Distracted by the Details

I admit it – my nativity scene is biblically inaccurate. I have three wise men and a camel next to the shepherds, looking on at the newborn Jesus in a manger. To me, the wise men’s visit to see the Messiah is one of the most fascinating parts of the Christmas story. But without a lot of details, the traditional narrative has filled in some of the gaps.

Based on the biblical account in Matthew 2, we actually don’t know how many wise men visited Jesus or what country they came from. We don’t know how long they traveled or what the star looked like. It’s quite certain that they showed up some time after Jesus was born, not on the night of his birth. The Bible doesn’t even mention any camels.

It’s tempting to get caught up in trying to figure out these missing details. Years ago, I visited a planetarium presentation featuring several theories about which historical celestial activity may have been the star that the wise men saw. Scholars have debated for years the magi’s country of origin and the timing of their visit. The various theories are all fascinating and there is nothing wrong with digging in to the particulars to gain understanding.

But focusing solely on the details misses the broader context of the story. Jesus’ birth was so significant that learned men journeyed to come worship Him. They followed signs clearly pointing the way. When they found Him, they were filled with great joy and, in response, offered up costly gifts.

I can easily get distracted by details in my own faith journey. Which version of the Bible is best? How can I be more faithful in praying for other people? How do I navigate the complexities of being a Christ-follower in the midst of our current culture? The list goes on and on. And while there’s certainly value in digging into the details, I have to be careful not to miss the big picture.

The story of the wise men remains true. Jesus’ arrival on earth, God taking on human flesh in order to offer salvation, is so significant that He deserves adoration and worship. He has given us a sign, His Word, to point the way. Finding salvation in Him brings such great joy that we are compelled to offer back the gift of our life. Those who are wise still seek Him.

Read Matthew 2:1-12

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