"Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the reign of King Herod.
About that time some wise men from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him.”
Awww, the wise men. The grand finale of every Christmas pageant.
What an entrance they make! Undoubtedly, they always have the best costumes in the whole pageant. Accompanied by camels, they come down the main aisle carrying their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Then their curtain falls, and we all eat Christmas cookies.
Still, there is so much more we can learn from their story. Let's take a minute and imagine....
I can almost see it now—a group of astrologers sitting around talking about the star that appeared over Bethlehem.
“That star is amazing.”
“I wonder what it means.”
“Wouldn’t it be great to go and see?”
Before long, they had their hands in the air, giving high-fives as they said, “Road Trip!!!”
Okay, maybe my description of the wise men is a little more American cowboy than ancient Eastern, but you have to admit, this was the ultimate road trip! Researchers aren’t exactly sure, but the estimates range from 40 days to 2 years of travel! (That’s a looong trip.)
Shortly after they arrived in Jerusalem, Matthew tells us that King Herod wanted to speak to them secretly. He’d heard about their trip and was very disturbed, but he didn’t want them to know that. Instead, he pretended like he, too, wanted to meet the new king so he could worship Him. He told them to let them know as soon as they found the baby.
But there was just something about King Herod that the wise men didn’t trust. Again, I can hear their conversation:
“Dude (because all wise men call each other ‘dude’), was there something weird about that guy?”
“Yeah, he seemed a little crazy to me. Nut-job!”
“There’s just something about him I don’t trust.”
Moving on from King Herod, the wise men continued following the star until they found the home of Mary, Joseph, and the One they were searching for: Jesus.
Matthew tells us:
“On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.” (Matthew 2:11-12, NIV)
Often read these verses as part of the Christmas story without really thinking about the danger the wise men put themselves in by choosing to disobey Herod. However, their story continued in real life as they chose to obey God’s warning that Herod wanted to kill Jesus (Matthew 2:13). When they decided to go in another direction, we can assume that King Herod, who was known to execute people (including one of his wives), was furious with them! By going in another direction, they put their own lives at risk.
Yet, they still obeyed God.
There are several lessons we can learn from the story of the wise men:
First, God’s plans aren’t always the same as our plans.
The wise men were on a journey to find a new king. Instead, they met crazy king Herod and a baby living in a house with his parents. Not exactly what they were expecting.
Second, God’s plans for our lives often carry a more significant purpose than we plan.
We don’t know what the wise men intended when they brought their gifts to Jesus. However, I doubt they ever imagined that their gifts would provide a poor Jewish couple with the means to escape an evil king and sustain themselves for two years in Egypt.
Yet, that was God’s plan. He took their gift and used it to preserve the Messiah, Who would die for the sins of the world. I’m sure that’s more than they EVER imagined.
Finally, following God isn’t always the easy road we expect.
When the wise men left their homes, I’m sure they thought they’d anticipated everything they needed for their journey. Water, food, money, supplies…they thought they’d planned for it all. Still, I’m sure they never planned for a crazy king who wanted to annihilate babies. I’m sure they didn’t plan for God to warn them in a dream to go a different route and disobey the king. All of these were God-ordained detours.
The wise men followed God’s plan. They obeyed Him and played a key role in His plan.
Today, they inspire us to be people who are willing to obey God even when He changes our plans. When He asks us to travel a more challenging road, even a road that seems more dangerous, will we obey, believing that He knows best?
Will we follow not just a star, but the One Who created the stars, and let Him do more with your life than your could ever imagine?
Adessa Holden is an ordained minister with the Assemblies of God specializing in Women's Ministry. Together with her brother, Jamie, they manage 4One Ministries and travel the East Coast speaking, holding conferences, and producing Men's and Women's resources that provide practical Biblical teaching for everyday life.
Adessa absolutely loves Christmas!!! Her favorite things are decorating the Christmas trees (yeah, she puts up four in early November), watching Christmas movies, and driving around looking at lights. You can read more from her at adessaholden.com or listen to the "Girl, That'll Preach" Christmas Spectacular wherever you get your podcasts.