• Mount Tabor UMC

Devotional for December 12

What did Christmas mean to the Wise Men?

Read Matthew, Chapter 2, Verses 1-12.

The Christmas story we read in Matthew is much shorter than given by Luke, but it has its own richness and meaning. Chapter 2 of Matthew begins bytelling us about the visitors “from the East”. While this might mean somewhere in modern day Iraq or Iran, the exact location – or locations – is not significant. Depending on which translation you read, they are called “wise men”, or “magi”, or “scholars”, or “astronomers”. In today’s terminology, they were probably a mixture of astrologers and astronomers. We can be sure: they were not kings but were wise.

When the Wise Men arrived in ancient Israel, it was probably months, perhaps as much as 2 years after the Birth. They first stopped in Jerusalem, maybe as a diplomatic courtesy, and asked King Herod and his advisors, “Where is the child who has been born King of the Jews?” This is a remarkable question because these are not Jewish men. This question tells us a great deal about them. First, they were familiar with the Jewish tradition, the Jewish promise of a Messiah. Second, they knew the Messiah would come as a child. Third, they were looking forward to this event with great anticipation, because they knew the King of the Jews would also be a king for everyone. It is important to note, as they told Herod, they came to find him and to worship him. Yes, the Wise Men were “not from around here”, but they knew exactly what they were doing.

We compare the poor and uneducated shepherds - the lowly - who visited Jesus in the stable (as Luke tells us) with the wealthy and educated Wise Men who visited Jesus later in “the house” (verse 11). Yes, Jesus was for everyone! Indeed, the Wise Men knew the Scriptures, and they knew the sign of the Star was a prompt for action. This event, this very day, was a momentous occasion to these men, and to all who travelled with them. Today, we should marvel with these men. Why? Because they show us the value of studying the Scriptures, the value of acting on God’s signs, the value of loyalty to the Christ.

These Wise Men also were changed by this visit. Verse 12 tells us they left “by another way”. Having found and worshiped something special, not even Herod’s evil could alter the change in themselves. Do we learn the same thing, does experiencing Christ change us?

They also gave us the most common characteristic of today’s Christmas, that of giving gifts. What did they take away? Verse 10 tells us they were “overwhelmed with joy”. Today, the giving tradition is highlighted by joy. Joy on the faces of children, joy on the faces of your loved ones as you share with each other. This comes from the joy each of us receives in the giving, just as the wise men felt joy in the presence of the baby Messiah, who is the King for everyone.

Written by David Rigby and Marilyn Smith