In my blog post yesterday we talked about the many misconceptions there are today about the "wise men" in the Christmas story that we take as fact, though the Bible does not necessarily teach them as fact. This brings about my greatest Christmas Pet Peeve! I can barely look at nativity scenes today because almost always they have the wise men at the manger. Most everyone thinks that is how it happened. Even churches have the wise men at their nativity scenes. Whenever I see the wise men at the manger in front of a house or church I always want to stop and take those gift-bearing fellows and move them to a house across town. Why? Because as I read Scripture it seems apparent to me that they never visited the manger. The shepherds did but not the wise men. Why do I say this?
First, according to Matthew 2:11, the magi (who are more commonly today called "wise men" or "kings") came into the "house" where the mother and Child were. They did not come into the cave or stable. They came into the house. By the time that the wise men showed up, Mary and Joseph were no longer in a "cave" but were now in a "house."
Second, according to Luke 2:21-24, eight days after the birth of Christ, Mary and Joseph took Him to the temple to have Him dedicated and to be circumcised. This would include offering a sacrifice. Luke's account tells us that they offered two turtle doves or pigeons. Now if you compare this with the details of the Law as seen in Leviticus 12:6-8, you will discover that this was the sacrifice of a poor person, which Joseph must have been. Those who were not poor would have offered a lamb.
Now how does this show that the wise men had not come yet? According to Matthew 2:11, what did the wise men bring when they came? They brought expensive gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Had they already visited and given these gifts, wouldn't it be reasonable to assume that Joseph could have afforded a lamb to offer? Why, then, was he only able to offer the sacrifice of a poor man? I believe it is because the wise men had not yet visited.
So, please do me a favor! Spare me some Christmas grief. Do what we do at our house. Take the wise men out of your mangers and set them somewhere clear across the room. Hmmmm, in looking around our own church, maybe we need to do some "redecorating" here as well!