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 have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.” – Matthew 2:1-2
Advent, meaning “coming”, is the season of the church calendar where Christians celebrate the birth of Christ and look forward to His future return. During this season, many will likely notice nativity scenes depicting Mary and Joseph overlooking Jesus laying in a manger with shepherds and three wise men closely nearby. Though many of these nativity sets are quite beautiful, it might surprise you that they are not completely accurate.
When looking to Scripture, we do find that Jesus was placed in a manger in Bethlehem and that Mary and Joseph were present along with some shepherds, however, we do not find three wise men there. Though it has become a Christmas tradition and common belief, the Bible never says that the wise men arrived on the night of the birth. In fact, the Bible never even says that there were three wise men, only that they brought three gifts – gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And if I have not ruined your perception of the Christmas narrative enough, the Bible never says that the wise men are kings. You might be asking yourself, “Then what does the Bible say about these men?” Who are these mysterious wise men from the East? Unfortunately, there is not much that we do know about these men. We know that they are referred to as the magi in the Greek, which can mean a plurality of wise men, seers, interpreters, or astrologers. Additionally, we know that these men must have been wealthy since they were able to offer expensive gifts and afford the cost of traveling a great distance of hundreds of miles from the East. Thus, many scholars have come to believe that these men were a group of high-ranking astrologers (star watchers) of prominence that saw a cosmic sign. When they saw the star, it was revealed to them that the King of the Jews was born, and they came to worship Him.
So then, what can we learn from these mysterious wise men? I believe the most noteworthy thing about these men was their commitment to worship. The wise men from the East demonstrated that worship requires action. When these men knew that the Divine King was born, they traveled far and wide to seek, find, and worship this Child born in Bethlehem. Though they had wealth, power, and wisdom, they still sought after Jesus. They came bearing gifts, they fell to the ground, and they worshiped the Christ Child. The wise men from the East recognized Jesus as far greater than anything the world had to offer. Now that is true wisdom!
However, not everyone values Jesus’ worth. In fact, many despise and hate Him. Herod the king, is a prime example. When the magi came to Herod and told him that the King of the Jews was born, Scripture notes that Herod was troubled (Matthew 2:3). Fearing that Jesus was a threat to his throne, Herod sought to destroy the young Child. He commanded the massacre of the innocents, where all the male children of Bethlehem and the surrounding districts, from two years old and under were to be murdered.
The biblical contrast between the wise men and Herod is apparent. One celebrated the coming of the King and the other despised it. Thus, we must make a choice. As we wait for the second advent of Christ, will we seek Jesus like the wise men and stop at nothing to find Him? Or will we despise Him like Herod? Will we adore and worship Jesus or resist Him?
I pray that we all would become wise and seek after Christ!