Advent 2017: Joy to the World: Day 24

The Wise Men Visit the Christ Child

by

Today's Text: Matthew 2:1-23, Jeremiah 31:15-20

Scripture Reading: Matthew 2:1-23, Jeremiah 31:15-20

Lengthening my stride, I picked up speed through the front door of Target, hitting a sprint halfway down the electronics aisle. Each step brought me that much closer to the newly released Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) Classic Edition. To be honest, I’m not much of a gamer myself. The truth is, I didn’t really care that much about the SNES—the hottest new Christmas present—but it was so exclusive and my husband had talked it up so much, that I found myself wanting one. Badly.

But halfway down the electronics aisle, I felt my dignity slip away and the red flush of embarrassment creep up onto my cheeks. I knew better than to believe a toy warranted my running through a department store like a crazy lady.

Every day we weigh our choices about who and what to follow, buy, and worship. We craft our identity from these choices and tend to feel pretty confident about them. We think we know what is good, cool, or smart, worthy or unworthy, as evidenced by how we spend our time and money. But what if what we thought was right, was actually wrong? What if what we thought was ugly, was truly beautiful? And what if what we thought was foolish, was really God?

When I read the story of the Wise Men, I fear many of us wouldn’t have recognized the Christ child if we had been there. Embarking on a long and dangerous star chase sounds ludicrous, and falling on our knees to worship a newborn child sounds foolish. How easy it would have been to laugh at the idea of humanity’s long-awaited King coming to earth in the form of a baby.

Our judgment is flawed, and our scales are not always calibrated to the kingdom of God. We are so quick to become proud in our own way of measuring the world. This is the problem when we are the ones attempting to hold the scales in balance, weighing and judging, and deciding what we believe to be true.

Paul addressed this issue with the Corinthian church, telling them to be humble and boast only in the Lord. He taught that, “God has chosen what is foolish in the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen what is weak in the word to shame the strong” (1 Corinthians 1:27).

The true wisdom of the wise men was not education or reading (although they likely had much of that); it was recognizing of the face of God in the midst of what seemed foolish and weak to the world. In the presence of a vulnerable baby born to a young couple in an obscure land, the wise men fell down to worship with reckless abandon.

To be truly wise is to be wise in the Lord and led by the Spirit. Our own understanding will always be limited. If we make ourselves the arbitrators of truth, we will inevitably call our own Savior foolish. True wisdom comes in having the humility to admit we don’t have all the answers, that we need the Holy Spirit to show us what is true, good, and beautiful. This season, may we hand over the scales of judgment to the Lord once and for all, asking Him to lead us in the way to wisdom.

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Kaitie Stoddard is a professional counselor who recently relocated from Chicago to Colorado with her husband. She has her Master’s degree in Clinical Psychology and is passionate about helping couples and families find healing in their relationships. On any given weekend you’re likely to find Katie snowboarding in the Rocky Mountains, checking out new restaurants with friends, or catching up on her favorite Netflix and podcast series.

  • Crystal Mendez

    May we all find the beauty of our Savior in the seemingly small, insignificant things today!

  • Great, great devotional. Jesus’family were middle eastern refugees. Isn’t that startling? This year what has surprised me the most during the Advent season is the poverty and humility of Jesus’ birth and family. I read this article about Joseph and Jesus’ careers as a tekton https://www.google.com/amp/www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-martin-throwaway-holy-family-20171221-story,amp.html . Anyway, I really agree with the author of today’s devotional. Jesus blows my categories away of how I expect God to act and look. Today 21st century American Christian, I am waiting for his return. The world is upside down, things happen that I don’t think should happen. Yet if I am to learn anything this Advent season, Jesus is still working and he is truly Immanuel, God with us.

  • May all your children pray without ceasing and be guarded by a peace that transcends understanding. The people we are quick to condemn or look down on, be it young single moms, drug addicts, prisoners, etc., are often the ones you’re working through. Take away a spirit of humanly judgment from your church and replace it with humility in the Holy Spirit. Keep us faithful and at peace through all our lack of understanding. Amen.

