May all who seek you rejoice and be glad…Psalm 40:16
True confessions –like many of you, my nativity set includes three wise men. I know that their visit was likely a year or more after the event in the stable, but I like the visual of both rich and poor, wise men and shepherds, those from faraway lands and nearby fields, all worshiping together at the manger. It brings to mind the passage in Revelation 5 when God has purchased those from “every tribe and language and people and nation” to serve as priests in God’s kingdom. The incarnation was for everyone.
Last night I dreamed I was about to drive off the edge of a cliff. I say “about to” because, as is often the case in this type of dream, I woke up at just the right time to avoid crashing. Because of this, Matthew's passage (Matthew 2:1-23) which said the wise men (and later, Joseph) were “warned in a dream” stood out in stark relief against the background of the story. How did they know they were receiving wise counsel during the night, as opposed to, say, reacting to some spicy pizza? What made the wise men “wise?”
Their story begins with the clue that “they came…asking.” For some reason, they knew that the star in the sky had significance. This “star of wonder” did not just cause awe and amazement, but it made them “wonder” what they should do about it! Following the star (and perhaps some astrological charts and kingdom prophecies), they came to Jerusalem asking “Where is the child? We have come to worship.” They are seeking to know the God who created this star, the God who communicates through creation, as well as through dreams.
King Herod gets wind of their questions around town and learns of the “ruler who will shepherd Israel.”Herod feels threatened by this other king and calls the wise men in to find out more. The wise men don’t know of Herod’s plan for evil and continue seeking. They are willing to search long and far in order to worship this king. When they see the star over the home where Jesus was, they are “overwhelmed with joy.” They “knelt down” to pay homage; the child was exalted. They gave lavish, expensive gifts (and traveled a long way to give them); their worship required sacrifice.
All of this gives me pause as I consider my own life. Modern assumptions about the sufficiency of scripture and confidence in all I’ve studied may lead me to conclude I already have the answers. But “they came asking.” Am I truly seeking out this king-child Jesus? Am I looking for Jesus in those around me, expectant of his presence? Or have I become complacent in the incarnation story, lazy in its familiarity? The story of the Magi reminds us that Jesus welcomes those who are asking and seeking. In fact, later in Matthew’s gospel we read that Jesus encourages such asking – he reminds us that “everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds” (Matt 7:8). Even skeptics full of doubt are welcome at the manger.
The Magi search is rewarded with the presence of the king, and their joy leads to worship. The scene here reminds me of one in Revelation 4 where the 24 elders fall at the throne, casting their crowns at the foot of the one who lives forever. This is a beautiful word picture. When you think of a crown, don’t you think of royalty, and riches, and diamonds?Something you would value highly? But like the wise men in Matthew 2, the elders in Revelation lay down their crowns…their symbols of leadership, power, and possession. When we ask, we may find that some of the answers are hard. Does our own seeking lead to joyful, extravagant worship? Are we willing to lay down our crowns at the feet of the child-king?
As we wind down these last few days before Christmas, I am thankful for Advent reminders to wait, to watch, to seek, to ask. Don’t fall prey to the constant clamor to do and buy more. Our waiting and seeking will be rewarded. The Psalmist reminds us:
Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? And who shall stand in his holy place? Those who have clean hands and pure hearts… They will receive blessing from the Lord and vindication from the God of their salvation. Such is the company of those who seek him, Who seek the face of the God of Jacob.
Are you asking and seeking after Jesus this week? You are in good company.
Dawn Gentry Johnson City, TN MDIV student at Emmanuel Christian Seminary Member of Grandview Christian Church