Quick, tell me, how many wise men were there? When did they come to see the Child-King? Duh, you might be thinking; there were three wise men who came to see Jesus when He was born. Those answers are part of our modern construct of the Christmas story. The Bible doesn’t tell us the number of wise men – only that they bore three different gifts: gold, frankincense and myrrh. We assume there was one wise man per gift. We also have the lovely Christmas hymn, “We Three Kings” to support that idea. Our Nativity scenes further drive the image home with all the shepherds and wise men together. But they didn’t come to the stable; scholars believe that Jesus may have been about 2 years old when the Magi visited the Bethlehem home the family had settled in. Matthew 2 records that they left “the east” after He was born – most likely the Mesopotamian area – that would have been a long, arduous journey. And recall that Herod ordered the murder of all male children in Bethlehem under two years of age.
My best friend, like me, is a stickler for accuracy in portraying biblical accounts. A few years ago she saw a nativity set that Fischer-Price produced and something struck her as very off. There was a smiling pig among the animals. My friend wrote to the company and told them that no good Jewish family would have pigs around, they were unclean animals according to Levitical Law. Would you believe the company pulled the pigs out of the set? There’s a Christmas miracle for you!
The point I’m making is we need to be very sure we are listening to and absorbing accurate information when it comes to spiritual things and biblical portrayals. Our traditions have painted over the Bible’s account of the Christmas story. Now the wise men may seem to be a very small part of the whole account, and what harm is there is a happy little pig welcoming the newborn King? None, if you don’t hold to the authority and accuracy of God’s Word. But when you let wise men and pigs come to the manger you’re taking the world’s view over God’s record. One little detail becomes another and another until the truth and authority of the Bible is lost in a cultural soup.
Here’s the truth about Christmas: “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). The truth about Christmas is that God came to His lost creation in human form, to die that we might live eternally. That’s what you need to know about the Christmas story.