There are two groups who meet on our platforms and stages every Christmas… they stand or kneel with heads bowed and hands folded, gazing at the manger. They are the shepherds and the Magi and both were invited by God to take part of the incredible story of the birth of Jesus.
But aside from some of the traditional facts, which in fact are more tradition than fact (like “3 wise men and all present in Bethlehem at the same time) – they may have more to tell us than what we’ve seen in our pageants and programs.
First, the shepherds. These were typically not the gentle souls who sat at night singing campfire songs. They were actually despised by communities for grazing on land which didn’t belong to them. They were notoriously untruthful and if anything, an angelic visit isn’t something we would have assumed they rated nor would respond to. But the full glory of God came powerfully to them on that night.
Second, the Magi (wise men). They arrive possibly two years later and visit Joseph, Mary and Jesus in a home in Bethlehem. It’s likely they were true seekers of God, possibly even priests from what is modern day Yemen, or Iran or Iraq. Their specialty was astrology and something in their hearts and minds had them looking for signs in the night sky. They were looking for “the newborn King of the Jews.”
This is not the definitive explanation of why shepherds and religious seekers were the first to see and acknowledge the Christ Child, but I believe the cataclysmic reveal to the shepherds gives us a glimpse into the heart of God concerning who is Son is coming to connect with.
Jesus is first announced to the lowly and outcast… normal people – not the high and mighty, not the religious elite, the political savvy or the rulers of the government. The shepherds become the metaphor for the kind of people Jesus came to save, people doing what they did every day, living their ordinary lives.
But the Magi… they bring another angle to the story. They stopped in Jerusalem and inquired as to where this baby could be found – the one who is to be King of the Jews. And why are they looking for Him? In their own words: “We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” Matthew 2:2 NIV
So why do shepherds mingle with Magi on our platforms? Because both show us the heart of God. He is looking for ordinary people and He is looking for worshippers. Most all of us fit into the first category. Let’s make sure we’re part of the second one!
“Unto us a Child is born, to us a son is given… Isaiah 9:6 KJV