I love Christmas, but as is the case with everything, there are parts of it that get under my skin a bit. If there is one area of the Biblical account of the very first Christmas that tends to get twisted when it comes to "the facts", it's those guys we commonly refer to as "wise men." Now don't get me wrong. I believe that these "magi" were part of the story, but I also think we have taken some liberties with the facts.
I would like to recommend a "Dragnet" (for those who remember that great detective show from TV days gone by) approach in which in Jack Webb style we say "Just the facts, please" when it comes to the Wise Men. I encourage you to read Matthew 2:1-12. The only "facts" we know related to the visit of these "magi" come from this passage. Notice what is missing:
It does not tell us exactly how many there were (I know the song says, "We three kings" but the Bible does not give that number).
It does not tell us the mode of transportation that the wise men used (most people say "camels" as if that were certain, but that fact is not mentioned specifically in the Bible).
It does not tell us what country these men were from.
It does not tell us that they followed the star from their homeland all the way to Bethlehem. Honest, it doesn't. Go back and read it. The sign in the sky informed them of the birth of a king over the Jews. They didn't follow a star across the desert directly to Bethlehem. Their journey took them first to Jerusalem. That made sense. If they were looking for a king, the palace was the most logical place to go. Once at the palace, they hear from the Scribes that the prophecy talked about Bethlehem. So they head toward Bethlehem and "rejoice" when the star that they originally saw now reappears over the place where the Christ-child was.
And most of all, it does not tell us that they visited the manger! That misconception is my greatest Christmas pet peeve. I will talk more about it in tomorrow's posting.