One Christmas Eve a mother told her young daughter how Jesus received just three gifts for His birthday – and that she should be grateful for whatever she found under the tree Christmas morning. Her daughter innocently challenged, “But do you think He asked Santa why none of them were toys?”
Every December we display Nativity scenes that include a variety of figures, often including the three kings who brought gifts from the East. Most everything we know about these gentlemen comes from the book of Matthew but looks a bit different than our modern-day Nativity.
Here are three surprising things we do know about them:
- There may not have been three wise men. Because the magi brought at least three gifts – gold, frankincense, and myrrh – it’s often assumed there were just three individuals, but the Bible never offers a number. We only know the passage refers to them in the plural.
- They didn’t arrive the night Jesus was born. The Gospels tie baby Jesus to just two events in Bethlehem, His birth and His consecration in the temple at 6 weeks old. Matthew records the magi arrived, “after Jesus was born” at the “house” where Jesus was. It’s believed Mary and Joseph were no longer at the stable but in another location of the city, at a later time.
- They were the first recorded Gentiles to worship Jesus. The Bible doesn’t say exactly how, but the wise men knew Jesus was the “King of the Jews.” And even though it’s believed they were magicians or astrologers, they were overjoyed to find the baby and worship Him as King.
Every December, we follow in the footsteps of these men. We give gifts to one another and gather in worship of the King. One way we can do both is through the practice of biblical stewardship – giving generously to others in gratitude for blessings we have received.