My high school winter mornings were brutal. In the pitch black dawn hours, I would hide underneath my Korean “mink” blanket for as long as possible until my mother got me. I’d layer on the clothes and run to the train station. Standing on the “el” platform left me exposed to the elements. My winter garb was no match for old man winter. The train was usually warm, especially on days when it was crowded. You know–collective body heat. But I didn’t want to work up a sweat because I’d have to get off at Addison/Wrigleyville for the second leg of my commute. The sweat would freeze and make me colder. The worst was having to get to school by 6:30 a.m. for baseball practice. When your position is “left bench” it’s hard to get motivated. Simply put, the appeal of high school did not outweigh the inconvenience of those winter mornings. Sometimes I wonder if that’s how people feel about church–just not worth the drive and the effort.
Although there is nothing definitive in the Bible about the nature and length of the wise men’s journey from the East to Jerusalem, I imagine that it had to be more arduous than my one hour trek to school or your thirty minute one to church. Though the Bible doesn’t flesh out all the details, we know a star led these men to the house of Jesus. When they finally arrived at the home of Jesus they “fell down and worshipped him” and offered various gifts. Their effort and their gifts clearly communicated the worth and honor they held in their hearts for the Christ child (Matthew 2). The wise men didn’t mind the rigor of the journey because they were propelled by hearts of worship.
There are some troubling elements in Matthew 2. Herod’s madness and paranoia stands out, of course. But I also feel uneasy when I think about the chief priest and the scribes. When summoned by Herod they correctly referenced Micah 5:2 to pinpoint the location of Christ. Yet they did nothing with that piece of valuable information. The wise men’s visit should’ve raised some eyebrows, at the very least. Didn’t they want at least check it out? The journey from Jerusalem to Bethlehem was about six miles – about 2 hours on foot. It was not an impossible journey, but it was just inconvenient enough. They didn’t make the six mile journey from Jerusalem to Bethlehem because they never made the six inch journey from the head to the heart. Their knowledge of the Scripture remained disengaged from their affection for Jesus. Their apathy didn’t remain emotionless and motionless. It turned into hatred and anger against Jesus, putting him on the cross. There are many modern day scribes and chief priests, knowing so much but moved so little. We must beware of apathy, that cold heartless sister to hatred and pride.
Make You Feel My Love
Adele’s “Make You Feel My Love” speaks powerfully of a lover’s commitment: “I’d go hungry I’d go black and blue. I’d go crawling down the avenue. No, there’s nothing that I wouldn’t do to make you feel my love.” “Go to the ends of the Earth for you to make you feel my love.” My train-bus ride to get to school was nothing compared to the journey of the wise men from the East to Jerusalem, but the wise men’s journey was nothing compared to the incarnation journey of Christ in which he came from heaven to earth. True worshipers of Jesus, like these wise men, are fueled by the anticipation of seeing the King.
The Legless Ethiopian
I had an opportunity to spend two months in Ethiopia in 1994. There, I saw a legless man, his body ending at the base of his pelvis. His arms were his legs and his hands were his feet. Who knows how and when he went legless? All I could see was his joyful smile and his huge arms swinging himself down the dirt path on his way to church. He would always be the first person at church, always in the front row, listening intently to the Word and passionately crying out during prayer and worship time. He was truly eager to be in the presence of God and His people.
Just as the cold scribes live today, so do the wise men (and women). Wise are we, if like the legless Ethiopian, we would go “crawling down the avenue” to make Him feel our love. But we do this only because He has come to me first. He has loved us first.