I know, I know. It messes with our nativity sets and our Christmas cards when we allow the truth of the Christmas story to seep through. Our Mary and Joseph portrayals are often too old… and too white. The holy family probably did not have halos around their heads, nor did the baby Jesus.
And the wise men? Well there were not necessarily just three. We know there was more than one (wise “MEN”), but we don’t know if they arrived on camels or horses. Camels are certainly more exotic; horses more practical for longer distances. I actually sat on a camel once… wouldn’t want to cross the desert on one! They do look cool on our nativity scenes, though, but then so did my son’s plastic Godzilla when he occasionally appeared.
But we do know this. They were perhaps not wise in how they went about the search for Jesus. I can only credit their lack of knowledge of Herod and his insanity with their coming right into the lions den… looking for the baby born to be his replacement! Herod was driven mad with jealousy over this child born “king of the Jews!”
We do know that the wise men (magi) from the east did not appear in the story of Jesus until he was at least two years of age. (see Matthew 2:16) They came to the house (in Nazareth) to worship Him and bring their gifts. And after they left, Herod madly set out to search for the male child, born within the past two years, and slaughtered every child in the area in an effort to destroy his competition before he became old enough to rule.
No one can imagine with accuracy the depth and length our spiritual enemy will stoop to destroy the image of the Christ child. It is a reality that all who bear that image drive him to jealousy and rage. He is intent to stamp out the image of the One who, at the cross, crushed his head as God promised in Genesis 3:15. Satan is a defeated foe because of Jesus.
The wise men went home a different way. An angel appeared and warned them not to return to Herod. And so, the Gospel tells us, “they went home a different way.” That’s about more than geography. That is a clear statement that their meeting with Jesus changed them. They saw salvation… hope personified… Divine love in the person of a child. And it changed them. They went home a different way.
And when you meet Jesus, you will, too!
And going into the house they saw the child with Mary His mother and they fell down and worshiped Him. (Matthew 2:11)
FOR REFLECTION: Ask God to help your worship this year to transform you.