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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

These wise men were known as such because of their knowledge and skill. They were probably Persians, men who were from Babylon or near by to there. Today they would most likely be Iranian. This was a group of unknown number who were scientists in that rather broader sense of that term in those times. They used pragmatic understanding of this world and of the universe mixed with mystical revelation and even divination in order to both understand what was in our world and to predict what was to come about in the future. They were important people in a time when information was hard to come by and in which prediction might equate to survival. These spiritually oriented scientists were almost certainly polytheistic in their understanding of god; yet, it was quite likely that they were acutely aware of the God of the Jews from the years when devout Hebrew men such as Daniel had lived among their ancestors.

Now, at this point in time they have seen a sign that tells them that one of history’s greatest moments has come, and they respond by traveling a great distance in order to worship this new born king, Jesus. They join in with Jewish shepherds and with angels who have become visible and audible in our environment. It is likely that there were others who came to the side of Mary, joseph, and their little one as well, for God’s call to people to come and worship His Son, the One who was foretold and who was to bring salvation to all of the world, presented to many as a strong desire or even as a need to be at the side of the Messiah. These were imperfect people. Some knew God and others did not. All were living out their lives to the best of their abilities to do so, but all had, in fact, fallen short of the righteousness that God demands of us. These wise men from the east, the shepherds who left their flocks to come to Bethlehem, and all of the other people who sought to see this miracle from Heaven in the shape and form of a human baby were just like each of us and everyone in the world. They and we are sinners who are lost and separated from God without this Savior who was born to Mary on that day so long ago.

God calls to us just as He did to those wise men. He says that our past is of little to no importance now, for now there is born unto us a Savior, a Redeemer, a Lord who loves our hearts, minds, and our souls in a manner that knows no bounds and recognizes no obstacles to pouring out His grace and love onto each and every one of us. Our beliefs and their practice, our faith or lack of it, and our personal histories do not matter when it comes to drawing near to Christ. These wise Persians and those grimy shepherds were called to come. I believe that even Herod, with all of his evil and troubling deeds and thoughts, was granted the opportunity to come and worship when the travelers from the east visited him in his palace. God is calling to each of us now; we are to come and worship the King, the Lord of Creation, the Savior of our souls and the Redeemer of our days. If we know Christ, we are to come and know Him more fully, yield more completely to His will, follow His righteous way with greater focus and intensity, and as we come to Him, we can bring a family member, a friend, a neighbor, or a stranger with us to see first-hand the presence of the One who saves. The call that went out to the wise men is still ringing out. It is carried on the bells of Christmas Day, and they sing forth God’s appeal to all people everywhere, “Come and worship, Christ the King!”  

And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

Hebrews 11: 6

 

This past weekend we worked on taking down the last of our Christmas decorations. I know, it is already a month after Christmas and Saint Valentine’s Day is the theme around most of our neighborhood; in truth, winter and its snowy vistas are the real theme in my world this year. One of the last décor items to go back into storage for next year is a little wooden sign that has been hanging on the outside of our house near the front door. It reads, “Wise men still seek Him.” We know that it is a reference to the coming of those eastern mystics and astronomers that God specifically called to come to meet their newborn king and the savior of their souls. These were learned men. They studied the heavens for its signs and they searched their world in order to gain its wisdom and to understand the truths that God had implanted in it from the dawn of creation. Now they traveled a great distance on nothing more than faith in order to meet the person who was the greatest advent in all of history.

 

God sought them out, and He presented to them a message that required the utilization of all of their wisdom to comprehend and to interpret. Yet, acting upon that knowledge was not an act of intellect alone, for critical thinking would tend to lead to the rejection of this strange and wondrous idea of God come to dwell with people as one of us in order to bring all who would believe into a restored relationship with our Creator. This idea is too wild and impossible to act upon, and these societally well-placed and highly regarded Iranian or Iraqi scholars would be risking much to follow the prompts in the heavens in pursuit of Daniel’s prophesy about Messiah. Yet God called to them, and their faith in the reality of His existence and in the relationship that He desires to have with each person on this earth led them to pack up and set out along the hard road of discovery that took them to the deep humility of submission to the singular Great King of the Universe.

 

God called these men from a foreign land with their strange language and different customs out of their ancient religious practices, beliefs, and understanding into the presence of Christ. They were truly wise in that they did not allow any of those strong traditions and long-held beliefs to keep them from coming to that place and time for their encounter with God, Himself. This same sort of wisdom when combined with faith is what leads each of us to turn from the life that we have been leading and the culture that is supporting it and to come to Christ. For some people this is a new journey, and it leads them away from the comfort of old practices and associations and into the new dawn of life that reflects eternity. For everyone who does know Christ, regardless of whether that relationship is newly formed or life-long in duration, we are still called to seek out Christ as we surrender more and more of ourselves and our old ways of thinking and acting to God’s ancient will and desire for peace on this earth and for reconciliation with all of its inhabitants.