Though the narrative of the Wise Men’s journey contains epic adventure, big-time players, a supernatural cosmic phenomenon, and God in the flesh, one of the most striking parts of the entire account is what doesn’t happen.
When a perturbed Herod assembles the Jewish religious leaders, he wants to know where the Christ will be born. Thanks to their knowledge of the Hebrew Scriptures and prophetic writings, the answer wasn’t as elusive as Herod might have originally thought. Easily enough, Bethlehem is identified as the hometown of the future, Shepherd-King.
We already know that the wise men made good use of that information, but what did the priests and scribes do? What did the professional religious leaders of God’s chosen people do?
Even though wealthy, educated, dignitaries had traveled approximately 800 miles to investigate what they believed to be the fulfillment of a Messianic prophecy in a faith that wasn’t even their own at the time, the Jewish religious leaders couldn’t be bothered to make a 6-mile trip.
So, who found Christ? Who became true worshippers? Not the dill-tithing, best-seat-in-the-synagogue-sitting, rule followers. Not those who had risen to the highest places of religious power. It was the foreign, pagan astrologers who left their comfort and position to respond in faith to an invitation from God to celebrate his kingdom that had come.
The caution for us in this text is two-fold:
First, it is possible to be so lulled by the false sense of security that religious and moralistic conformity can create, that we could actually miss Christ himself. During his later teaching ministry, Jesus Christ warns that our religious gatherings will be full of people who believe they are right with God but who will find out at the end of their lives that they never were. We need to be sure that we’re not so busy building our own spiritual kingdom that we miss his. Because it is possible – true story.
And secondly, the people who show up in our lives and churches may not look like first-round draft picks for Team Jesus. But if true worshippers can look like foreign, pagan astrologers, then we better be okay with future true worshippers showing up on our doorsteps without a Sunday wardrobe or vocabulary.
The test of a true worshipper of God isn’t who can rightly respond with their mouth – it’s who rightly responds with their feet and their heart.
This devotional series is inspired by the children’s book, The Christmas Quest.
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