A lesson from the Magi

Published 12:21 pm Friday, December 7, 2012

I’ve heard this a few times in various versions, but the basic idea is the same:

“One definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

In other words, it is pretty crazy to continue the same behaviors, attitudes, actions, etc., and then hope that circumstances will somehow change for the better.

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They won’t.

So why then do we think that each year Christmas will be great, yet end up with a certain level of disappointment on December 26th? Probably because we are still doing the same thing over and over again each year, expecting different results. Then we blame ‘Christmastime,’ like it was the calendar’s fault or something, and nothing ever seems to change.

It’s enough to drive anyone crazy. So are you ready to break free from Yuletide insanity?

There was a group of people who ‘got’ Christmas, and if we follow their pattern — I can just about guarantee that a great holiday time will be had by all.

This band of unbelieving brothers had been waiting for the first Christmas for a very long time. The rumor about the King of all Kings coming to earth had been circulating for hundreds of years, so when the gossip turned into gospel truth, you better believe these folks were ready to hit the trail.

I’m talking about the Magi who came to visit the newborn Jesus — and here is their story:

Jesus was born in the town of Bethlehem in Judea, during the reign of King Herod. About that time some wise men from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We have seen his star as it arose, and we have come to worship him.” Herod was deeply disturbed by their question, as was all of Jerusalem. He called a meeting of the leading priests and teachers of religious law. “Where did the prophets say the Messiah would be born?” he asked them.

“In Bethlehem,” they said, “for this is what the prophet wrote:

`O Bethlehem of Judah,
you are not just a lowly village in Judah,
for a ruler will come from you
who will be the shepherd for my people Israel.’”

Then Herod sent a private message to the wise men, asking them to come see him. At this meeting he learned the exact time when they first saw the star. Then he told them, “Go to Bethlehem and search carefully for the child. And when you find him, come back and tell me so that I can go and worship him, too!”

After this interview the wise men went their way. Once again the star appeared to them, guiding them to Bethlehem. It went ahead of them and stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were filled with joy! They entered the house where the child and his mother, Mary, were, and they fell down before him and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasure chests and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. But when it was time to leave, they went home another way, because God had warned them in a dream not to return to Herod. (Matthew 2:1-12 NLT)

Some versions of the Bible call these persons “wise men” or “scholars,” but make no mistake about it: the Magi were not a bunch of nerdy bookworms who had nothing better to do than take a trip across the desert to offload some strange gifts. Let me help you understand them using a modern analogy:

Magi = Jedi

That’s right — these guys were bad to the bone. They knew history, science, astrology, medicine, you name it. I doubt they had light sabers, but I’m sure they carried very cool walking sticks.

Their order had been informed by the prophet Daniel hundreds of years ago that one day a star would appear and take them to the newborn Ruler of the universe. Go figure — they paid attention! So one night, a brand new star appears in a strange place, and the Magi are out the door.

Back for a minute to our original problem with Christmas. It can be summed up in a single word: expectations. We build up this holiday in our minds to the point that the smallest issue blows the whole deal up. We want a white Christmas, the perfect gifts, the family to get along (even though they haven’t for the other 364 days of the year — but maybe for just one day?), and a certain mystical magical merry mood to simply overtake our emotions.

I imagine the Magi had built up some expectations for that day as well. They were going to meet the King of Kings — so in their mind there would be media coverage, a huge parade, a blowout party at the palace, and enough Jesus souvenirs to fill a small eastern nation.

Then they got there, and found a mother and her baby … end of story.

By all human standards, they should have been completely bummed. After all, they had traveled a massive distance, brought some incredible gifts, and expected to see a royal procession.

Yet instead, they were filled with joy, and fell down on their knees worshipping Christ the Lord.

Their Christmas was completely unforgettable because they took their eyes off the circumstances and put them square onto the Savior.

So what if everything didn’t go as planned — they were in the presence of Jesus … does anything else matter?

No, it doesn’t. It may not be a white Christmas, people may be impossible, lines will be long and the presents might be one step above a lump of coal. It doesn’t matter folks -— you are called to worship the Lord of all and give Him the gift of yourself.

So spend a little time each day getting away from the crowds and closer to the King. Worship Him with music, writing, prayer, and even in silence.

You want a better Christmas season this year? Let go of what you can’t control, and imagine being a Magi. It won’t change circumstances, but it will change the results that you have experienced year after year.