Saturday, December 22, 2012

Advent XXI

While traditional nativity scenes portray the shepherds and the Wise Men standing alongside of each other in a pose of worship and adoration, it is not likely their paths crossed.  The shepherds arrived shortly after the birth of Jesus.  The Wise Men came some time later.  The shepherds went according to the direction of an angel.  The Wise Men followed a Star.  The shepherds lived and worked near Bethlehem.  The Wise Men came from afar.  However, both brought gifts.  The shepherds brought the not so visible, but much needed gift of external validation.  The Wise Men brought very visible gifts that would prove to be greatly needed.

As we all know from Word and song, the Wise Men brought gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  These gifts speak of the blessing of divine provision granted to those who live in faithfulness to God.  Joseph was warned in a dream not to return to home, but to go to Egypt.  As he is obedient to the guidance of the angel in a dream, the holy family becomes a part of a refugee community living in a land far away from the deadly threats of Herod.  The gifts of the Wise Men had a very practical purpose.  Using them as currency, Joseph could buy, barter, or trade and provide what was needed for his family during those refugee years.  When the gifts were placed before Jesus, neither Mary nor Joseph likely understood the significance of these expensive gifts, but God did.

From beginning to end we see the way God leads and provides for those who are open to His bidding and seek to respond to it in faithfulness.  Before the nativity couple knew of their future need, God was bringing it to them through these strange kingly looking men from the east.  The shepherd's gift cared for the soul and spirit.  The Wise Men's gift cared for the needs of the body.  Both speak of the totality of the Father's provision for those who seek to live in obedience and faithfulness.

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