Dear Friends of the Prayer League,
I love the shepherds and the angels. I adore the sheep and cattle we also place carefully into the scene. I prize those images of Mary and Joseph, right there at the center, of course, lovingly watching over the humble manger. And in that tiny feeding trough we find, best and greatest of all, the baby Jesus, sometimes not until Christmas morning. At least that’s the way we’ve done it in our home. And I really like it that way.
I love all the characters in our traditional nativity scenes. Likewise, how wonderful it is to see our costumed children retelling the story of our Savior’s birth in our churches’ Christmas programs and services! I love it!
Now I suppose the magi, or “three wise men,” as we typically call them, really shouldn’t make their appearance until the celebration of the Epiphany on January 6, but I confess that in all of the nativity sets Pris and I place around our home, the “wise men” are there from the very beginning, camels and all! Ever since I was a wide-eyed child at Christmas time I’ve held a special appreciation for the wise men, in the nativity scene, and in the Christmas story. Maybe it’s because they’re the “foreigners” in the crowd, or because it took a major road trip to get them there, or because they brought gifts, odd as those gifts might seem at a baby shower. Or maybe because they were dressed so cool.
Matthew’s Gospel tells us why these star-gazing scholars “from the east” were so special, why we might consider them truly “wise.” They made their purpose clear to a startled Herod: “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews?” they asked him. “For we saw his star when it rose and have come worship to him.” (Matthew 2:2)
These festooned foreigners had come to worship! They had come to worship none other than a king, a “king of the Jews” prophesied in the Old Testament to be a saving “refuge” for all nations and their kings. (Psalm 2) How did these wise men worship? We don’t know that they had any hymn to sing or liturgy to recite. But this we do know: upon their arrival in Bethlehem “they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.” (Matthew 2:11) They worshiped our Lord Jesus – their Lord Jesus – with gifts! They weren’t looking for something in return. They weren’t bargaining for a favor. Who does that with a baby? No, they committed themselves to the long journey, they prepared precious gifts with special meaning, and they bowed in reverent submission before the baby born to be Savior of the world. They came to “kiss the son.” (Psalm 2:12)
Did this infant king have need of these gifts? After all, what could the King of all kings, the God of the universe, possibly “need” from us, his humble subjects? Remarkably, as you likely already know, these valuable gifts from the wise men, given in worship, served Mary and Joseph in a timely way as they fled to Egypt and sojourned there to protect the life of their baby. (Matthew 2:13) God’s mission to save the world through Christ the Savior, born in Bethlehem, was partly “financed,” if you will, by the wise men’s gifts. Their worship turned into a participation in God’s great salvation story, beginning with the Christmas story.
I want to thank you, dear friends and fellow followers of Jesus, for sending your gifts to the World Mission Prayer League during this past year and for your partnership through the NALC. Knowing how these gifts are used for the cause of the Kingdom, I’d like to say it was a wise thing to do! We count them as an act of worship, given in honor of our Savior and for the purpose of extending his salvation to all the earth. Likewise, we regard your regular and ongoing prayers for the unreached and for our workers throughout the world as essential to our mission. Thank you!
Merry Christmas to you! May you know the peace announced by the angels and the joy brought by the Christ child! May you know, trust, and worship Jesus, the Savior! And may you to do so “wisely.”
Paul Gossman – Executive Director; The World Mission Prayer League