Christmas, a mass celebration of Christ, is one of the memorable Christian festivals that is celebrated worldwide to remember the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ who entered into this world through the womb of the virgin Mary. God implanted the seed of His Son—Jesus Christ—into the flesh of Mary so that Jesus would enter the world through the accepted means. The Christmas story marks the entrance of Jesus Christ in the activities of humankind in human form. This happened some 2000 years ago. The essence is for humanity who has fallen short of God’s glory because of sin to be restored through the saviour’s blood. God gave us the saviour because of his love for the world.
Yearly, Christians celebrate Christmas out of gratitude for what God did and is still doing, by giving to us Jesus. During such times, believers remember Jesus’ birth by giving each other gifts, worshiping him, and being especially conscious of the poor and less fortunate. During such periods, believers anticipate God’s visitation to cause them to ‘conceive’ treasures from above as Mary conceived Jesus. Some heavenly treasures could be wisdom, healing, business opportunities, marriage, and others.
Technically speaking, December 25 is the day earmarked for the celebration of Jesus’ birthday. Arguments are surrounding this day as to whether Jesus was really born or not on December 25. In spite of all these, the most important part of the story is that Jesus was born, and he lived among men. Fixing his birthday anywhere does not negate the fact that our saviour came into the world.
Now that the celebration of Jesus’ birthday (December 25) is passed, what must Christians do afterward? What must believers do after celebrating Christmas? In other words, after observing the birth of Jesus which is an event so to speak, what must believers do as lifelong activities? In short, “After Christmas, what next?” This write-up seeks to help Christians to know what must be done after observing Jesus’ birthday. Lessons are taken from the wise men (Magi), I prefer using the former in this study to guide us to live as ‘wise men’ by following their examples as they followed the leadings of God in search for Jesus after birth.
Who is a Wise Man?
Merriam-Webster Dictionary gives more than one definition of who a wise man is. One of them is that a wise man is a man of unusual learning, judgment, or insight. Wise men are people who are highly respected in their communities, for they speak wisdom and their messages carry weight. They comport themselves were well, hence makes it difficult for people to speak ill of them. They are thinkers and intellectuals in nature. Because of this, people look to them as mentors in life. Solomon opines that a wise man is very cautious, fears the Lord and does not condone evil (Prov. 14:16). Adam Clarke adds that such a person can never trust in himself, though he can be satisfied from himself. He knows that his sufficiency is of God; and he has that fear that causes him to depart from evil, which is a guardian to the love he feels. Love renders him cautious. This caution leads him from sin, and his confidence leads him to God. Out of fear of harm, Matthew Henry asserts they keep out of harm’s way, and stand in a fright when they find themselves entering into temptation. Adding on, John Wesley believes that wise men have all these qualities because they tremble at God’s judgments when they are either inflicted or threatened.
The Wise Men
Generally, it is assumed that there were three wise men because of the three gifts that were given: gold, incense, and myrrh (Matt 2:11). It must be stated clearly that the Bible does not give any number. There could even be only two, since such a calibre of persons might not be common in a given community. Some even have given the names of the wise men as Gaspar/Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar/Balthazar.
The wise men came days, months, or possibly even years later to Jerusalem to look for Jesus, and not as early as the shepherds did (in Luke 2:8-20). They came from afar—from eastern lands (Matt 2:1), a vague point of origin that left room for many subsequent hypotheses. Some church fathers proposed Arabia on the basis of where the gifts (gold, frankincense, and myrrh) were likely to have originated. Others suggested Chaldea or Media/Persia because Persia had a caste of priests (magi), which would fit the description in Matthew. In a nutshell, the wise men came from a distant place. It is for this reason that Matthew tells his audience that the wise men visited and worshiped Jesus in a house, not at the stable (Matt 2:11). The implication was that when they got to Judea, Jesus had been moved into a house.
