As the long-ago inhabitants of Northern Europe grappled with their cold winters in small huts with large families, they learned to lighten the mood by bringing little evergreens inside their houses. Later in Germany these indoor trees became associated with Christmas, perhaps at the prompting of reformer Martin Luther.
Trees now come in all shapes and sizes—both real and artificial—decorated in every way imaginable. Perched at the top is a star. There may be lights, ornaments, strands of tinsel, and ribbons of garland; but the shape of the tree causes the eyes to travel upward to the star, a symbol of the majestic light that guided the Magi.
The New Testament opens by telling us about this group of astrologers who followed a mysterious star to the crib of the Christ Child (Matthew 2). But it’s more than a historical account or an evocative scene from a pageant; it’s a series of spiritual lessons. Let me give you four attributes of these pilgrims that made them wise.
Students of the Bible
First, these Magi were students of the Bible. We think of them as observers of the stars, but we can safely assume they also knew the writings of the prophet Daniel. They probably poured over the Hebrew Scriptures that Daniel had deposited into the libraries of Babylon and Persia. After all, he was the “chief administrator over all the wise men of Babylon” (Daniel 2:48).
Daniel lived an exceedingly long life and was still active in the days of the Persian Empire. He was a student of the Scriptures, and he himself was a biblical author whose writings were full of Messianic prophecy. We can assume the Magi were familiar with these writings and were looking for the Savior, whom Daniel described as “Messiah the Prince” (Daniel 9:25).
Wise people take time to pour over God’s Word. Amid the frantic festivities of Christmas, they make room in their daily schedule for the quiet reading and studying of the Scriptures, which are full of Christ.
This gives rise to spiritual longing. Daniel’s book ended on a note of mystery as the angel told him: “Go your way, Daniel, for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end” (Daniel 12:9). As the years passed, the Jewish people waited and wondered why the Messiah tarried. Many eventually forgot the promise of His coming and were unprepared when it happened. But among the Magi was a group whose hearts burned for the fulfillment of the promise they had studied.
Like the Magi, we should study God’s Word with a sense of longing and anticipation for His coming. They were awaiting His first coming; we’re awaiting His return. But the Bible tells us not to grow weary but to look for and hasten “the coming of the day of God…. For new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:12-13). Oh, how wonderful to study the Bible with a sense of His presence and a longing for His return!
That leads to a persistent following. Since the exact location and identity of the Magi are hard to establish, we aren’t sure of their point of origin, but their journey was probably as the song says, “over field and fountain, moor and mountain.” Coming to Jerusalem, they created a sensation by asking about a newborn “King of the Jews.” From there they proceeded to Bethlehem, following the star. When we study God’s Word and long for His coming, it leads to daily perseverance and determined obedience. Like the Magi, we should follow His light wherever it leads.
Joy, Worship, and Giving
The result is a response of joy, worship, and giving. Matthew 2:10-11 says, “They rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And…presented gifts to Him.”
It’s the same with us.
During the holidays when so much competes for your attention, lift your eyes to the top of your tree. Remember the star. Take time for Him. Study His Word. Long for His presence and His appearing. Follow Him daily, and be filled with joy, worship, and generosity. That’s what happens when our eyes travel upward toward the star that leads to Jesus.
David Jeremiah is the senior pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church and the founder and host of Turning Point for God. For more information about Dr. Jeremiah or Turning Point, visit www.DavidJeremiah.org.
Hope! We feel it as cold, blustery days turn to warm, sunny ones each spring. While we revel in the hope we find as the seasons change, we are reminded of an even greater hope—the spiritual hope we have because of Easter! Prepare your heart for Easter this year and for years to come with David Jeremiah’s new book, Season of Hope. This book is designed to encourage you as you anticipate the celebration of Christ’s resurrection from the dead and the indescribable hope that it brings to our lives. This new resource is filled with devotionals, articles, and other content to fill you with hope each Easter season.