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.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet:
“‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’”
Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.” After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way. Matthew 2:1–12
I don't know about you, but for an embarrassingly long amount of time, all I knew was that this crew was dubbed the wise men, and I moved on with my life. At no point was I like, "I need names and where they're from." They were wise, the earth was round, and Martha Stewart had an amazing comeback. These were things I just accepted. But upon further study, I found there was a lot more to this crew than just being wise.
The Wise Men consisted of astrologers/experts in magic/dream interpreters, as well as their security detail. I always assumed this was a trio, like we see in any Nativity scene expansion pack. However, it was likely more of an entourage of those listed above.
The Magi (the group's cute nickname) were well-educated. They graced the top of the social ladder and held lots of influence in their culture. They came from different religious backgrounds but were likely aware of the prophecies of a Messiah. Since they were skilled astrologers, the star captivated them. They had to find where it led, so they set off on a journey to get an answer. (I'm getting some woo-woo vibes from them here, but as you know, it gets better.)
When that star led them to Jesus, this crew “fell down and worshiped Him.” The wise men, esteemed with knowledge and status and power, were completely overwhelmed by the infant King. It’s wild to think about this group, with all their street cred and their titles, bowing down to young Jesus.
They weren’t just moved emotionally after meeting Jesus, either. They literally changed their next steps to avoid Herod and to protect the little Redeemer. Encountering Jesus changed them—as it should change us.
We may not have a star in the sky to follow, but we do have the revelation of God’s Word. We may not travel for weeks to find the Prince of Peace, but we do walk unique journeys with Him. We may not be meet Him face to face this Advent, but we should fall down and worship Him (metaphorically, unless that is your style).
If we aren’t careful, the Christian life can sometimes feel like a routine: church on Sundays, maybe small group on Wednesdays. A service event here and a worship service there. A Christmas Eve service and maybe reading the Christmas story with our family if we want an extra dash of holy. It's tempting to go through the motions and check the boxes—but this is religion, not relationship.
We should be changed in the presence of Jesus. We should be worshiping from within and experiencing the joy of Christ, no matter how long we’ve been following Him, how many degrees are framed in our Zoom backgrounds, or how many followers we have on Instagram—because Jesus changes everything.
Jesus turned water into wine and death into life. He reached the woman at the well who was obviously broken and the Pharisees who looked like they had it all together. He turned the shepherds’ fear into joy and Joseph’s doubt into faith. He brought life to the wombs of a virgin and barren women. He restored a family tree that was ransacked with sin and used sinners with stained pasts. His birth in a manger and His death on a cross have redeemed our histories and our eternities.
And He still changes everything. He changes our paths, our dreams, our next steps, our perspectives, our hearts, our convictions, our marriages, our friendships, our families, our identities, and our eternities. Why do we all gloss over this, especially at the time of year that is supposed to commemorate it?
Like the Wise Men were, we should be utterly captivated and changed by Jesus. We are neither too unqualified nor too overqualified to come and behold Him. Your lists may feel too long and your joys may seem too small this Advent, but do not miss the chance to experience the hope that only Christ could bring.
Every single one of us needs a Redeemer. And by the grace of God, our Redeemer has come.