This Advent, I invite you to walk with us through the Bible’s Christmas story as chronicled by Matthew and Luke.
“Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, ‘Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” ~ Matthew 2:1-2
I teach something called The Five Great Truths Of Life which on the surface, may not seem particularly great. But they absolutely hit the bulls-eye of truth, and until I learn and accept these truths, I will not be able to live life well. They are:
I am small. I am selfish. I am stupid. I suffer. I am short-lived.
The story of the wisemen and their encounter with King Herod illustrates the middle truth: I am stupid.
The stupidity we’re referring to is not in reference to our intellectual capacity. God actually thinks quite highly of a human being’s capacity for thought and reflection. He knew when he created us that we would one day siphon oil from beneath the sea, and harness energy from the sun, and send winged metal cylinders flying into the sky, and poke at distant planets with probes. He saw the poetry of Shakespeare, and the songs of Lennon & McCartney, Al Gore’s creation of the Internet, our discovery of the double-helix, and our invention of artificial hearts. It was all part of God’s plan for us, which he declared was, “Very good.”
It’s in reference to our spiritual capacity that we speak of human stupidity. Our intellect no matter how vast, our brain no matter how large, our reasoning powers no matter how dazzling cannot on their own lead us to the knowledge of God. Unless heaven comes to earth first, unless God stoops to humanity first, without Christmas, I will be hopelessly lost.
We have as testimony to this great truth of life a group of pious wisemen. We don’t know specifically where they came from, don’t know how many there were (the idea that there were three of them – we three kings – comes from the three gifts that were laid before Jesus.) They were certainly not kings, although it’s clear from the story they were comfortable around them. Magi were probably royal astrologers who watched the stars, and based on how easily they marched right up to King Herod, they probably gave advice to their rulers.
With that, we can assume they were highly educated, truly wise men. And they were unquestionably men of great wealth. The average person couldn’t break away from his job to make a long journey like this, and what’s more, the gifts they presented Jesus were not from the Christmas Tree Shoppe.
Our intellect no matter how vast, our brain no matter how large, our reasoning powers no matter how dazzling cannot on their own lead us to the knowledge of God.
So think about it: What was it that brought the wise men to Jesus? What prompted their search for the king of the Jews? Was it their status or position? Was it their wealth? Was it their education? Their effort? When at last they came and bowed their knees before the infant king, could they look at each other and with a wink say, “Man, look at us! Aren’t we something?”
No, to each of these questions. The correct answer is God. Their search for God and their finding of God began with God. The star had to first appear above them in the skies, then within them. Only then could they seek God and find him.
This is what we mean when we say, I am stupid. It’s actually an outflow of the second great truth of life: I am selfish. Because I am by nature sinful, I am truly lost, and am incapable of saving myself.
Unless God comes to me first by his grace, and awakens me to his reality and my need for him, then I will remain small and selfish and without hope. We are called to be “grace-bred, Word-fed, Spirit-led” men and women of discipline. But grace must come first.
A thousand Scriptures bear this out.
- “No one can come to me unless the Father…draws him.” ~ John 6:44
- “We love because he first loved us.” ~ 1 John 4:19
- “I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me; I was found by those who did not seek me.” ~ Isaiah 65:1
So yes, the saying is true. Wisemen still seek him. But only after the Lord first summons them.
Take time today to thank God for the star of grace and wonder that he placed in your heart so long ago. And shines there still.
Bear Clifton is a pastor, writer and screenwriter. His blogs and devotionals can be enjoyed at his ministry website: trainyourselfministry.com and his writing website: blclifton.com. Bear is the author of “Train Yourself To Be Godly: A 40 Day Journey Toward Sexual Wholeness”, “Ben-Hur: The Odyssey”, and “A Sparrow Could Fall”, all available through Amazon.