The Other Wiseman



I collect nativities and keep many on display all year long. I enjoy the reminder of the wonder and mystery of God becoming incarnate, of Jesus, the Creator, the King, born in an obscure village to poor parents.  When I consider the birth of Jesus, I wonder which person I would respond most like – hopefully not the innkeeper who failed to recognize the opportunity right in front of him. Instead. I would hope to respond like the shepherds who quickly hastened to follow the sign from heaven, seeking and finding the Christ.

I never really connected to the Magi, the elite of their society with resources to make an incredible journey seeking truth. Then I came across a story by Henry Van Dyke originally published in 1895. Since it is available free through public domain, I hope you will take time to read it. https://www.gutenberg.org/files/10679/10679-h/10679-h.htm

Mr. Van Dyke chronicles the journey of another wiseman. He is delayed joining the others because stops to help someone in need. Even so, he doesn’t give up, but continues the pilgrimage to arrive in Bethlehem only to find he has missed the One to whom the star was pointing. Along the way this seeker is interrupted by many, yet he takes time to assist those who cross his path as he searches for the promised King. This wise man enters Jerusalem just in time to purchase the freedom of a young girl being sold into slavery, but not in time to see the Messiah before He was crucified.

I feel like that character. Every day, I get interrupted and detoured by little things.  I say, “no” to seemingly “exciting” or “fulfilling” things so I can say, “yes” to the people closest to me. Like the pilgrim, I arrive at what I perceived was the goal too late or never at all.

This wise man dies saddened that he was never a part of the big events, never reaching his quest, yet as he enters heaven, the one He was searching for joyously welcomes him. Jesus astounds him by saying, “Whatever you did for the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”

  Many keep the path, but will not reach the goal;

Who seeks for heaven alone to save his soul,

  While he who walks in love may wander far,

  Yet God will bring him where the blessed are. Henry Van Dyke

The Greatest of these is Love.

Was Jesus Christmas Shopping?

Seeing the people, Jesus felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd. Matthew 9:36

snow

When I heard this verse, isolated from its context, I wondered, “Had Jesus been out among the masses on Black Friday?” Or perhaps He was grocery shopping the day before Thanksgiving? Or at the post office in line behind 7 other people waiting to mail a package?

In context, I know this verse is not referring to the crowds making holiday preparations, but I did notice people have not changed much in two thousand years. If I were to describe the people I encounter, I could use those exact words, “distressed” and “dispirited” and include a few of my own such as “anxious,” “unsettled,” and “without peace.”

Even as believers, it is all too easy for our lives to become characterized by hectic busyness so that we too are distressed and dispirited, without peace. This transpires when we forget we have a Great Shepherd who longs to restore our fragmented souls to wholeness and peace.

Preparing for the holiday of Christmas is so much different than anticipating the Christ. Those who were alive for that first Christmas did not realize the birth of the promised One was upon them, yet to the extent they longed to see the fulfillment of the promise, they were willing to alter their lives to worship as soon as they received the good news.

I pondered, “What is the good news that we are celebrating at Christmas?” He is called Jesus because He will save his people from their sins. He will be called Immanuel because God is with us. Through His death on the cross and resurrection, He presents the gift of eternal life for those who believe.

Striving after any other goal than Jesus, whether at Christmas, or during any other time of the year, leaves me frazzled and fragmented. Therefore, what measures can I take to return my soul to the care of my Great Shepherd? First, I ask myself if the items on my list are things the Lord is asking me to do or  are these tasks something I have put on my own plate that is not from God? God strengthens me to do any good work He has given, yet he doesn’t promise me the same strength for all those chores I choose to engage in for some other reason (such as pleasing others or looking good).  I remind myself I don’t have to fulfill every expectation because if I am putting too much pressure on myself to show love or prevent disappointment, I am really not pointing others to the right source of true hope and love – Jesus.

I try to listen to songs about the savior’s birth, not the Christmas songs bombarding the airways that have nothing to do with Christ. I stop to stare at the Christmas lights on the tree or sit still to watch God’s handiwork as the snow falls. Actually, I don’t have much of a plan because detailed plans and over-scheduling  steal my peace because I have dismissed the One Sovereign Ruler and appointed myself as CEO of my own little world. However, I have a daily choice, especially this month, to continue in my hurried distractions or to relinquish this position into his fully capable hands and allow the King of Kings to rule the universe and the Prince of Peace to rule my heart.