Ok, call me a Grinch—especially for saying what I’m about to say on Christmas Eve: I don’t think the Wisemen saw Jesus when he was an infant in a manger. (I’m ducking so I can avoid the volley of projectiles headed my way).
If we read the rest of the story in Matthew, we hear the Wisemen came to a house—and Jesus was a child at the time—not a baby asleep on the hay.
I used to get annoyed each Advent because three Wisemen appear in every nativity scene, play and pageant. And there are three—always three—one for each gift, I guess. All three -on their knees- adoring the baby in the trough. Some with camels: all with gifts… although I can’t tell the gold from the frankincense, and myrrh in the hands of the plastic or plaster figurines.
To say my perspective is unpopular is an understatement. I understand why. Our Christmas traditions are important to us—even if they don’t look exactly like what appears in scripture.
Over the years, I’ve had to learn to be generous towards and understanding of our Christmas traditions. And that is hard for me. Really hard. Pride forges an armour of disengaged stubbornness. Asking questions demands humility—the kind that enabled me to say, “I don’t see this. God, show me the significance of these Wisemen and the stable because I just don’t get it.”
And over the years, God has answered me…
-even in my arrogance and self-righteousness when I have seen myself as better than anyone else… God has answered me.
-even when I see myself as so profoundly right that it makes me unapproachable and unavailable… God has answered me.
-even in my haughty-holier-than-thou moments when I’ve worshipped my gifts, my skills, my possessions, my education, my perspectives, my context… God has answered me.
-even when I have felt entitled to grace but extended none to others, God has answered me.
God answered in correction and refining—taking away all that I worshipped. God replaced my false idols with a real baby — who is somehow fully God and fully human. Contemplating the holy ratio in that mystery—not to mention the reason behind it—is a humbling discipline. The love in that kind of Divine action inspires awe and wonder as the focus shifts from what we do to what God has done, is doing and will continue to do through Jesus Christ.
The Wisemen found Jesus in the house by using their knowledge and skills. When they saw him, they knelt before him—surrendering their gifts to Him and paying homage. When we are in relationship with God through Christ and empowered by the Spirit, we do the same thing. We use what we have been given not for our own glory and never for our own edification. We set what we have before the feet of Jesus and give the glory to Him.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some Wisemen to put back into my nativity scene.
If you missed an entry in our Advent devotions series, please click here to see all previously posted devotions.