Backroads to Christmas

By |2016-12-22T13:44:07+00:00December 22nd, 2016|Worship|

These words are for the person who’s ready for Christmas to begin, and for the one who’s ready for it to be over.

These words are for someone who woke up this morning like, “Whoa. CHRISTMAS IS IN THREE DAYS. I still need to grocery shop, clean the house, wrap four more presents, finish a work project, bake something edible for an upcoming gathering, move the elf for the millionth time, pack, and not-so-patiently wait for the UPS man/lady to show up on my doorstep with that last-minute order from Amazon Prime. STAT.”

These words are for the guy or gal who loves Christmas, loves Jesus, loves remembering His humble and miraculous birth those many years ago. But you’re sick of the streamlined hustle, tired from running on coffee, and desperate for business as usual to recommence on December 26th (or at least by the new year).

We could all just use a deep breath.

The wide, crowded road to holiday happiness beckons from a thousand hollow directions. It’s landscaped with sparkly bows, shiny presents, and an overloaded to-do list. But another subtle whisper in the pit of our souls calls to us from the backroads—from off the beaten path. It’s a simpler kind of Christmas, yet desperately refreshing.

We’re reminded of that starry night when heaven crashed into earth in the form of a baby. The true story that’s been remarkably preserved and passed down over 2,000 years. The start of a new, redemptive chapter in the middle of our broken story. The Christmas Story. Most of us have read it or heard about it for years upon end, but I love trying to drop my imagination right into the thick of it and discover what has fallen beneath the surface.

There are many fascinating angles regarding the events surrounding Jesus’ birthday, but today I want to focus on one particular group: THE WISE MEN.

As you probably know, the wise men—also known as the magi, the advisers, the dudes from a faraway place—followed a star to see baby Jesus. They’re famous for the three gifts they gave Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh (which were precious metals, incense, and spices of that time).

There are several misconceptions about the “three wise men.” First off, that number is made up. The Bible never says there were three men, but three gifts, which is why we assume the same number in attendance. But the truth is, no one really knows. Second, your average nativity scene often puts these men inside the stable walls, star gleaming over Jesus’ dusty delivery room, but Matthew 2:11 clearly states that these men visited the child in a house—possibly days or months later.

You can read the whole backstory HERE, but here’s the summary:

These wise men showed up in Jerusalem from eastern lands, asking, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose and have come to worship him.” Well, King Herod was not happy to hear that a baby king could threaten his throne and authority. He got a tip from the religious leaders on where this predicted Messiah was supposed to be born: Bethlehem.

I find it interesting, by the way, that they relied heavily on Biblical prophecy while still denying it’s ultimate power.

Then Herod called a private meeting with these wise men, learning when the star first appeared. The wise men went on to find and worship this baby king in Bethlehem, but Herod sent soldiers to kill (yes, to kill) all the baby boys in and around Bethlehem who were two years old and younger, based on the wise men’s report of the star’s first appearance.

Scholars believe these men probably came from Babylon, Persia, or Arabia. But regardless of where they came from, they traveled a painfully long way. There were no airplanes, no iPads, no Google Maps, no SUV’s with butt-warmers at this time, of course. Traveling meant traveling hard, because there was no other way.

And I can’t help but wonder: What would entice these wealthy, knowledgable, reputable, astronomy experts to take on such an expedition? Days and months—possibly years—traveling hundreds, if not thousands of miles on donkeyback (yes, I just made up that word). Did an angel appear to them? Were they given a vision or a dream? Or were they just so acquainted the prophecies in scripture that they were looking for his star and birth to arise?

We don’t know.

Whoever these wise men were, they were obviously important. I mean, come on—you don’t get the title wise slapped on your profile description for nothing. Being the prominent influencers they appear to have been, surely they had many significant projects, duties, responsibilities, and leadership obligations going on in their lives.

Yet they were compelled to stop everything, and go.

They pressed pause on whatever they had going on, whatever relationships they were involved in, to follow a star in search of the prophesied Savior. How did they know the star would lead them to their king? Again, we don’t know. Maybe they weren’t even sure. But it was important enough for them to leave their comfortable foundations for the questionable backroads—and that’s exactly what they did.

Here’s my point: These men traveled a heck of a long way to simply bow before Jesus and put gifts at his feet, and I think we should learn something from that. Sometimes, God takes us on a journey that is solely about worshipping Him. It might not feel productive. Maybe it’s not the most efficient thing in the world. It might take some sacrifice (actually, it most definitely will). Some might even call it a waste of time.

But there’s something powerful about a heart that will chase after Jesus down the unknown, even treacherous backroads—expectant to worship Him.

And you are invited—right now, wherever you are—to stop. Stop the wrapping, stop the to-do list, stop the running and hustling and scrambling. In the middle of your kids arguing, in the middle of a bad medical report, in the middle of a crumbling road. In your pajamas, in your business suit, in your uniform, in your yoga pants.

You can stop—for a morning, for a minute, for a moment.

And give all the glory and honor and praise to Him.