other things that have become a part of the whole Christmas experience. And there’s always such a build-up toward the big day, with every year seeming to get bigger and bigger.
The first Christmas… the birth of Jesus… certainly received much less fanfare. It was actually a pretty exclusive party, just the immediate family, some shepherds and some foreigners from a land to the east. This birth would have seemed like an insignificant event at the time, but here we are over 2000 years later still celebrating it.
And the reality is that those foreigners, those wise men, probably didn’t arrive until quite some time later… even up to a couple years later. Just being fashionable late for the party, I guess. But the Biblical account talks about they arriving at a home, not a barn or a stable, and there was no mention of a manger. And then later when we find out that Herod felt threatened by the birth of this new King of the Jews, he had all the infants two years of age or younger put to death.
But it’s interesting how we lump them together with the shepherds on the night of His birth. We picture the shepherds there gathered around the manger when these three wise guys show up. And the truth is that we don’t even know that it was three. We sang “We Three Kings” earlier in the service, I even titles the message today “Three Men and a Baby.” But all we really know is that they brought three kinds of gifts, but that doesn’t mean there were only three people. I expect there was actually a large number of people travelling in a caravan.
PICTURE (PowerPoint - van)
Not that kind of Caravan…
PICTURE (PowerPoint - camels)
More like this.
I suppose there could have been three. There could have been twenty with a lot of duplicate gifts (like a wedding). Or there could have been two people that brought three gifts. We really don’t know. But tradition tells us that there were three of them. Tradition even gives these three names: Melchior, Balthasar, and Casper. We’re told that they came from the East. We’re not sure exactly where. It could have been Persia or Iran, Syria, or even India. The song says they were from the Orient, but there’s nothing Biblical to back that up. It just doesn’t say. There’s a lot we simply don’t know.
There. Aren’t you glad you came today? You always suspected I didn’t know what I was talking about, right? Well, let’s keep going.
They’ve been called kings, they’ve been called Magi, they’ve been called astrologers or astronomers, but what seems to be the most common and perhaps the most accurate is “wise men.” And you know, that’s quite a reputation for them to have had for 2000 years. Wouldn’t you like to be known as a wise person?
In our culture today we place a high value on education. But, you know, being smart is not the same thing as having wisdom.
Peter Blackburn is the pastor of a Uniting Church in North Queensland, Australia. And he says…