Wise men still seek Him
Because they do.
I was reading through some articles that I had downloaded about Christmas from the Biblical Archeology website last night and there’s a great deal of information about the wise men, or Magi as they are often called.
The Bible says that the Magi came from the east, but specifically where in the east is not said. The Magi were a priestly caste of philosophers, astronomers, dream interpreters and such. (Thinking back to the book of Daniel, although certainly a Godly man, Daniel would have been considered a “wise man.”) From the best I can understand, the Magi were smart, well-educated, familiar with science and medicine and very knowledgable about the stars and other heavenly things. They must have also been familiar with Jewish prophecies (Numbers 24:17) to have known that the star they saw had anything to do with the King of the Jews. (I can’t help but wonder if that was somehow the result of Daniel’s influence?)
Another interesting little side note that I read in one of the articles by Dale C. Allison, Jr. was specifically regarding the star. Allison believes that the star in Matthew 2 wasn’t a star at all, but in fact was an angel…a heavenly being that shone brightly and served as a guide for the Magi to find the Christ Child. Of course either way – star or angel – this cosmic being was most certainly put in place by the One who was Creator of it all.
But one of the neatest things I read in one of the articles by Robin M. Jensen was about what the wise men did after they found Jesus and had given Him gifts and worshipped Him. In the Biblical narrative, we read that the Magi are told in a dream about Herod’s ill intent and that they should go back home by another route. Jensen writes of Tertullian who argues that the Magi’s dream of returning home another way is more than just about them going back east by way of avoiding Jerusalem – that it was also God’s call for them to turn their backs on idolatry and paganism (the way they’d been traveling) and take a new route of continuing to seek out the God of the Universe.
I can only imagine though that the scholarly men (however many of them there were) surely must have known that there was something different about this whole thing. This wasn’t just another star. This wasn’t just an average ordinary baby. No, this was truly the fulfillment of prophecy right before their very eyes. This child to whom they brought gifts – one of kingship, one of divinity, and one of mortality – was the Messiah.
Did they go with the intention of worshipping yet another of many gods only to come face to face with One True God? Did they walk away changed – cleansed of their pagan ways and with a burning desire to know more about this Jewish God who turns out to be not just for the Jews, but for all? I like to think so.
And my prayer for you and for me this Christmas is that as we are drawn back to the Babe in the manger, as we lay our eyes on this infant Child for what may be the first time or another of many times, that what we see there – the Love of God made flesh – will cause us to lay down our idols and all the things that have clouded our vision of Jesus. That this Christmas, we will go back home another way, allowing the holiness of Emmanuel to cleanse us of our infirmities and fears and anything else that separates us from Him.
I pray that we will be wise men who follow the star that leads to Hope.
And that we will be changed…