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“The Misplaced Magi”

This year are you celebrating Christmas or the holidays?  If you look around it seems to be getting more and more difficult to find Christmas among all of the “holiday” celebrations.  To say that it bugs me that some stores require their employees to say “happy holidays” instead of Merry Christmas or that references to the birth of Christ are greatly muted or not present,  is an understatement.  The continual dilution of the Christian faith is absurd.  Oh it is all done in the name of tolerance, which is coming to mean not standing up for anything you believe in, or political correctness, in a time when it is hard to say that much that is political is correct.  But before you begin to think that this is just a column to rant and rave about the ills of the immoral world, which I do think would be easy to write, it is not.  This is a column about how we as Christians mess up the telling of the Christmas story.

Now, we have to be careful here, this type of article in the wrong hands could get a lot of choir directors and Christmas play writers all in a tither, so be careful who you share this with.  Although nativity scenes are a lot less visible today than they were 30 years ago, they are still one of my favorite things, especially the live nativity scenes.   The problem is most of them are inaccurate.  Long pause…deep breath… It’s the wise men.  We portray them all wrong.

First of all, we know there were three gifts, but we don’t know how many wise men there were.   OK, I can live with the three wise men to represent the three gifts, not that big of a deal.  The bigger issue is this, they weren’t there.  The wise men did not show up at the birth of Christ and did not visit at the manger.  They visited Christ at a house and he was described as a child or toddler.  Yes, this means that for years all over this country we have been misplacing the Magi.  They have been present at the birth of Christ in musical presentations for generations, yet they didn’t belong.  Woops?

“Are you kidding me?” was the most memorable and very vocal response I have ever received when I discussed this in a Sunday school class some 15 years ago.  It came from an elderly class member who told me later that she was just dumbfounded at the notion that the wise men weren’t there.  She had never paid attention to the passage to notice.  I would guess that most folks, including me, have been in the same category.

So why is it a big deal?  If we have the Magi in the wrong context, we miss a very important thing.  The shepherds were called by the angels.   They had a traumatic experience and were overcome by the presence of the Heavenly Host which led to them visiting Christ in the manger.  The Magi did not have that experience.  The Magi went looking for the King.  Their journey, on foot and camel, took a long time.  They traveled a long way.  Herod attempted to use them.  I dare say not any of it was easy.  Yet, in the end, they found Christ.  The Magi expended great effort, seeing past much distraction, and found Christ.

So this Christmas, have a little fun.  When you are shopping and someone says “happy holidays”, ask them which holiday.  When they say Christmas, say “Merry Christmas” in return.  Put up a nativity scene, although you may want to put the wise men in a separate room.   But most importantly, this Christmas, do what the wise men did.  Don’t just celebrate the birth of Christ, go looking for Him now.

The same class member told me the summer after that “shocking” class that her wise men had finally made it to Christ.  She said, “They never gave up.”

Have a Merry Christmas!

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