  • Kelly Chataine

    Prayer for tomorrow and the days ahead, Holy Spirit lead me in the way of our Lord and may I be found searching His word and worshipping at his feet.

    • Becky

      Thank you, Kelly. Your prayer encourages me to pray this same prayer. The fulfillment of this prayer will be our help from the Spirit to obey God’s command “to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength and your neighbor as yourself”. In doing these, we will fulfill all of the commandments.

  • “The true wisdom of the wise men was not education or reading (although they likely had much of that); it was recognizing of the face of God in the midst of what seemed foolish and weak to the world.”

    YES! This seems like the posture of the Wise Men, and the posture of Mary. It’s so easy to try to figure out my own way and seek education and knowledge to forge my own path, but it is in recognizing and naming the God who is present in and among us that I find the Way. I’m inspired and humbled by your words, Kaitie! “To be truly wise is to be wise in God and led by the Spirit…”

    Spirit, Lead on in 2018! <3 <3 <3

  • Melody IreneConey

    My prayer for 2018: for God to lead me in the way of wisdom!

  • I needed to read this today. I’m planning my daughter’s birthday dinner for Saturday and Ive been been caught up in pinterest perfection. May my house be warm and inviting because of God’s Love. Who cares if I can’t find a matching centerpiece lol. It’s sounds so ridiculous when I spell it all out. Thanks for the reality check.

    • Kay

      Hannah, you are so right! Excellent interpretation of this devotional, and I hear you. I know your birthday party will be perfect because God will be there. What a great reminder to put the Lord first in everything. And to forgive ourselves when we realize we aren’t!

  • I LOVE the last paragraph,
    “To be truly wise is to be wise in the Lord and led by the Spirit. Our own understanding will always be limited. If we make ourselves the arbitrators of truth, we will inevitably call our own Savior foolish. True wisdom comes in having the humility to admit we don’t have all the answers, that we need the Holy Spirit to show us what is true, good, and beautiful. This season, may we hand over the scales of judgment to the Lord once and for all, asking Him to lead us in the way to wisdom.” One thing that I know FOR SURE is that I don’t have all the answers- and I run pretty low on wisdom most days. But, I can always turn to what I DO know for guidance- I know that God has put me on a path and that I will succeed as long as I keep trusting in him. I also know that he has given me amazing guidelines, the Fruits of the Spirit, and if I practice these things, I can’t go wrong. Baen just got a cute little book from Gram about the Fruits of the Spirit and it reminded me that I need to practice these more, not just for me, but to be a good example to my kids and those around me.

  • Great message today. I also received my next study book. It is beautiful. Looking forward to year number 3 with you ladies!

  • Darlene Runner

    Thank you for a good word today!!

  • Alyssa T.

    “Our judgment is flawed, and our scales are not always calibrated to the kingdom of God.” It was good to be reminded, even when we have the best intentions sometimes are flesh is just that.. our flesh! I think that’s why it’s so important to be in the Word daily. So, that our minds are being renewed daily by God’s Word. And also going to His Word when making a decision. Thank you for your post!

  • So I am curious the passage in 1 Corinthians 1:26-31 do you see it as a warning or a blessing? I read it and I see it two ways. One I see it as a warning about not letting the world dictate what is important. That worldly things are foolish in the eyes of the Lord. I see that God is trying to teach us what is important and we should not stray from it. I see the moments that most of today’s society sees are important are not. However, I read it again and I see it as a Blessing, that God has set forth the things that should matter to us. That the worlds views are just that the worlds views, they are wrong, harsh and trivial. That the moments that are small the moments that some see as stupid are the ones that matter. ~Just my pre-caffeine morning ramblings.

  • Scales of Judgement…that hit home for me today after a visit with family that turned rather unpleasant. I found myself pleading for my heart to be more compassionate and less judgemental because it is not my place to judge, as there is only one judge.

  • Stephanie Hamilton

    I always am thinking and praying, that I am not like the Pharisees and miss something that God is doing out of the box that I feel is foolish.

    • Ashli Rouw

      So true. I don’t want to miss what He has for me. I don’t want to miss opportunities to worship Him or be enlightened by the Holy Spirit.

  • Courtney Cates

    There is nothing but the truth in these passages .

