What about the wise men
Should we celebrate the Wise Men at Christmastime, even though they really weren’t present at Jesus’ birth? The short answer: YES! I’ll explain in a minute.
But first, why even ask this question? It seems silly. It’s because of all the truth police and fact checkers out there who are quick to inform us (in an ever-so-wise manner) that the Wise Men didn’t arrive on the scene until well after the birth of the Savior. You know who you are. You have enlightened us that the Wise Men came to Jesus when he was a little boy; they certainly weren’t anywhere near the manger in Bethlehem the night He was born. They didn’t get to swap travel stories with the shepherds because they had already returned to their sheep in the fields. The swaddling clothes had already become hand-me-downs as little Jesus wasn’t a baby anymore; indeed, He was a toddler. And how do we know there were three of them? We simply don’t. We’ve just assumed it. Or we’ve blindly followed century’s worth of church traditions. Shame on us! We ought to remove all vestiges of nativity Wise Men, and expunge nearly half of all the beloved Christmas carols we thoughtlessly sing each year at this time. It’s bad enough that we celebrate Old St. Nick, but the three Wise Men? There’s no excuse!
Truth police and fact checkers, you have had your day. You have set us straight. We are clear on the matter now, thanks to you.
But I’d like to suggest that it is appropriate to celebrate the Wise Men at Christmastime. My first reason is proximity. Look at where the narration of the Wise Men is placed in relation to the telling of the birth of Christ in the Gospel account of Matthew. The second chapter (23 verses) is entirely devoted to the story of the Wise Men. Chapter two follows chapter one (profound, right?), which is the genealogy of Christ, and a short account (nine verses) about the birth of Christ. You might argue that the account of the Wise Men actually IS part of the Christmas story merely due to its nearness in position to the rest of the story. The description of the birth of Christ leads right into the story of the Magi.
The other reason I would suggest it is appropriate to remember the Wise Men at Christmastime is suitability. The message of the Wise Men is appropriate at Christmastime. We gain so many valuable lessons from the account. Themes such as worship, seeking and obedience are deeply woven throughout. The lessons of the gifts presented by the Wise Men to Jesus give us much spiritual truth to reflect on. We see two kings; one who is enflamed with deceit, jealousy, rage, madness, and wickedness (demanding worship for himself), and another who is humble, innocent, and worthy of worship. In the end, we discover that the Wise Men are not wise because of their education, intellect, or old age, but rather because they listened to and trusted in God. The spiritual applications appear to be endless, and Christmastime—a time when people, in general, are more open to thinking about spiritual things—is a fitting time to reflect on these truths.
So I say get out your nativity figurines, intermingle those Wise Men with the shepherds! Or do what we do, put them off in the corner—a nearby men’s trio presenting all sorts of springboards for conversations with our children. And don’t cringe when you see the live nativity scene with Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus, angels, shepherds, Wise Men and donkeys. There’s a message in there for you. Don’t let it be lost on your blood-thirsty desire to critique and uphold, maintain and preserve the truth at all costs. Know the facts, but value the lessons.
(Now… Was the star in the East or in the West?)
James Koerts serves as the worship pastor of Mikado Baptist Church in Macon, Georgia. In addition to his full time responsibilities at the church, James is also a published composer and arranger.