Tag Archives: wisemen

Christmas, the Retold Story!

Christmas is full of traditions, including the story depicting Jesus’ birth. Some renderings sport sheep, camels, and donkeys with costume-clad humans for effect. The event makes us feel good, and it can be a great time of fun and family. But is there more to the story—perhaps stuff behind the scenes that would make it more meaningful if known? Let’s see.

First, the Son of God, born a son of man, has been around since our universe’s creation (John 1:1-4).

Second, this Son of God had to become human for a reason: to restore the relationship between Creator and creation by paying the penalty for the first humans’ rebellion, and crushing evil (e.g., Genesis 3:15).

But paying the price could only be done by someone who lived sin-free. God began to send clues about this coming perfect Savior through various prophets like Isaiah:

“Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14)

This Prince would be born in about 4 BC and eventually crucified, as shown to the prophet Daniel 500 years before Jesus came to earth (Daniel 9:25-26). His birth brings God’s peace to people with whom He is pleased (Luke 2:14), but it prompted the wrath of a man, Herod (Matthew 2:1-12). For Jesus’ safety, an angel told Joseph and Mary to escape to Egypt until Herod’s death (Matthew 2:13-15). How would the journey be possible? After all, travel and daily life required resources, then just as they do now. Allow me to introduce the wise men.

To fully appreciate their contribution, we must return to Persia 500 years earlier, when Daniel earned great respect and treasure. He was also well-trained in Babylonian arts, including astronomy. He knew when Jesus would be born and would’ve been familiar with Micah’s prophecy about Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2). 

So, Daniel, the Jew who spent his life in Persia, had treasure, knew how to chart star movements, and knew where Jesus would be born as well as the timeframe. Therefore, we should not be surprised that Persian magi (wise men) knew that Jesus would be the promised King and the alignment of the stars at the time and place of His birth. Daniel’s great wealth was likely the resource that funded Jesus’ trip to Egypt until Herod’s death. Our great God is indeed the master orchestrator who crafts all things according to His good pleasure!

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

Are you interested in making a fresh start physically, emotionally, or spiritually? Perhaps you’re interested in keeping personal goals. Join me next week when we’ll readdress fresh starts in Renewed Beginnings.

Blessings and peace,

Dr. Ron Braley

The Gift that Keeps on Giving

Crisp air, crowded malls, and credit cards a-flying can mean only one thing: the holiday season is upon us! In fact, Christmas is a mere 1 week away. My, how time has flown since the last bout of bustling buyers scrambled for trinkets and travel arrangements! Yep – it’s definitely time again to ponder the ‘reason for the season’ and, indeed, the season itself.

Read the Q&A titled, “Holy Days: Christmas” from my book Finding Answers to Stuff Churches Don’t Discuss (available in 2015) and you’ll learn some little-discussed facts about Christmas. For instance, Jesus’ birth took place in a warmer time of year when the animals were grazing. And the actual number of wise men is anybody’s guess. Read the Gospel accounts closely and you’ll also notice that Jesus would’ve been about 2 years old and not a newborn baby when the wise men finally arrived with their gifts. Simultaneous with that ah-ha moment may be the sudden realization that the gifts were necessary to see Joseph, Mary, and Jesus through a 2-year exile in Egypt.

If you’re like me, you’re asking yourself, “How, then, did Christmas come into being and assume current traditions?” Most likely, a well-meaning fourth-century Church established the holiday to acknowledge Jesus’ birthday but coincide with pagan recognition of the winter solstice on December 25th. Why? Perhaps it was to attract those pagans to the Christian faith. Look around and you’ll see we do the same even today through churchgoer actions, speech, and approaches to entertainment and worship as we attempt to attract new consumers by modeling what they like. But, we can go down that rabbit hole another time.

You may be getting the idea that I’m not a proponent of Christmas. The truth is that I think the holiday is fine when recognized for what it actually is: a time of feasting, family and indebtedness with little actual regard for our Christ. Let’s change that – even if only for a fleeting moment – by imagining together what a Christ-centered Christmas could look like.

I see clothes and food for the less-fortunate, without indebtedness, delivered by children and their parents. After all, this is how our Christ said we’ll be judged in the last days. And we’d sing songs about redemption, forgiveness, and expectation of amazing things to come – not about Frosty, Santa, chestnuts, or elves.  We’d share stories about Jesus from the Gospels and imagine what His life was like. There’d be feasting and drinking (in moderation, of course).  Our Christ gave the greatest gift of all to us: the choice of eternal life. We’d celebrate it as the gift that ‘keeps on giving’, adoring the gift-giver all the while.

But, Christmas reality along with its gaiety and materialism are upon us. Are those your real reasons for the season? If so, dare to be different and give the Christ this Christmas!