Typically, illustrations portray the three wise men kneeling before Jesus, along with angels, shepherds, a donkey, and some sheep and camels. The nativity scene. But who were the Magi?
A Fascinating History
In the first century AD, the Magi were scholars, astronomers, and philosophers. They were also missionaries and priests. They traveled to learn about the faith of other cultures. It’s believed they had the writings of Daniel; from the Jewish exile in Babylon, and it’s possible that they were partly Jewish, again, from the time of the exile. They would have revered Daniel’s prophesies, and handed them down to each generation. It would explain their reason for going to Jerusalem. The Magi’s visit was a proclamation to Jerusalem, and to the world, that the Lord’s Messiah had come.
Then There Was Herod
By contrast, there was wicked King Herod, a descendant of Esau and Ishmael, not from David. He had deft political skills, was voraciously ambitious, and was a visionary architect and builder. In fact, his political ambitions superseded all sense of morality. He had three of his sons put to death and even executed one of his wives. He was a wicked man and a wicked king.
As a ruse, Herod sent the Magi to find Jesus, saying that he too wanted to worship the new born king. Of course, he wanted to kill him. But the Magi out foxed Herod, and the whereabouts of the infant Messiah was hidden from him, the most powerful man in Palestine.
The Wise and the Wicked
The wicked one sought to kill to protect his fragile empire. The wise ones wanted to worship the King of Kings, to lift him up, high and exalted. Herod the megalomaniac, tolerated no rivals and easily exterminated anyone who got in his way. The wise men brought gifts, beautiful and meaningful, to honor the infant Messiah. They gave gifts to Jesus.
On Christmas Eve
Children will leave milk and cookies for Santa. Christmas morning, parents and grandparents will have gobs of gifts for the kids. That’s the Christmas I know and love.
But what will Jesus be given? Will it be loving devotion, a heart-felt moment of praise? I guess the answer depends on whether we are more like the wise or more like the wicked.
Let’s answer this question: What gift does Jesus most want from me?