Mysterious and magnificent, the Magi made a lifestyle out of finding significant moments in time. Unlike the shepherds, they were learned men. They knew what they were looking for--something historic. Their studies revealed something that would change the order of the universe was soon about to happen, and they wanted to be part of it. There are many lessons we can gather from the story of the wise men from the first Christmas.
"Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth" (2 Timothy 2:15).
It is true that God included humble, uneducated shepherds with the Christmas message of good news, but he also included those who were wealthy and the learned. Were they wise men, Magi or kings? Though we may not know as much about their back story as we might like, we do know that they were men of great learning, and in this case, they used their learning to seek God.
There is so much to know about God that we will never come to the end of it. “The more we seek him, the more we find him…” a famous worship song declares. These men were prepared to act, because they had studied and recognized the signs of the coming of God.
Even nature itself could not contain the good news! A star proclaimed his coming. Scripture reminds us that,
“…what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made” (Romans 1:19-20).
There are many times in our lives when we must prepare ourselves for the things God would like to do in and through us. Sometimes this requires studying scriptures, a certain major in university, reading the newest book on Christian marriage, or maybe just a walk in the woods. Whatever the case we must be students, ready to learn. Studying prepares us for our mission, and the Magi were preparing for a great mission and journey.
The Magi were willing to trade both time and finances in order to experience the birth of Christ. Modern day society seems much less committed to any mission. The Magi traveled far from what was comfortable in order to worship a king they did not know, but their studies revealed to them that he would be a significant game changer. There was no Orient Express, no 1st class passage. In fact, Christian history suggests that they likely rode on camels. Finding Jesus was worth their discomfort.
Comfort is worshiped these days. Convenience is king. Yet these “three kings” inconvenienced themselves to find another King, the King of Kings. They could have been intimidated by the news as Herod was (Matthew 2:3), but instead, the followed the star to find the one they would worship (Matthew 2:11), and they bowed to his authority above their own.
The Magi brought the best of who they were. Their gifts were expensive and impressive, because they knew they should not come before a king without a gift for him. There are those who believe that their gifts financed the holy family’s trip to Egypt. Whatever the case, it was significant to them and significant to the receiver. This is true of any good gift. It isn’t necessary for the gift to be expensive just significant to both giver and receiver.
Proverbs 18:16 says that our gift makes room for us and that our gift will bring us before kings. The Magi brought valuable items from their own environment to the baby king. We all have those. Whether they be thousands of dollars, good ideas or chocolate chip cookies. We have gifts already in our own environment that make a significant gift to our King.
Not much is known about who these men were, exactly where they were from or why they were so interested in a baby king, but we can still learn from their example. Because of their diligence in learning they were prepared for the opportunity when it came. They were willing to spend their time and inconvenience themselves in order to find Jesus and worship him. They brought their best when they came to see him. Let it be said the same of us.
Rev. Dr. Rob Toornstra
Dr. Robert Ritzema