Saturday, December 6, 2008

Wise men still seek Him

It's occured to me that all of the people I've been writing about have been seeking the Messiah.  Told one way or another, they watch, wait, and end up face to face with Him, in His humblest form (at least until he was beaten and bloody with nail holes in Him, hanging naked in the sky).  And those I'm writing about today are no different.

Many years ago, my dad and I were in a Christmas Eve play at their church.  I played the innkeeper's wife, but Dad had the lead role in "The Other Wiseman," which, if you know it, is the story of a 4th wiseman who, on His way to see the Christ-child, is repeatedly waylaid by the deep needs of those he encounters.  In the end, when this 'other wiseman'  misses seeing the baby, he is told that he did the greater thing, that he had seen Christ in the people he had stopped to help.  It's a great tale, though not in the gospels, of course, one of those stories you can imagine being true, but probably isn't. 

My dad, for all his great characteristics, for all that I loved him, I can say with certainty that he was not gifted in acting.  Bless his heart.  He had great energy, vigor, and his voice showed passion, but the inflections seemed off to me.  Maybe a little overacted.  But when I think of the wisemen who did follow the star to Bethlehem, I can hear Dad's voice, searching for Him and finding all these other people instead.

Tradition tells us that there were three wisemen.  I don't know if this was the case or not--Matthew's the only one who tells this story and he doesn't say. But the general outline of it is that far, far away in the east, these men saw a star rise in the sky that had a different character than any other star.  Brighter, glowing steadily without moving as the earth turned in space.  Hanging over somewhere west of them.  And being wise, what they gleaned from that light was a King--the promised King of the Jews.  They bundled gifts onto camels (again tradition, not Matthew, is my source for the mode of transportation), and came after it.  Set their minds/hearts/strength/souls on finding the One over whom it shone. 

Instead, they run into the opposite of the Incarnate.  Into evil itself in the form of Herod, who thought two things.  One, that he was king, and two, that the new king born was a competitor for his throne.  As with most people of the age, he thought that a certain kind of king, a warrior-king, had been born.  And this was not to be borne!  So he plots to destroy the baby, dead in its tracks, before it had a chance to grow up and usurp him.

The story of what Herod did as a result is perhaps the most horrifying episodes in Jesus' life.  It's one of the things that trips people up trying to align a loving God with the One who allows the killing of innocence.  I will not here (or ever, I'd guess) try to offer an explanation for the mystery of this.  But I do have a couple of comments.  First, at every point of this story, it is clear that God is intimately involved with it.  He knows the hearts of the wisemen, and He knows the heart of Herod.  And He is not inactive in His knowing.  In a series of dreams, He tells the wisemen to avoid Herod at all costs, and tells Joseph to get that baby out of there.
In this activity of God one thing has long stood out to me--that Herod couldn't kill the baby Jesus.  This may seem too obvious to you, but it has profound implications.  Jesus was never going to die before the proper time. God's plan would not be thwarted. 

And this is also true for you and me.  Despite the enemy's attempts, God is sovereign.  Our times are fully safe in His hands.  Yes, innocent people die.  And as I said, I don't know exactly why God allows what in my finite wisdom, I certainly wouldn't.  But He didn't allow Herod to kill the baby Jesus, and He won't allow Satan to destroy His children, either.  "And this is the will of Him who sent me," Jesus says in John 6:39, "that I shall lose none of all those He has given Me." 

Here's the other thing: the wisemen found what they were looking for, and the evil one did not.  That's the story of these seekers.  And it's our story as well.  We, who seek with earnest, wise (Holy-Spirit wise!) hearts, will find the still point of LIGHT in a turning world, Jesus.  And those who are not wise, those who are evil, will not.  As the saying goes, 'wise men still seek Him.' Which will you be?

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