If I asked you to participate in the game of FIND THE MISFIT in the following list: The Three Kings, a Wise Guy with a Bow Tie, Wise Men from the East, and The Magi, what would you answer? Let’s examine a familiar Christmas carol, the Holy Bible, cultural history, and family tradition. Then let’s see if your answer is correct!
Most of you are acquainted with the Christmas carol WE THREE KINGS OF ORIENT ARE which, in words and music, fills our minds with three royal individuals in flowing robes and bejeweled crowns travelling on camelback from a far eastern country. There is a brilliant star in the sky serving as their guiding light. Its direction is toward the country of Judea where Jewish people of the New Testament are under the rule of the Roman Empire, governed in this area by a King Herod.
The narration of the carol is that each king brought a gift of great worth to present to the Baby Jesus: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And most artists’ renditions of that happening show the Infant Jesus still using an animal eating trough, or manger, as his bed with shepherds and angels in attendance as well as His mother Mary and Joseph. This was surely a convenience for the artists to have everyone coming to the great event of Christ’s birth at the same time. However, many countries of the world celebrate the Kings’ arriving to Bethlehem on Twelfth Night or January 6.
What does the Holy Bible say? The Gospel of Matthew in the New Testament calls these men “. . . wise men from the east . . .” (Matthew 2:1 KJV) and does not specify how many there were. According to the Bible, when they got to Jerusalem in Judea, they started asking where the Baby was who was going to be King of the Jews. You can imagine what a startling question this was for King Herod as he must have feared an uprising among the oppressed Jewish population. So he inquired of his own scholars where such a Child might be born and was informed that the Old Testament prophet Micah had predicted that the Jewish King and Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me One who will be ruler over Israel . . .” (Micah 5:2 NIV).
King Herod privately met with the Wise Men from the East and sent them on to Bethlehem, saying to them, “Go and search diligently for the Young Child; and when ye (you) have found Him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship Him also” (Matthew 2:8 KJV). The verses which follow in this second chapter of Matthew tell us that the Wise Men did indeed find the Child with his mother Mary in a house where they bowed down to worship Him and presented their three gifts.
When two years passed and the Wise Men did not return to King Herod, an angry Herod ordered the slaying of all the boys two and under who were in Bethlehem and its vicinity. But God’s plan was not thwarted. Joseph was warned in a dream to take Jesus and Mary to live in Egypt until King Herod’s death. They travelled to Egypt and stayed there until King Herod died. Then, the Holy Family made its way back toward Israel. However, ultimately the boy Jesus grew up in the city of Nazareth in Galilee as Joseph followed the leadership of God through other dreams.
Which answer is THE MISFIT to my original question? If you answered “Wise Guy with a Bow Tie,” you are probably in the good company of just about everyone else reading this. However, none of the answers is a MISFIT! The Wise Men of the Bible have long also been called The Three Kings and The Magi. How does a Wise Guy with a Bow Tie fit in? The Wise Guy with a Bow Tie that I’m talking about is about seven inches tall and is made of papier-mâché. He wears not only a long flowing blue robe and a crown on his head but also a bow tie!
Let me explain. My family has long observed our Christmas Eve tradition of family worship at home, sharing of favorite foods, and the exchange of small gifts. During the family worship, usually I am the one reading the Holy Bible’s account of events surrounding the birth of Jesus, using an over-sized King James Version edition. As I read, the other adults instruct the children how to move about the small papier-mâché figurines at the appropriate time to coordinate with the Scripture readings—shepherds and sheep somewhere on the carpet in a make-believe field, Mary, Joseph, and Baby Jesus off to the side, kings and camels in their eastern country, angels ready to make their appearance and a small wooden stable as the focal point. The sequenced events are spotlighted by a flashlight held by a child chosen for that coveted assignment. And, of course, we sing carols as we play piano, flute and other instruments for much of the evening.
One year after the holidays as I was packing away the manger scene, lo and behold, there was the tallest upright wise man with a perfectly sized red polka-dot bow tie tucked under his chin! One of the grandchildren, unbeknownst to me, had used his creativity to further dress up the royal figure by borrowing a stick-on fashion accessory from the Christmas tree gingerbread man! It’s great to share with you that funny family story. But it is also great to share a moment of serious thought.
As you prepare to participate in festivities of the holiday season, I hope there will be time to reflect whether privately, as a family, or with your church congregation on the Christ in Christmas. The Baby Jesus who is so appealing in our Christmas carols grew up to be the bleeding, crucified Christ on the cross, yet also the risen Savior, scorned by many but embraced by others as the perfection of God’s plan for the redemption of all who believe in Him and commit their lives to Him.
If God has touched your heart as you have read this devotional, ask Him to lead you to a trusted Christian who will be able to give you biblical answers and instruction. But right now you can pray a prayer similar to this one that follows.
Dear God. I feel that there is something missing in my life. I want to have an assurance of peace in my heart in this life on earth and an existence with You in the afterlife in heaven. Forgive me for every wrong act I have ever done as I trust You to become my personal Friend. In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
A Christmas Carol Devotional
By Connie Carlisle Polley, 2018-2019
From Events Described in The Holy Bible
In Matthew 2:1-23
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