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This passage is a very familiar part of our Christmas traditions and no nativity scene would be complete without the three wise men and their gifts. We don’t typically put too much thought into who these men were or where they came from, particularly once all of the Christmas decorations have been packed away for the season. Our focus is understandably on the gift of Jesus—a gift that forever changed our world, and our relationship with God. We know the Magi were astrologers, watching the skies for a glimpse of the god of the stars. While so many of God’s chosen people were oblivious to Jesus’ birth, these Magi knew something amazing was taking place; that the promised Jewish Messiah had been born. Well before Jesus was old enough to know his own true origins and purpose, God gave a special revelation to these men, and they made a significant journey in order to worship Him.
We don’t know what happened to the Magi after this event. Were their lives radically changed? Did they set aside their futile search for a god amongst the stars, knowing they had seen the one true God face to face? The fact that the Bible doesn’t tell us probably means that in the big scheme of things it really doesn’t matter. This wasn’t ultimately about them, their journey, or the gifts they brought. But the revelation given to them was not for them alone—it was for all to hear. The long awaited Messiah, desperately hoped for through generations, spoken of in prophecy, was not only going to be the savior of the Jewish people. Anyone with the desire to seek God’s truth and, including these Gentile Magi, was included in the promise of salvation for those who believe.
What a testament to the mercy of God! It could have been so different. God could have reserved that promise for the Jews alone, for those who had spent thousands of years listening for His voice, and trying (albeit imperfectly) to follow His law. He could have turned away men like the Magi, saying you are not among the chosen, and I do not know you…let your star god save you. Thank goodness He didn’t. Sometimes I think we take this extension of unconditional love for granted. I’ve heard atheists, and even some of my Jewish friends, complain about the exclusivity of the Christian faith. Honestly, I don’t see it. Anyone who truly believes in Christ is given part in the inheritance, no matter who they are, where they came from, or what they’ve done. Any exclusivity we might throw up against one another comes from our own flawed nature, not God’s design. The only thing holding us back from sitting at God’s table is our tendency to hold fast to our hurt, anger, and pride, as if by clinging to them we somehow maintain control of our lives. But control is only an illusion, and the more we cling to it, the more we contribute to our own self-destruction. The way out is pretty simple though. Take the seat at the table Jesus has pulled out just for us, acknowledging that we have nothing of our own to bring. Accept the love, be grateful for the promise…and just let go.
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