The historian Herodotus, together with Plutarch and Strabo suggested that wise men were partly responsible for ritual and cultic life (supervising sacrifices and prayers) and partly responsible as royal advisers to the courts of the East. Herodotus explained this belief by saying the ruler of the East commonly utilized the wise men’s knowledge of astrology and dream interpretation to determine affairs of state. The wise men were, therefore, concerned with what the movement of the stars (as signs and portents) might signify for the future affairs of history.
Such an interest could account not only for the wise men’s interest in the star in Matthew but also their conclusion, shared with Herod, that the star’s appearance signified the birth of a new ruler of great importance (Matt 2:2).
The Visitation by the Wise Men
We are told that the birth of Jesus sent signals to many people including shepherds (according to Luke) and wise men (magi), according to Matthew. Some people find it difficult to get a clear picture of these two groups. While some think they are not different just that the evangelists gave them different identities, others hold that they are not the same. I side with the latter. God intentionally through his agents (angels and star, Lk 2:9; Matt 2:2) broke the news about Jesus’ birth to both the shepherds and wise men. He did it for a reason, all relating to a common meaning. With a Gentile audience, Luke’s focus is on Mary (the favoured, Lk 1:28, 30) and the shepherds (the not favoured, Lk 2:14), while Matthew, with a Jewish audience, is on Joseph (Jew) and the wise men (unbelieving Gentiles). The Jews would have found it difficult to accept Luke’s Gospel for choosing a woman, Mary and the shepherds who were considered ‘perpetually unclean’. Hence, Matthew’s usage of Joseph and the wise men sounded okay to his audience. The essence of these two groups visiting Jesus is for the world to know that Jesus will show God’s favour, love, peace, and bring healing not only to his own (Jews), but to anyone willing to come to him: Jew or Gentile, those near or far, ‘the clean’ or ritually unclean, or the ones who have not even believed in Israel’s God.
Immediately when they received the information about Jesus’ birth and have observed his birthday by acknowledging him as ‘the new born king of the Jews’ (Matt 2:2), the wise men decided to go beyond acknowledging his kingship to search for him (the giver of life). While the shepherds went to Jesus’ birth place earlier because they stayed closer, the wise men came later. From a distant place in far Eastern land, how did the wise men identify where Jesus was? They followed the leadings of God through the star to search for Jesus. Because of time constraints, I will limit myself to the activities of the wise men from their home country to the time they finally saw Jesus to help us know their steps and take a clue. I am doing so because of Solomon’s assertion that when we walk with the wise, we become wise, but associating oneself with fools leads them into trouble (Prov 13:20). This does not literally mean that the shepherds were fools, for they are not our focus of discussion. Not at all! They are also ‘wise men’, for they sought for Jesus. As said earlier, this study is limited to the wise men. Let us identify their footprints in search of Jesus to help us live as such in the days ahead of us.
Activities of the Wise Men
On receiving the news of the birth of the king of the Jews (Jesus) through the appearing of Jesus’ star (that is how the wise men referred to it), the wise men engaged in so many activities till they finally saw Jesus at Bethlehem in Judea. The following are some of their activities or what they encountered.
Wise men immediately set off to search for Jesus and worship him. They never exhibited a lackadaisical attitude but marshalled all their energy and strength to pay homage to Jesus. Not being Jews or believers, the wise men decided to walk through storms, rains, and dust to look for Jesus; they were from a distant place. They did it from their own volition; without compulsion. They did not allow the distance to deter them from undertaking that deadly journey, for they could have been devoured by wild animals. But because their intention to see Jesus was a good one, God ordered their steps till they found Jesus. As Christians, we must eschew laziness and dress up to search for Jesus at all times, irrespective of the times. Jesus offers life daily when all and sundry seek him continually. God through his prophet Jeremiah (29:13) tells us that “If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me.” Let us in humility search for Jesus to receive life and mysteries of life. It is no wonder that during the earthly ministry of Jesus, Gentiles sought to look for him (cf. Jn 12:21). They knew what was in him. We must search for him at all places as well as the temple, where God has placed his name. Jesus could be found anywhere—in homes, schools, workplaces, etc., but here is a place God has put his name where he wants his own to meet and worship him (2 Chr 33:7). Believers must not forsake the gathering of the brethren (Heb 10:25). As the wise men searched for Jesus, so must we do likewise to see the glory of the Lord. We must do so by following the leadings of God.
