The wise men who came to see Jesus never made it to Bethlehem; they started out that direction, but by the time they were traveling, the Babe was already gone. (Many assume that the wise men and the shepherds were one and the same or at least that they ran into each other, but neither is true.) You see, by the time Herod got word of the greatness of the baby born in Bethlehem, he had to issue a decree to kill all the children born in Bethlehem up to two years prior. So it may have been two years before the wise men came.
The star, Matthew tells us, led the way to where the baby was. The wise men, he tells us, entered into the house - there was no house in Bethlehem; just a barn. The baby, he says, was with His mother, Mary - not lying in the manger, as we would have expected if they had come actually to the birth.
Nevertheless, we include the wise men in the Christmas story, so let us include them in the Advent season, as well.
The wise men are an interesting case because they weren't drawn to Jesus, and they weren't called to Him. They may or may not have really known much, if anything, about Him or what He meant to the Jewish people. They may or may not have had any interest at all in going to see Him. They were sent. By Herod. Essentially as spies. It's unclear whether the gifts were the idea of the wise men or of Herod, whether they were genuine offerings or part of the ruse.
But they went anyway, bearing gifts, and brought them to the Child and His mother. And something amazing happened when they did - upon meeting Jesus, at somewhere more than a day but less than two years old - before He'd done a single miracle, before He'd spoken a single word, before He'd done anything truly amazing at all on His own, while He was likely still even in diapers, the wise men believed in Him. Just from seeing Him in person.
They probably never thought they'd believe the whispers. Probably never thought they'd believe the rumors. Probably never thought they'd believe what the Jewish people were talking about, all those religious nuts that were overpopulated in the Roman territory. They probably never thought that He'd be anything but a baby, anything but a nice story, perhaps. But they came, they saw, and they believed.
Perhaps they were truly wise men after all.
We know that they believed because after they met the baby Jesus, they turned and went home another way, deciding not to go back to Herod and tell him anything at all. In fact, it was only because the wise men never came back that Herod believed he had something to worry about from this Jewish Boy.
This Advent, maybe you - or someone you know - is like the wise men. Maybe you only go to church because you have to. Maybe you only come because you're sent (or dragged). Maybe you think that you ought to at least go and hear the Jesus story once. After all, it is Christmas and certain persons - even if they are an overpopulated group of religious nuts - can't seem to stop talking about Him. If that's you this Christmas, you're not alone.
But to you, I say this - leave yourself open to believe. Come bearing gifts, whether they are genuine or forced. Come and see for yourself. Hear the story. Listen to the words. Meet the Baby. Bless Him.
This may be the Christmas that you find that you can't help but believe.