Since I’ve never lived anywhere except within seventy miles of Los Angeles, Van and I try to take a little time here and there to explore our new home state of Arizona. Sunday, after dropping my sister off at Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix, we saw a sign for the Agua Fria National Monument. Curious, we stopped. Rocks, dirt, and dead vegetation stretched for miles. A cold wind howled, cutting through our inadequate jackets, so we didn’t linger. The guide post promised wildlife, but we didn’t see even a sparrow. According to the brochure we picked up before we jumped back in the car, “if you look close, an intimate, living and vibrant landscape appears.” Maybe later, we decided. We do plan to return in the spring and see the hidden beauty promised but it wasn’t worth staying in the late afternoon.
Over two thousand years ago, wise men, also known as Magi, studied science, mathematics, astronomy, and astrology. They were the go-to guys of their day, their wisdom, and advice sought by rulers and the wealthy. When they saw a new, bright star, they left the prestige of their world and traveled hundreds of miles to look for a foreign king. A king of a people in captivity.
Hundreds of years earlier, Daniel’s prophecies promised a King who would be different than any other earthly ruler. The Wise Men wanted more than their lives offered, and the beauty of God’s promise propelled them to travel a long distance.
When they arrived in Jerusalem, they couldn’t find this king. Believing the beauty of God’s promise kept the Magi from giving up. They searched, asking,
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. (Matthew 2:2)
There was no excitement or celebrating in Jerusalem. In fact, no one in Jerusalem knew anything about the baby. When the current leader of Jerusalem, King Herod, heard about a King of the Jews, he panicked. He didn’t want another king threatening his authority. Herod found out from the Jewish priests and teachers of the law, where the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem. He sent the Magi there, secretly plotting to kill this king who he considered a threat to his authority.
The Magi, unaware of Herod’s plan, continued their journey.
After they had heard the king, they went on their way and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route (Matthew 2:9-12).
How We Can Respond to the Beauty of God’s Promise
Christmas Eve marks the fourth Sunday of Advent. On our Advent wreath, we light the purple candle, symbolizing the Wise Men. And we take time to reflect on the lessons the Wise Men teach about responding to the beauty of God’s promise.
Follow wherever God leads, even if you don’t know the way.
Unlike Van and me, the Wise Men didn’t wait for more optimum conditions before seeking the promise the star gave. They didn’t know anything except God placed a sign in the sky. They traveled an unknown path, trusting God to light the way.
Don’t let the responses of others deter you from seeking what God has for you.
The Wise Men kept searching, even when they couldn’t see the star for a time. They asked others, but when no one seemed to know what they were talking about, they didn’t give up. God’s star returned and ultimately led them to the find the baby. God will always lead and guide us, even when the path is long and we don’t feel like we know where we’re going or when the journey will end.
Worship and give God all He deserves.
The Wise Men brought expensive gifts, representing who Jesus was: gold for His royalty, frankincense for His deity as God, and myrrh for His humanity. Our gifts don’t have to be expensive, but we do need to worship and adore by honoring Him as Lord of our lives. He deserves our best, not just at Christmas, but every day of the year.
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