Usually, as Christmas approaches, I feel this season speeding by me at hyper-speed, and I must some how hit the breaks and bring it to a slow crawl, or I will miss the glory of it all. This year I thought “What better way to slow the season than to muse on the Story and write about it?” because that’s what people who love to write do… they write. And if you think all my writing is for someone else’s benefit, is that why you exercise your gifts? Or do they nourish your own soul, as well? Because I almost can’t think without writing.
This year, I keep contemplating the Magi. I usually read Luke’s account, which fails to mention them, yet Matthew spends more time discussing these wise me than he does the actual birth of Christ! (P.S. Never in Scripture does it say there were only three of them). It is commonly believed that they came from Persia, but I heard a solid argument for them having come from the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula. According to patheos.com “The Kingdom of Sheba therefore grew rich on these three unusual, rare and precious commodities: gold, frankincense and myrrh… they were seen not only as rich gifts, but a sort of diplomatic gift–kings bringing the best produce and commodities from their own country in homage to a neighboring king.” I believe the common argument for Persia is that Daniel would have studied astronomy, and left a legacy in his wake of spiritual wisdom and a knowledge of the stars. He was also a prophet. I believe the word “magi” was most commonly used in Persia, as well, yet it was not only used there.
Either way, as the crow flies (or an eagle, or whatever bird is most enduring of really long flights), it would be around 1,400 miles. Taking the journey by foot (or trade route) would add a significant amount of miles to the trip. These wise men were committed. They were on a mission. And let’s not forget they were on foot (or perhaps camel). They knew they were en route to see a king who was significant enough for God to make a monument of celestial majesty to commemorate His’ birth.
I can only imagine their campfire conversations, their anticipation, their joy… and their bewilderment when the king they were coming to see was the toddler of two inexperienced and impoverished teenagers (it is commonly believed Mary was only fourteen or fifteen when she became pregnant, and I’ve never heard any insight into Joseph’s age).
Yet these wise mens’ faith never seems to falter, even when the religious leaders of Israel (the Jewish “pastors” in Jesus’ day) were dead-set on believing that their Messiah would come in the form of an earthly king (and thus miss the saving grace of Jesus). These Magi, who have studied much and hoped with longing that they should see Him in their day, are full of courage, insight, and a sense of triumph, as they approach the small child and lay their three gifts before Him and his parents.
There is so much I’d like to write about these wise men, and I will have to break it down into a few blog posts, because no one would read this if it were as long as it would be, should I say everything I want to say. But for now, this is what I’d like to share…
The Magi truly were wise. Here is what I notice in them that both gave and reflects their wisdom. First of all, they studied. They knew what to look for, and when it manifest I’m certain they were stunned, yet they knew to watch the horizon expectantly. Those of us who have been studying the Bible feel the same about the second coming of Christ. We know to watch the horizon. We will be exuberantly surprised if we suddenly hear a heavenly trumpet blast and see the King Immortal descending… yet we will not be so surprised that we miss the Majesty of it all. We read the signs of the times and notice that these things may be speedily upon us. A wise friend of mine, who is in her 80’s, told me a few months ago that she never thought she’d see Christ’s return in her lifetime, but now she thinks she just might. She’s in her 80’s! I feel the same way. There is an undercurrent in 2020 that only those of us who have been digging into the Bible can see or feel, but gives us all a sense of anticipation over what may just be on the other side of the horizon. Jesus may very well be just about to return, folks! If you do know Him, let that truth overshadow all your fears, doubts, and frustrations about turmoil in the world. If you don’t, it’s time to surrender and make amends with Your Maker. He already did His part. Time for you to do your’s.
These Magi knew that their lives were meant for more Glory than this world could ever promise. When the time came to pack their camels and hike their robes, they happily left their lives behind and sojourned for countless months, not knowing where they might end up or how long it may take. But the joy set before them eclipsed the relinquishment of what lie behind, or the personal cost. Nothing in this world mattered more than following that star, because they knew where it would lead them. They had studied. This is how I feel about heaven.
In my studying of Scripture, I also recognize that there is great pain for humanity in the time leading up to Christ’s return. Many will not endure it. I pray for endurance for me and my posse. The hope that gives me courage to endure is that I am not made for this world. There is another, higher Place, that is radiantly, blissfully glorious, and incomprehensibly beautiful. A place where the King of Glory dwells forever, and invites me as a bride to a wedding feast. Jesus, my Beloved, is there, and it’s where my heart longs for. The Magi wanted to see Jesus more than anything in this whole, wide world, and I do to. The pain and travail of getting there seems petty in contrast to the blessing. “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” (Romans 8:18). Because I have glimpsed a tiny view of heaven, through reading the Bible, I know where I am headed, and it overshadows all the pains of earth.
Finally, these Magi were prepared. They knew these things may not take place in their lifetime… but they also knew they might. This begs the question, “Are you ready?” Are you ready for Christ’s return? Are you ready to endure any suffering that may lie between here and there? If not, there is a cross and a Book.
There is a cross-shaped invitation into the Kingdom of heaven, and it is an open-invite to all, especially those who recognize their own brokenness and need. So often we think our sins disqualify us from the Kingdom of heaven, when God actually uses those things as an invitation. It’s the ones who think they are too good for such a handout, who ended up missing the boat. We need a Savior. A Messiah.
If you are a Christian, but you just keep hoping the world’s going to get better, your hope is ill-placed. There are two things that give me the most hope during hard times. That God is sovereign and God is good. Everything else is like a hill of sand giving way beneath my feet. But those truths are bedrock. No matter what happens, God is sovereign and He is good. The world often tries to cloud the vision of that, by throwing hard circumstances our way. We lose a spouse, a kid, our health, a job, our sanity, our community, and the list goes on. Or maybe our suffering hasn’t manifest, but it is a perceivable threat, like Goliath taunting the nation of Israel, before one teenager showed up with enough faith to slay him with a pebble out of the brook. But there is one thing that endures forever, and it’s the thing my hope always comes back to and is built upon: The Word of God. When I crack open that life-breathing Book, I am reminded over and over again, that no matter what, the sufferings of this present time aren’t even worthy to compare! God really is working it all out for good! The God I worship is the God who takes down giants and nations, in defense of His people… when He sees fit to do so. But He also gives us joy for the journey, and sojourns with us.
To Be Continued…