New Year’s Day starts the wave of packing up Christmas and hunkering down for the balance of winter here in the north. For those who observe the tradition, only the Epiphany remains, marking the arrival of wise men from somewhere east to honor the Christ child.
Our legend of them is larger than what we really know. That learned people like them are part of the Christmas story certainly adds another layer of intrigue to this already incredible story.
A virgin, a census trip, no suitable birthing place, a manger/animal stall, a star, angels, shepherds and now these scholarly men from afar.
While the they adorn most of our manger scenes, the new family was in a house when the wise men or “Magi” arrived (see Matthew 2:1-23). The actual story doesn’t say how many they were, only that they presented three gifts to the child - gold, frankincense and myrrh. Wise “men” suggests no less than two of them.
I find their inclusion in the story fascinating because the supposedly learned people of our day stake all knowledge on soley, evidence-based reality that is generally devoid of cosmic and divine inputs. Conversely, more than the star guided the Magi to Jerusalem. They new about one to be “born king of the Jews.”
How would they know? If they hailed from Babylon, the writings of the Babylonian exile, Daniel would equip them as would other ancient Jewish texts like this fourth oracle of Balaam:
“A star will come out of Jacob; a scepter will rise out of Israel.” (Numbers 24:17b, NIV).
While they might not be astronomers per se, Pastor/teacher Alistair Begg regarded them as “theological scientists” in his recent radio message entitled “The Wise Men.” Through the ancient and medieval periods of history spanning some 62,000 years, the divine and material realms were unquestionably complimentary. Sterilizing the material realm by dismissing all divine elements has taken hold in just the last 500 or so years.
I’ve recently begun some reading to improve my understanding of the historical basis for my Christian beliefs. While on one hand, all that is known literally stands on the accumulated knowledge of the past, most modern people are historically naive and have no interest in becoming less so.
I confess to and I am bothered by that bias. Nevertheless, that notably wise people, like these wise men, Magi, are unabashedly drawn to the Lord fascinates me.
While I don’t think myself particularly wise or astute, my faith is bolstered by fellow, believing men and women whose grasp of literature, science, history, and the cosmos unquestionably reflects serious intellectualism. I am an appreciative audience when they articulate their faith.
Think about it. These learned men, probably guided by considerable study, inspiration and conviction, undertook a perilous journey to find to worship a newborn they resolved to be from God.
I am so glad God included them in his story.