Are We There Yet?
The word 'Christmas' brings many thoughts, images, and feelings to our minds. For me, it will forever be associated with a road trip. Every year, a few days before Christmas, we would hop in the car and make the long trek from Black Mountain, North Carolina to a little town called McRae, Georgia. This is where my grandparents lived. Even though the journey was long and arduous, it was worth: along with getting to see my grandparents and lots of good food, I knew that this process always ended with presents.
The journey of the Magi recorded in Matthew 2:1-11 was also long and arduous: depending on their route, it was about 1450 km, or 900 miles. At three miles per hour, this would have take them 298 hours of travel time, or thiry days at ten hours/day. And that's if everything went well. If there were delays, rest breaks, and slight detours, we could easily imagine this being a two month journey. Not only do two month journeys take a long time to execute, they are very expensive.
Several key points stand out as we reflect on the scripture describing the Magi:
First, Magi were not believers in the Jewish God of the Bible, but God was working through his Spirit and creation to draw them to Jesus.
Second, they were guided by a star. There is endless debate regarding the nature of the astrolonomical phenomenon - some suggest it was a comet. But there was is known comet in the last decade of the first century BC that fits the bill. Others suggest it was a planetary conjunction. And in 7BC, there was a conjunction of Jupiter (king planet) and Saturn (the westland) that occurred in the constellation Aries (last days). Still others simply believe this was a supernatural occurrence provided by God specifically for leading the Magi. The exact nature of the celestial object doestn' matter; the Magi saw something they intrepreted to mean a Jewish king was born.
Third, general revelation (creation) could get them to Jerusalem; it took special revelation (scripture) to get them to Bethlehem. General revelation confirms in our hearts there is a God (the universe drips with the marks of intelligent design). But it is in the Bible that God has given us the fullest revelation of himself: scripture reveals who God is, his character, his nature, the promise of the Messiah. In pointing to Christ, we learn who Jesus is, what he accomplished, and what it means.
Fourth, in coming to Bethlehem, the Magi did two things that are always appropriate: they prostrated themselves before Jesus and they gave their treasures to him. Following Jesus involves not just the facts about Jesus, but also the act of consciously submitting to him as Lord and King. And giving him our best simply reflects that fact that everything we have is a gift from him anyway.
Learning from the Magi Journey
What can we learn from the Magi Journey? There are three key moves that mark their journey:
- First, they observed the signs that told them about Jesus.
- Second, the followed the signs that let them to Jesus.
- Third, they bowed down in worship when they found Jesus.
This is a great summary of our spiritual journey:
- First, we observe the truth about Christ as recorded in scripture.
- Second, like the Magi, we respond in faith and follow Jesus.
- Third, we bow down before him in worship and submit to him as King and God.
For the Magi, their journey arrived in the successful arrival at their intended destination. Sometimes on the journey of faith, we feel unsure how it's going to go. I remember as a child, sometimes we would strike an object on the motorway and end up on the side of the road, pondering how to repair the car.
We all hit those moments that seem to disrupt our journey. And you may feel like that now - like yo'uve got a flat tyre. The key to getting back on track is to notice that the locus of our spiritual journey is always about Jesus: believing the signs about Jesus, following Jesus, and worshipping Jesus. Wherever we are, one of those is always appropriate.
Regardless of what's going on in your life and where you are on the journey, you can get back on track. First, determine to believe the signs God has given us about the identity, work, and meaning of Jesus. Second, determine to follow him with all your heart. And third, live daily with the attitude of prostration - bowing before him in worship as king and God. If you do these three things, your journey can have a good conclusion.