Today we come to the sixth letter of the Christmas song made famous by Jim Reeves, C-H-R-I-S-T-M-A-S. If you have been following this series, you already know I am looking a bit beyond the word used to identify the letter in the word Christmas in the lyrics. If you’re curious about the other letters before “T” and missed them, you can go back and check them out on my website.
When we consider the words beginning with “T” associated with Christmas, we can find a number of words that probably come to your mind. Here’s my list: tidings, tinsel, toboggan, toys, tradition, trees, trimmings, trips, and togetherness. In the song that creates the structure of this series “T” stands for three wise men (sometimes referred to as three kings).
This visit of the wise men, magi, or kings as they have variously been called shifts the scene from Luke’s narrative of the shepherds in the fields and the angelic host. The scene of the wise men actually occurs later because scripture points to Joseph, Mary, and Jesus being in a house in Bethlehem when they arrive, not the manger where the shepherds visit. The exact length of time is something that scholars debate even as they do who they were specifically and their origin.
What are some of the things that make their part of the story of Christmas significant?
The first thing to note is they followed a strange star that some now suggest may have been a comet or an asteroid of some sort. The second clear statement in scripture is that they came from a distance to worship Him. Wow! That makes evident they recognized He was of great importance and worthy of worship and a long trek to get there.
Some had thought these wise men were astrologers or astronomers. They also surmise these were men of position. What is interesting to remember is that Matthew’s gospel where the account appears does not say there were three of them. Tradition passed on by songs, poems, and art has shown three, but that may have been related to the number of gifts (3) presented (gold, frankincense, and myrrh). Their standing or position may also be deduced because these gifts were things that were costly and could not have been afforded by poor men.
Consider those gifts for a moment.
Gold was not only costly, but may have been considered for its purity and to connect with His royal kingship. Frankincense was expensive and still can be. Its uses included incense and could represent the fragrance of the life of Christ. Most interesting of all was myrrh, a spice used in embalming. It seems certain these wise men did not go to the local bazaar and pick up random gifts. These appear to be thought out and be representations of their awareness of the person they hoped to see.
What data we do see suggests the men were Gentiles. Scholars speculate about their origin perhaps being northeast of Babylon, Arabia, or Mesopotamia.
But let’s pause and consider that experts believe these men who were studying and watching the stars in the heavens saw several conjunctions of Jupiter, a planet considered to represent kingship, along with Saturn and Mars. Some go on to theorize God may have organized the whole solar system and universe in a way that would signify the birth of Jesus. Because stars and planets naturally travel from east to west across the heavens, others wonder if the “star” these wise men saw and led them to a specific house in Bethlehem was the Shekinah glory of God, the same one that led the children of Israel through the wilderness.
Whatever the facts are these are fascinating things to consider beyond simply singing about the “three wise men who came from afar” or “three kings of the Orient.”
What impacts me even above all of these is that these men were seekers of Jesus and not casual ones at that. They must have been students of not only the stars and planets and their meanings, but of prophecies they read about even if they represented a people and culture that were not their own. They were intentional and serious about their deductions as corroborated by traveling a great distance and the choices of gifts. They were wise as well because when Herod asked them to point him to where the child was, they did not comply and instead followed God’s warning in a dream not to return to Herod.
The truth of their seeking reminds me of Jeremiah’s words in Jeremiah 29:13-14a (ESV):
13 You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you, declares the Lord…”
As Judith Kunst says in The Burning Word: “Turn it and turn it again,” the Talmud says of the scriptures, “for everything is contained therein.”
When I reflect on all these things, I am provoked to consider the value of study and seeking the Lord even as a believer. Both Old and New Testament passages repeat the admonition to seek the Lord, it signals that I am to be intentional in my pursuit of my relationship with Him.
New Testament passages that come to the forefront are:
Matthew 7:7-8 (ESV)
“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. “For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.”
Luke 12:31 (NASB)
“But seek His kingdom, and these things will be added to you.”
Matthew 13:44-46 (ESV)
“The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid again; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls, and upon finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.
There is an old adage that says, “Wise men still seek Him.”
In the midst of the trappings of Christmas, will we take time to still seek Him?