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Learning the Wisdom of the Wise Men

There is a kind of knowing that’s hard to explain. It’s a truth beyond knowing; an awareness that is so real and convicting that you can’t help but embrace it.



Before Jesus was born, a star appeared. It may have been there all along or maybe it just appeared one day. As with matters of faith and the heart, it’s hard to say for sure. In any event, one day it was noticed by some men in the East. Preacher Barbara Brown Taylor describes it this way:


“Once upon a time there were some very wise men who were all sitting in their own countries minding their own business when a bright star lodged in the right eye of each of them. It was so bright that none of them could tell whether it was burning in the sky or in their own imagination, but they were wise enough to know that it didn’t matter. The point was, something beyond them was calling them, and it was a tug they had been waiting for all their lives.”*


We don’t know much about these wise men but their story has been captivating poets and artists and scholars ever since. Longfellow even gave them names. They have been called Wise Men and Three Kings, and Magi. The truth is we do not know their names of what they looked like or even how many of them there were. We do know that they were not kings but they were from a different part of the world and that they had the reputation of being wise.


Isn’t that something we all need? Of course it’s nice if you have good looks or financial resources or the admiration of others but wisdom trumps them all. It can endure aging, fickle markets, or the fragility of life and relationships.


One of the things I love about the story of the Magi is that their wisdom is collaborative, active, and intuitive. When they discover others with the same vision they join forces and go together. There is not a great battle to determine who should go on to discover the treasure on the other side of the star. When the moment comes, they see the star and follow it together.


It was extremely difficult to travel in those days and moreover, they were foreigners in a foreign land. I wonder how may times they considered turning around? Surely someone had told them before they left, “Are you crazy? You want to follow a star!” When their throat was dry and their feet were aching and yet one more obstacle lie before them, those words must have rung in their ears again, “Are you crazy? You want to follow a star!”


Yet they kept going. And you know that’s the thing about wisdom. You never fully arrive. You have to keep going. There is something intuitive about it. There is a kind of knowing that’s hard to explain. It’s a truth beyond knowing; an awareness that is so real and convicting that you can’t help but embrace it. When you do, it changes you.


The wise men set out to find a king. First the star led them to the palace of King Herod. The setting must have looked like what they may had imagined. Herod occupied a place worthy of a king yet they knew he was not the one. In fact they asked for his help saying, “Do know where we can find the one born as the king of Jews?”


Herod consulted his experts, the scribes. They shared that they knew of something in the book of Micah that talked about a new ruler for Israel being born in Bethlehem.** Upon hearing this, the wise men kept going, the star led them to both less and more than they could have imagined. They found a child living humbling in an unexpected place. There was not a palace with a grand entrance or any of the extravagance affiliated with a king, yet they seemed to know that Jesus was they one they had been seeking. They entered the place where he was staying. When they saw him, they recognized him as king and they were moved to worship him.


Is there something beyond calling you?


Only the true king, Jesus our Lord, can lead you to the light. He is the light of the world. He alone is wisdom. Stick close to him. Trust in him and follow.


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* Barbara Brown Taylor, Home By Another Way

** Matthew 2:1-12, Micah 5:2


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