Sunday, November 23, 2014

How many wise men were there?

Have you started playing Christmas music yet? My sister and I usually bar ourselves from playing Christmas music until after Thanksgiving, but this year is an exception - we're ready for it!

These days, there is no shortage of styles, versions, and variations on the old familiar carols (and there are a lot of good new ones, too!). For many, the lyrics are great reminders of Truth from the Bible. But others? Well, Chuck made a great point in church this morning: some carols focus more on tradition than Truth.

For example, in "We Three Kings," the carol talks about three kings from the Orient. If you press pause on the song and reach for your Bible, you will find no reference to three kings. In Matthew's gospel, the only kings mentioned are King Herod (evil) and King Jesus (righteous). Tradition also has it that there were three magi. Well, the number three was never mentioned. We know there was more than one because of the plural noun used (magi), but there could have been two or seven or twelve. The only time "three" is mentioned is when it comes to the gifts they brought.

The message from this morning? Make sure we study the Word first and don't rely on even tradition to teach the Truth.

Speaking of truth, each year I like to focus on a different person in the Christmas story and look at the events from their perspective. I had not decided on that person until this morning. As Chuck described the three gifts of the (two/seven/twelve) magi, a cord was struck in my heart as I considered how Mary would have perceived these gifts for her son.

  1. Gold: a precious metal, gold was given to kings and so this signified Jesus' authority as King
  2. Frankincense: a costly oil (usually reserved for priests) signified Jesus' authority as High Priest
  3. Myrrh: aromatic spices used for anointing and embalming the dead, signifying Jesus' purpose on earth - He came to die
It was this last point that stuck out to me. Mary, sweet, young Mary, was chosen to be the mother of Jesus. Though an honor, it was not an easy road. The three gifts of the magi were symbolic for this child who was born to save the world. She must have been proud and honored to see the gifts of gold and frankincense, knowing that this child was the Savior. 

But she must have caught her breath when she saw the myrrh. The angel of the Lord told her, "You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give Him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David, and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever; His kingdom will never end"(Luke 1:31-33). 

I'm sure she wondered how this could be? Why would the magi bring this gift to a child (a King) whose kingdom would never end? 

Mary must have had many questions throughout Jesus' life. And yet, she wisely placed them all in God's hands: "I am the Lord's servant[...]May your word to me be fulfilled" (Luke 1:38).

And so, I will focus on Mary this season - on the word from the Lord she received, the questions that must have filled her mind and heart, and her ultimate decision to trust Him.