Wise men leave in humility. The wise men were no ordinary persons so to speak, for their outfits and gifts (gold, incense, and myrrh in Matt 2:11) give a clue of who they were. They were also partly responsible as royal advisers to the courts of the East. They never looked at who they were but made it a point to go and worship the child who was born. This is real humility. In this sober manner, God also made it possible for them to see Jesus. Aside that God exalted them to the point of making them sit with King Herod and the priests when they got to Jerusalem and were looking for Jesus. This affirms James 4:10 statement that when one humbles themselves, God lifts them up. As Christians, we must be humble in all matters that is our holistic Christian walk. In so doing, God will lift us up in all our endeavours, in addition to making us see Jesus.
Wise men look for the king of life to worship him. In their quest of looking for the king of life, their goal was to worship him when found. Waoo! People who are not even Jews and do not relate with Jesus in any way purposed to worship him at the expense of their god. (Looking at where they come from they do not serve the Almighty God). Remember the wise men are not Jews and would not be serving the LORD God Almighty. But their reason to worship Jesus tells that they mean business. Some Christians of late are looking for Jesus, not as the wise men did; their goal for searching for Jesus is other than to worship him. Are you searching for Jesus for material gains? Or for what reason? To receive healing? Or what? Let your reason for searching for Jesus be to worship him. It should not be limited to what you will get as Peter inquired (Matt 19:27; Lk 18:28). Worshipping Jesus is a form of seeking the kingdom of God and its righteousness (Matt 6:33). In so doing, God will add to you the all other things you will need for life and godliness.
Wise men pay attention to God’s leadings. The leadings of God is so clear that if one follows it closely they will not miss their way. God is our guide who leads us on always. He does so perfectly and in many ways. God leads the wise men with a star. This is a miracle! According to scientists (Astronomers), stars do not move. But in this story, we are told that the wise men are led by a star from the Eastern land to Jerusalem. There are always miracles for those who pay close attention to God’s leadings. I pray you will receive a miracle by pursuing the directions of God.
In following the leadings of God, we need not go ahead of him, neither must we fall far from him. Remember, he is our guide. As a tour guide will lead their tourists around to show and explain some tourist sites, so does God lead us in our Christian journey and tell us mysteries. We must neither go ahead of him nor fall far from him; we may miss what he tells us. Remember, he knows the way, and Jesus is the way. Paying attention to the one who knows the way is a done deal, for he will definitely take us home. We must follow the Lord closely with our senses working; he will speak to us and show us things. If we follow him punctiliously, we will know all these. Those who do not pay attention to God’s leadings fall into trouble. I guess you remember the story of the Israelites from Egypt to Canaan, a picture of believers walk to Heaven. Those who failed to follow the directions of God through his servant Moses did not get to Canaan; they died. May it not be said of you!
Words of wise men words, which come from their beliefs trouble wicked rulers and their kingdom (v 3).
Hardly do wise men speak loosely, for they live according to their name tag. They speak wisdom to effect changes and bring transformation. This wisdom comes from God who gives without measure. Wise men use this wisdom to speak against ills to cause people to live an upright lifestyle. This is exactly what the wise men did. On reaching Jerusalem, the star that led them disappeared. In wisdom, they decided to visit the king of the land to greet and inquire of the birth of Jesus. Their words (which were all about Jesus) that came from their mouths brought trouble to the wicked king and his kingdom. Why? On hearing of the birth of Jesus, they did not become okay. For the king knew someone was after him to take away his throne. Being partly Jewish, Herod knew someone with full Jewish descent was after his kingdom. Hence, became troubled. You have received Jesus in your life. Speak the oracles of God to cause trouble among people who have taken over your rightful possession. They have to leave the property for you. God should let it happen. Aside the physical is spiritual. There are times spiritual powers inhabit people to torment and destroy them. But these powers will always fall to the mighty power of God when God’s people speak. With Christ in you, speak to subdue their powers, for God to take over.
