For many people the story of the “3” wise men is as much a part of Christmas as the manger and the Christmas Tree. Most of us have heard this story so many times we think there is nothing new in it for us and it’s all just a bit of nostalgia, like certain movies or ugly sweaters. Still there is much we don’t know, like how many wise men there were in total. The bible never gives a number; it just mentions three gifts. We also don’t know when they showed up, but by the time they did, the family was in a house, not in a stable so it was probably more like a year on or so after the birth. Then they probably weren’t really kings either, but astrologers. With the bad press that astrology gets in the bible it’s a wonder that Matthew would include them at all, but he did.
Rather than dig into all that speculation, I had a different line of thought this year concerning those wise men from so long ago. What was it about that star, or comet, or planetary alignment, or whatever it was that so struck them that they set out on what was likely a months long journey through the wilderness to find and honor this new born king? They weren’t Jewish in all likelihood so why choose to honor this king of the Jews? And why did they pay such attention to this star, which was most likely visible to everyone in that part of the world at least when seemingly no one else did? Alas, like many other questions, we don’t have any answers either. But we can make some educated guesses.
First, these were serious astrologers deeply interested in the movement of the heavens and the signs and wonders they may see there. These were no back alley fortune tellers but people who had been long instructed in all manner of heavenly bodies. So whatever they saw had to be awesome and unprecedented, as they not only identified it with a new king, but one they wanted to honor. So much so that they took a large chunk of time, got expensive and elaborate gifts, and set out to find this king. Imagine their surprise when they got to Jerusalem and no one knew what they were talking about. It wasn’t until a nervous King Herod asked his priest and scribes(lawyers) that the town of Bethlehem comes up. Herod gets nervous and the experts with all their head knowledge were indifferent. This leaves the wise men to set off to find the child.
So the question is, for you and I, have you seen any stars lately? Have you seen any messages from God, and make no mistake this was a message from God. Many people could and probably did see it, but only a select few responded. Which begs the question how many times does God send us a message to see if we will respond, or even notice? It may not be to you specifically, but in a way that deserves a response. And if you do see it, how do you respond? Herod responded with anger, that some child would come and threaten his position. Do we ever get angry with God that he may want to knock us off our peg and remind us we are the created not the creator? The experts responded with indifference. Do we ever just simply ignore God because we are too busy with our own lives and pursuits to follow after him? Or do we simply miss Him altogether as we seek our own way, a way that doesn’t include him, so we aren’t even scanning the horizon, but just trying to move forward.
The wise men were looking, as they always did. Astrology was their job after all, so they didn’t miss it. Then they took note of this exceptional sight, pondered its meaning, scanned sources, and determined they must act. So when God sends a message, how do we respond? How have you responded? How will you respond? Do we take the time from our lives to look for such a message, something general where God is calling people to act, to respond? If you saw such a star what would you do? Would you give it more than a passing glance or take a picture with your smart phone?
As we prepare for 2020, many people will make resolutions. Let us resolve to be on the look out for the stars that God may light in our lives. That our faith would be such that we wouldn’t just write them off, but respond, and be prepared to follow God where ever he wants us to go. You never know when that first step may lead you on an incredible journey and discover the most extraordinary thing, God himself.