By Another Way

Fifth in a sermon series, “A Different Kind of Christmas”

Matthew 2:1-12

When I read the story of the wise men’s trek to Jesus, I find myself wondering how others could have been so blind to what these travelers saw.

After all, the wise men must have seen something exciting. These men, most likely astrologers who advised rulers living in the area of modern-day Iraq, had responded to a sign in the sky by packing their camels and making a months-long journey to Jerusalem. For them, whatever was going on in Jerusalem was huge, and they needed to get there despite the hardships.

When the wise men arrived, however, no one in Jerusalem seemed to know what they were talking about. Jerusalem’s King Herod had to ask the wise men when the sign in the sky had occurred, despite having consulted with his chief priests and scribes.

So much for the “Little Drummer Boy” television version of Christ’s birth, where a star shines so brightly that its tail points toward the manger like a neon sign at a roadside diner.

The best astronomical explanation probably lies in a series of conjunctions involving Venus and Jupiter near the constellation Leo and its bright star, Regulus. Such conjunctions would have screamed “a king is born in Judah” to these astrologers while going unnoticed by others. (For a detailed explanation of this theory, view the slide show embedded in this MSNBC article.)  Or perhaps the star was a supernatural event, one intended for the wise men and no one else.

Regardless, God must have been guiding the wise men in very subtle ways. What made them worthy?

Well, for one thing, they seem to have been seekers. They spent their lives anticipating great events, looking for signs in the skies. I’m not suggesting everyone take up astrology to hear from God. In this case, I think God simply was speaking to these seekers in a language they understood. God finds ways to speak to those who seek truth.

They also were the kind of men who were not afraid to go out into the world. These weren’t ivory-tower academics. They knew how to get those camels across the desert; with God’s guidance, they knew how to deal with the evil, wily Herod, heading home “by another way” to keep the Christ child safe.

And perhaps most importantly, they were ready to worship once they found the truth that had been revealed to them. They accepted God’s revelation, and they acted accordingly, prostrating themselves before the Savior of the world.

It’s not a bad model for us to follow. Do we seek truth, and do we listen for God’s subtle answers?

When we hear from God, do we pursue what we’ve heard, regardless of the risks, even if it means we must travel by an unfamiliar road? Do we put our possessions and even our lives at risk? What is our equivalent of getting on a camel and riding into the desert?

And once we’ve found the truth, do we worship well?

I would like to know more of the wise men’s story. I feel certain they were changed forever by the experience. For some reason God chooses not to give us those details through Scripture, however.

At least we are allowed to make a similar journey. We can be wise men and women ourselves, pursuing and worshiping Jesus as the Christ.

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