This causes rulers and priests to sit up in emergency meetings to conduct research (v 4). The inquiries of the wise men brought work to men—to search for where Jesus was to be born. The rulers and priests who were supposed to know the times and season for the Messiah’s coming had forgotten. Could it be that they had abandoned their assignment of searching through the scriptures? I think your guess is as good as mine. They should have told the king off head immediately they were asked. Well, it is to let us know that when wise men speak, it causes people to sit up for work. As believers, we must also not be like the priests, but must work vigorously and be studious. We should not be like those who do not know Jesus. As the priests forgot the times they found themselves to the extent of forgetting the birth of Jesus, if research had not been conducted, so this can happen to us when we fail to always stay glued to Jesus. Also, now that Jesus who is life is in us, may our messages cause lackadaisical people to work. As Christians, we must make sure things are working as expected; we have life.
Wise men engage in meetings with top officials to give them situational reports about the king of life (vs 4-6).
Who on earth has ever thought that foreigners could hold meetings with top officials without protocols? But it happened. The wise men were able to hold meeting with the king, and later with the others where the place of birth of Jesus was made known. This clearly tells us that anyone who diligently seeks Jesus is elevated to a higher position. Hardly did the natives had meeting with their leaders, but the wise men had the opportunity to have meeting with them. Herod had an ulterior motive of having the secret meeting with them, but it was all to underscore the fact that they were recognised in a foreign land. Be recognised as a true child of God in all spheres of life. Be elevated like the wise men to a position you will be among top management. God will surely let it come through.
Wise men search diligently for the king of life to help the unknown to know.
When the star that was leading them disappeared, the wise men in wisdom, as said earlier, went to inquire from the king of the land. I believe God intentionally made the star to disappear for the wise men to break the announcement of the birth of Jesus to the citizenry through the king; they did not know what was going on. This tells us that as believers anytime we fail to understand the times, God will bring people from nowhere to teach us what to do. We must not let this happen to us. Because God wanted them to be part of the story, God used the wise men to bring in the unknown for them to know. The king and the priest who did not know what was happening were made to know when the wise men paid them a visit to inquire of the birth of Jesus. This also tells us everything that happens to us is for a purpose. The wise men could have blamed God for causing the star to disappear. Or better still, they could have said so many adverse things about God as some Christians often do when they enter into trouble. But they seized the opportunity to inquire from the king. They continued to search for Jesus, and never abandoned their search. It was from this that they had the opportunity to have a meeting with the king. It was God’s way of announcing Jesus’ birth. It affirms that God works in mysterious ways. Some things happen to you for a purpose, to make God’s purpose or plan be fulfilled. We should avoid unnecessary talking and follow the leadings of God. He knows what he does.
Wise men are not cut off from God’s leadings, for the star appeared to them again. After God had brought in the king and his citizenry to hear of the birth story of Jesus, he made the star to appear to them again. Unbelievable! God will never leave his own to suffer loss. Never! He is always on time to save a situation. When he got to know that the wise men would have a challenge, aside bringing in the people, he continued leading them with a star. Note that when the star disappeared, God was still leading them not with the star, but in their steps. Remember what David says: “The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives” (Ps 37:21). God really directed their steps into the king’s palace. This tells us that when we are not seeing physical signs, God will still not leave nor forsaken his own (Deut 31:6). You used to hear God but you do not hear from him anymore. It could be a reason best known to you or otherwise. It happened to Abraham. He did not hear God for some time. After he had separated himself from Lot, the LORD appeared to him again. Set yourself apart from the things that make it difficult for God to show himself to you, and you will hear from him.
