You may have heard about the three wise men as part of the Christmas story. Actually, our Scriptures don’t even say there were three of them—just that they brought three gifts to present to Jesus. And here’s another bit of trivia: When the wise men (or Magi, as they’re sometimes called), first saw this peculiar star in the sky and recognized it as a sign of the new king’s birth, do you know where they went first? It wasn’t directly to Bethlehem.
In their minds, with the sign being so big and obvious, they assumed that the news of the king’s birth was already widespread. And where would a new king be? In the capital city, of course. So these wise men first went to Jerusalem, believing someone there would point them to the new king. They had come to worship him. But to their surprise, word had not spread of a royal birth. This is how Matthew summarizes it. This is the beginning of Matthew chapter two:
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” (Matthew 2:1–2)
King Herod, who wasn’t an actual king but rather the political leader appointed to oversee the Jews in the region (and he was Jewish), wasn’t thrilled about this news. He’d overseen the area for about 40 years, so the rumor of someone else taking over was unsettling—and not only to him, but to many in the community who had grown accustomed to his leadership. As Matthew stated:
When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. (Matthew 2:3)
Many people wondered: What would this mean for the city? What would this mean for Jews everywhere? Are things going to change? Is there about to be a major disruption?
Now, it’s easy for us to paint King Herod as the antagonist in this story and find him unrelatable. And you’ll have even more reason to believe that as you track with us in the next couple of days. But isn’t it true that when we face uncertainty, most of us tend toward self-preservation? How will this impact my world? What impact will this news have for me?
Those questions are natural, but we get to choose what to do with our questions. The events surrounding the birth of Jesus are a reminder to us that God crafts stories that are often beyond our abilities to conceive. And while it’s human nature to experience stress or even fear in the face of uncertainty, our questions are an opportunity for curiosity. What story might God be writing? Remember, wise men and women can still worship even when they don’t have all the answers.
Heavenly Father, each of us has a picture of how we’d like to experience this season. Remind us that your best work often happens behind the scenes we imagine for our lives. Help us to trust you with our questions and uncertainties just like Mary did. Amen.
You may have heard about the three wise men as part of the Christmas story. Actually, our Scriptures don’t even say there were three of them—just that they brought three gifts to present to Jesus.