Focal Passage: Matthew 2:1-12
As a young and enthusiastic pastor in my first church, I
readily agreed to fill in for one of the Wise Men in our church’s live nativity
There in the cold I stood wearing an ornate bathrobe and a
decorated lamp shade, having a sneezing fit because my fake beard was tickling
It was not quite as glamorous as I had pictured while going
to my destination singing We Three Kings of Orient Are.
In truth, these men probably did not live a very glamorous
They were not kings, but something like astrologers —
stargazers who studied the skies to gain insight into what was happening on
They were seekers of wisdom who consulted esoteric sources.
The Bible actually tells us next to nothing about them.
The word translated “Wise Men” or “Magi” is plural, so we
know that there was more than one.
The Bible does not tell us there were three; we reach that
conclusion because they had three gifts.
We do know they were definitely not from Palestine, and they
were not Jews. They were from “the
East” (probably the area we know today as Iraq) and were Gentiles, outsiders
who were not included in God’s covenant with Israel.
At the beginning of this New Year we gain something valuable
if we reclaim the gospel truth that Christ’s coming means the walls have come
down; the door is opened to all, and the church that is to be gathered around
Christ makes no distinctions because of race, gender, or social standing.
Obviously, something out of the ordinary was driving these
men while journeying, as T.S. Eliot mused in his poem The Journey of the Magi,
into inhospitable towns, wondering if their whole journey was nothing but
When the Wise Men came to Herod’s court at Jerusalem
inquiring where the king of the Jews was to be born, the priests and scribes knew
the answer because they knew the Bible — Bethlehem.
So the Wise Men headed there, only six miles from Jerusalem.
But the priests and scribes did not go with them. As Søren Kierkegaard said;
“What a difference! The three kings had only a rumor to go by. But it moved
them to make the long journey. The scribes were much better informed, much
better versed. They sat and studied the Scriptures…but it did not make them
move. Who had the more truth?” (Søren Kierkegaard, “Only a Rumor,” Watch for
the Light: Readings for Advent and Christmas, p. 289).
How faithful have we been in our responses to Jesus’