The Nativity scene, once a commonly displayed decoration today it seems relegated to primarily to churches and "religious" homes. Sunday morning at church during worship I found myself thinking about the Nativity scene.
We have several that didn't get unpacked with the holiday decorations this year, but I also have three that are snow globes that remain up all year long, including the one pictured above. When the kids were little we even had a Fisher Price Nativity scene that we let them play with. I remember the awkward feeling of having to tell Victoria to get Baby Jesus out of her mouth, but it was nice to have a Nativity scene that they could touch and handle, to draw them away the ones that were breakable. But that's not what I was thinking about Sunday morning.
Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared.
He sent them to Bethlehem and said, "Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him." After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was.
When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.
On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh.
And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route. Matthew 2:7-12
This is the passage of scripture that came to my mind. Do you see what I underlined? "On coming to the house..." I was thinking about the misconception that is so common in all those beautiful Nativity scenes. The wise men never made it to the manger. They weren't there that night with shepherds, they didn't show up until sometime later. I've heard it said that many believe it wasn't until Jesus was about two-years old or so when the magi actually arrived, and for the record, the assumption that there were three is based on the three gifts, there was likely even more, but that's a rabbit trail I don't plan on traveling down today. As for the two years, it comes from this verse further down in the chapter, "When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi." (verse 16) So I share that to clarify, but still not the point.
The point was what the Lord spoke to my heart. The wise men, missed that night that has been sung about in so many CHRISTmas carols like Silent Night, O' Holy Night, and even The Little Drummer Boy. They weren't there. I wondered if somehow they had known what they had missed, if they would have kept on their journey, or if they would have turned back.
I mean if you think about it, at least from the perspective we have now, that night was the night to be there. Angels came and proclaimed His birth, the miracle happened that night. I close my eyes and I can try to imagine how amazing it must have been. I mean I think even to the nights my children were born, it was miraculous, but this was the night that the Messiah had come. I think if I had known I had somehow been late to that momentous an event, I would have given up. But the wise men didn't, they just kept seeking. They kept following the star.
I guess I was imposing my own attitudes and experiences on the wise men as I thought about them "missing the big event." A thousand times I've felt that way, and at least 999 I think I've given up. I think of all the women's retreats and church services I have been to watching other people "arrive on time" for the miraculous event, and I have felt like I'm behind, and have somehow missed God's big move. I think of all the times it's left me feeling discouraged, even despondent.
I still feel a lot like I'm about two years behind most days. I often feel like I'm not doing what I should be, experiencing the "abundant life" God promises me. God has placed dreams and desires in my heart, but I don't see them happening, I don't even see a clear pathway to them, so a lot of days, I struggle. I am ever aware of my failures, and struggles, the "baggage" I carry on my journey, but all too often I let it distract me from the mission I'm on.
But in all honesty, I wasn't feeling that way on Sunday morning, so it surprised me a little that at the moment would choose to address it, but isn't that just like God, to address things on His time and not mine. So He reminded me of the Nativity scene and the passage of scripture from Matthew 2, and then I heard Him say,"keep seeking."
Can I just tell you what a blessing that exhortation was? It brought Matthew 7:7 to mind. “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. Moreover it made me think of the Amplified translation which says it this way, "Keep on asking and it will be given you; keep on seeking and you will find; keep on knocking [reverently] and [the door] will be opened to you."
Despite how pretty it looks to have the wise men bowing at the manger in my snow globe and other Nativity scenes (even Fisher Price), I don't think they were ever really supposed to be there, I don't think it was ever God's plan. Despite appearances that the "Holy Night" was the main event, it really wasn't for those who weren't there. That was the night for the shepherds perhaps, but the wise men were called to something different, a different time, a different place.
The light of the star kept shining for them to follow, long after the manger was empty. I wonder if it shone in the day too, or if it was only in the darkest hours that they were able to follow it. I honestly don't know for sure, but I can only imagine, the darker it got, the clearer the star was to see.
We're in dark times. As I look ahead, my inclination is to suspect that they may even get darker. I almost let fear enter in, but then I think of what I heard the Lord say, "Keep seeking." I know this, like the wise men, if I follow the Light, salvation will be found, but it's not about what I will get when I get there, but rather what I have to give. What will my offering of worship be?
Every New Year's Eve scripture promises are handed out at church services. To be honest, most years I have felt like I was behind, and once again missing the big event, but this year, I feel like perhaps the Lord has already given me my word for the days that lie ahead, whether it be for 2010 for for the next decade, I know I need to look to the Light and "Keep seeking... Keep knocking... Keep asking...
I want to encourage you, I don't think this word is just for me. I don't think I'm the only one who's feeling like maybe there's more. Don't give up. Look up, see the Light and follow it... never stop pursuing it. It's worth it. And bring all you have to offer. At the appointed time, the appointed place that He has determined, we will arrive.
Keep seeking... May 2010 be a year of relentless pursuit for us all.