I love Christmas, but not all things Christmas. Now before you go thinking I’m going to talk about materialism and busyness and Santa, I’m probably going to throw you for a loop when I tell you I don’t particularly enjoy Christmas lessons, devotionals, or sermons. I can’t determine if it’s an inward groan or a silent yawn, but it’s almost a reflex every year.
My problem is that having spent over 30 Christmases in church, I guess I’ve just grown calloused to a point.
Until a few years ago.
I was reading in Matthew 2 as part of an online Bible study group I was a part of, and I saw something I’d never seen before.
Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; (Matthew 2: 1-3)
I don’t know about you, but I’d never considered who the wise men were until before then. The Scripture simply stated that they were from the East, which made them foreigners. I had always assumed from the Christmas stories that the star itself was situated in the east and led the wise men to Jesus. But as I read it I realized that it said the wise men were FROM the east, which means they traveled west to Jerusalem. This means the star couldn’t have been guiding them in the east. A footnote in one translation (HCSB) said the literal translation is they saw “His star at its rising.” Well, that changes things! Here are a few of my observations:
- The foreign wise men were looking at creation – the sky – searching for the Messiah’s star (see Numbers 24: 17)
- Somehow, though they didn’t have a full enough understanding of Scripture (they weren’t familiar with Isaiah’s prophesy, which indicated Jesus would be born in Bethlehem), they were able to recognize His star.
- They, though foreigners, believed in Israel’s Messiah and knew that they were to go to Jerusalem.
- The foreigners – not God’s people – were searching for their Savior.
All this was HUGE for me! It changed my thoughts on the Christmas story entirely!
Here’s what was clear to me:
- God’s own people were NOT searching for Him
- God was still working to bring people to Himself, despite the apathy of His people
I think many of God’s people – Christians – are apathetic to a point today. In a way, I can say that’s me. I mean, am I really searching to see God at work? Or do I just assume as the people of Jerusalem’s day did that he really isn’t working all that much?
Israel hadn’t heard from a prophet in centuries; thus they assumed God had stopped speaking and had stopped working. So they went on with their lives, content in fulfilling their religious duties, never expecting anything new.
I’m challenged today to start searching for where God is at work in the world, in the lives of those around me.
I don’t want God’s glorious plan to pass me by simply because my eyes aren’t looking!
The cliché “Wise Men Still Seek Him” carries a new meaning for me now.