We went to my parents' church last night to see my dad sing in their annual Christmas program. During the program they showed a short, funny video about all the things that are wrong with our nativity scene depictions of Christ's birth. One of the things they pointed out was that the wise men were not present at the birth of Christ, and we have no idea how many of them there were. We only know that they came from the east and they brought three gifts.
Scholars actually think that Jesus was probably a toddler when the wise men showed up. Mary and Joseph were probably living in a house. Can you imagine what the neighbors thought when a bunch of guys on camels bearing expensive gifts showed up at Mary and Joseph's house? They were probably the talk of the neighborhood.
So, if the wise men weren't at Jesus' birth and we're not really sure how many of them there were, why are they so often put into the Christmas scene? I think the answer is found in Matthew 2:1-2, which says "After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, 'Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.'"
These men were scholars who were looking for Jesus. When they saw the new star, they believed it would lead them to Jesus, so they followed it. Can you imagine hopping on your camel to follow a star, not knowing how far you would need to go or how long it would take you? If it was a nearly two-year journey to see Jesus, do you think you might have begun to wonder if you were ever going to get there or if you were just chasing a whim?
We don't know if the wise men ever got discouraged on their journey. What we do know is that they saw an opportunity to worship Jesus, and they took it. Despite the challenges and the distance, they were so excited about seeing Jesus that they dropped everything for a chance to worship him. When was the last time you were that excited to worship Jesus?
Too often our worship of Jesus becomes rote. We go to church, we sing the songs and we listen to the pastor and say we have gone "to worship." But true worship begins in our hearts and can be done anywhere, any time. If, like the wise men, we look for opportunities to worship Jesus. He has given us so many reasons to worship Him -- His love, His grace, His peace. Any time we encounter something that reminds us of what Jesus has done for us, it should be a time for worship.
Help your kids recognize opportunities for worship by pointing them out when you see them. If you're awed by a rainbow in the sky, stop and thank God for it. If you are blessed with a joyful spirit, sing a song of praise together. When things aren't going well but you feel the comforting presence of God, take a moment to pray. Worship comprises all of these things -- it's simply bringing praise to God.
As you go throughout your week this week, memorize Matthew 2:1-2 and be like the wise men. Be looking for Jesus and opportunities to worship Him.