Thursday, December 19, 2013

Wise Men

There are many ways to look at the Christmas story, and I think we kind of focus on the big three: from the point of view of humanity, from the point of view of Mary, and from the point of view of the baby Jesus. We talk about the others, sure, but they don't seem central. We talk about the angel, the star, and even the wise men. And when we talk about the wise men, we talk about the gifts they brought. I did a series on that last year. (See Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh.)

But think for a minute about just the wise men. Not their gifts, but their journey.

We call them wise men, but the Bible tells us they were shepherds watching their flocks. A star shines in the dark of night, and somehow, all three take notice. Oh, sure, there was an angel and that probably heightened their awarenesses a little, but do you know how many millions of stars they had seen as shepherds? Too many to count. It's a wonder they even noticed them any more. But they noticed this one, and they decided to follow it.

We don't know if they were hired shepherds or men over their own flocks. We don't know what kind of animals they watched over. We don't know if they took those animals with them to the manger or whether they abandoned them in the fields. But they went on a journey, and not some short little jaunt. It took them weeks to reach the stable. Weeks! By camel! And they just kept going for the hopes of something special...

I know people who won't drive their car five minutes out of the way for a guaranteed special something. How many of us would follow a star, with nothing more than a hope?

The answer is sadly few, and I wonder what we miss when we don't.

Think about the wise men. They could have stayed in their fields. They could have read in the headlines that some baby was born in some manger. They could have heard the rumors that this baby was something special. They might have caught sight of Him thirty years later and either made the connection...or never made it at all. They could have stayed in their story, tending their flocks, watching over their fields. Certainly, they were living a decent story.

But they wouldn't have been in His.

And what is His story missing without them? Picture this: a baby is born of a virgin in a barn in a foreign town. There's no one around to witness it, no one to ooh and ahh over the baby. No impromptu baby shower. No gifts to give. The birth of the Christ Child is almost...forgettable. Except for Mary and Joseph and a few animals in the stable, nobody notices. I don't know about you, but it matters to me in this story that somebody noticed the birth of this baby. It matters to me that someone - three someones - thought it worthy enough to follow a star, to carry a hope, to bring a good gift. It matters that at least three lives were disrupted enough to take part in this moment.

It changes the story, the wise men simply having come.

The same is true for you and I. Most of us are living decent stories. We could just stay here, telling those tales. But there's a glimmer of light in the darkness that beckons us to make a journey. If we do, we find that suddenly, we're in a bigger story.

And that bigger story? It needs us, too. It needs what we have to bring. The story of Christ is the story of His people, and when we move, it shows that this is a story worth moving for. We demonstrate a life disrupted, and worth the detour. We show what it means to go out of the way for the bigger story, and we make that story bigger by being there. It changes the story not that we believe, but that we come. That is the essence of the Christmas journey for all of us being called toward the manger.

We have to go, whatever it takes. We have to get there. We have to set out with nothing more than a hope that where the light shines, there is something special. And something special there is, indeed.

It is God in flesh, lying in a manger. So close you could touch Him.

...So near, He could touch you.

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