Wise men rejoice when they see God’s leadings in their life again.
Immediately they saw the star, a representation of God’s leadings, the wise men became happy. Always be grateful to God when he makes himself available to you. If you are able to have visions and revelations, praise God for it and do not make yourself the champion and the only available person. Be informed that God can use other people. Just be grateful to him for counting you worthy and showing you mysteries. Their (wise men) joy tells us that they were eagerly waiting for the leading of God. We must likewise be eagerly waiting for God to lead us at all times, irrespective of where we find ourselves—workplace, in business meetings, schools, cars, lorry stations, etc.
Wise men enter into Jesus’ house and they see him (v 11).
They finally located the place where Jesus was staying, not in a manger, but a house. This tells us that they met Jesus not at where he was born, but in a house they had relocated to. This is clearly telling us it took more days and months for them to finally get to where Jesus was. God always rewards those who diligently look for him. The writer of Hebrews (11:6) affirms this: “And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.” God will never allow one to work in vain, especially when you are looking for him. He always wants his own to look for him, to give them life. The wise men found Jesus. Their journey finally has come to an end. This tells us that until we find Jesus, we must not stop searching for him. We stop our search when we are done with our life on this world. Oh, yes! Searching for Jesus is not a one-day wonder. You will find him today, but it cannot sustain you throughout. You must continually search for his deep mysteries. No wonder Paul tells us that “I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead!” (Php 3:10-11).
Wise men worship the king of life and give him treasures (vs 11, 12).
How sweet it will be if I happened to be there. The joy that filled their heart on seeing Jesus caused them to give a planned offering or gifts to Jesus. First, was their whole beings given as an offering to Jesus. That is why Paul tells us to present our whole being as a living sacrifice—a true way to worship God (Rom 12:1). This was followed by thoughtfully planned parcels that were possibly not from Jerusalem, but from their home country. Anytime one sees Jesus, the joy in them causes them to give bountifully. They give cheerfully. They do not think of what they have but think of what Jesus will get. They make sure that those working on Jesus will get enough to cater for him and his work. What do you have for Jesus? Offer to him something costly, and not from the abundance of what you have. Everything we have, we received from God. Let’s give our all—body, soul, and might including our resources to Jesus, for with an open arm, he is waiting to receive.
Wise men pay heed to God’s warnings.
The wise men were told not to go back to Herod, for he had a diabolic motive. They hurriedly listened to God’s directions and never took the old route. It might have been difficult if the king had promised them something. But they listened to God’s voice instead of man. We are often confronted with two voices—God’s and man. As the wise men listened to God’s voice, so we must do likewise in order to keep Jesus safe. If they had gone back to Herod, Jesus might have been killed. There are so many things Christians at times do to kill Jesus in our daily living—heeding to the voice of Herod (in this case the devil). We do so because the devil gives us juicy offers that we find it difficult to turn down. Let us heed to God’s voice, for it will give us life and keep Jesus safe.
From the foregoing discussions, we know who wise men are—people who fear God and always make it a duty to search for Jesus. In their search for Jesus, the wise men undertook the assignment with all seriousness and in humility. This made God to reward them by seeing Jesus and holding meetings with people in authority. They worshipped Jesus on seeing him and gave him gifts. They never deviated from God’s leadings to the extent of not using the way that lead to the king’s palace when going back to their country. Their messages caused trouble among wicked rulers and caused them to sit up to hold emergency meetings—towards knowing the place of birth of Jesus.
We have to follow in these footsteps to make us remain wise men in this perverse generation now that we are done with Christmas. Be informed that a true soldier always heeds to the instructions and leadings of his commander. To be successful, we must follow the directions of God in our quest to search for Jesus and to know more of him. After Christmas what next? We must live as wise men who will search for Jesus through the leadings of God to know more of him. “Search for the Lord and for his strength; continually seek him” (1 Chronicles 16:10, 11).
By Pastor Emmanuel Foster Asamoah (Abasraba District, Winneba Area)