Friday, December 20, 2013


So just who were these men who came to get a glimpse of the newborn baby Jesus?

That depends on who you ask. The gospel of Matthew tells the story of wise men. Astrologers. Consultants to the questioners. Luke tells of the shepherds, simple folk.

Yet, when we erect our nativities each Christmas season, most of us remember the wise men. Just what was wrong with the shepherds?

Simply put, wise men were valued; shepherds were despised. In fact, shepherds were so low on the social ladder that their testimony wasn't even accepted in court. (Footnote: My pastor said this same thing in a lesson two weeks ago. You just couldn't trust a shepherd.) We think, then, that it lends more credence to our story (as if God needs such a thing) to talk about the wise men than to tell of the shepherds.

But this bothers me for one primary reason: the story of the astrologers mixes a little too much "black magic" within divine guidance for me. Astrologers were known to watch the stars. They were watching the stars for signs of the promised King. So they see the star and follow it - is that a sign from the heavens or a really good astrologer? An arrogant wise man could argue the second as proof of his mastery of his craft. He could fall back on his own expertise and testify that his intuition, his premonition, his ability to "see" was actually worth something. I don't think God is okay with His message could get caught up in all that.

But three men come from the east, and they are shepherds. They come, hoping to see, knowing that no matter what they find, no one will believe their testimony. Because, again, they are shepherds. Just shepherds. So they go not thinking about what it means to the world but what it means to three men who've set out on a hope. Three men longing for something glorious. Three men hoping for a peek into the Promise.

And they bear witness to the Christ child Himself.

Two thousand years later, we hardly remember they were there. We kind of mix them up with the wise men. There were some guys, and they followed a star. They journeyed, a pretty long trip. They came to see the baby. What's important to us was that some guys came to see Him. The first to arrive were the shepherds, but we talk about the wise men.

But weren't the shepherds wise?

That's what I love about the God story. From the very beginning - from Abraham, David, from the birth of His Son - He's been taking shepherds and making them wise men. From the lowest place to the highest regard, just as He promised. From men whose word would never be good enough to men whose lives are written in His Word.

I love that this Christmas. How about you?

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