  • Martha Hix

    ❤️

  • This devotion made me think of these verses in Jeremiah 9:23-24. “Thus says the Lord: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.”

  • Ruth Fink

    I find this applies to the smallest corners of life – which really affect everything. It’s so easy to think MY way of seeing things is correct. But God clearly says in Scripture that His ways and thoughts are above my own. Slowly, I’m learning that humility and the fear of the Lord is the only way forward.

    • Bri Totman

      Well put! Humility and the fear of the Lord which really equates to loving Him as the only way forward!

  • Did you go back to school for counseling? I’m interested to hear how you started a new career.

    • Becky

      That question was for Kay…I’m considering something similar.

    • Kay

      Hi Becky – no, actually, I am a facilitator of group decision-making now. A lot like counseling, but more like what is usually called organizational behavior and group dynamics. my job is really to help groups see the answers inside them, and my approach is much like a counselor. I love it and I am sdo grateful to God for leading me here!

  • In my career (the one God led me to after 41 years on this earth), my clients come to me seeking wisdom. But I know wisdom does not come from me. Wisdom can come only from God. So what they see is that I ask them questions, I listen, and then help them make the best decisions possible. What my clients do not see is my praying. I pray that they be filled with the Holy Spirit, and that God would fill my heart so I do not mistake my thoughts for His wisdom. Sometimes I get it wrong anyway and overstep, thinking I know the answers. That is always my signal to pause and pray that He make me His vessel, show me the error of my thoughts, and give clarity instead. I am a work in progress, but God is always right there, forgiving me when I make a wrong step. He models wisdom and grace for me at every turn and I am humbled and grateful.

    • Donna Symes

      I like ” show me the errors of my thoughts and give me clarity instead” Sometimes it is hard to discern God’s voice over my own.

    • Caroline

      I’m in a similar helping profession, and, without a doubt, I need God to do everything I do. All of the issues I encounter with people are so big and so complex and so painful that it’s clear only God can really help them. In spite of that, I often find my prideful self trying to plow through with what I believe I can handle (like you said, overstepping), and invariably things tend to end up even messier when I do. I’m praying for both of us to find the wisdom and peace of God in our work!

      • Kay

        Caroline, thank you. I know God understands us and our complex interactions with our clients. But it is so nice to be understood by another human, too!

    • Chris

      Kay, this is beautiful. I too work in a ministry that strives to give our clients wisdom and the love of God. I will write your words and share with my staff!

  • Ann Erwin

    Yes, Jesus. Teach me what I cannot see and give me wisdom

  • Churchmouse

    As our daughters were growing up we stressed the importance of a good education. They knew our expectation was for them to graduate from college and we did what we could to help them achieve that goal. Both girls earned their Master’s degrees in their respective fields. They, and we, were understandably proud. But this… “To be truly wise is to be wise in the Lord and led by the Spirit.” Had they gained their degrees but not known the Lord would have been a profound disappointment. As their parents we felt the responsibility to promote their spiritual growth even more than their academic success. Not easy. We had to be diligent to live out Deuteronomy 6:4-9. Even then we knew they had free will so there was no guarantee for our efforts. We focused on our responsibility to present the Truth and prayed fervently that it/He would take root. Oh, parents of little ones, know that your efforts are not in vain. Press on. Be faithful. Train up your children. There is no more important investment. To be known as a “child of God” is the greatest accomplishment regardless of their career. There is no greater joy than for a parent to know their children walk with the Lord. AND no one is beyond the reach of God. If you feel weak in your effort or you don’t see the results you’d like… God is still working! There is always hope till their final breath. Do not give up and do not grow weary. God is not done yet.

    • DebbieinAZ

      Amen.

    • Debbi

      As a recent empty-nester, thank you for this reminder.

      • Churchmouse

        And now grandparenting.. Our influence doesn’t end… We pray and we talk of Jesus until our final breath.

    • Natalia

      Amén! Love this, thanks for sharing.

    • Sarah

      Exactly what I needed today!

    • GramsieSue

      Yes, Churchmouse! We too encouraged our four children in the spiritual growth above their academic achievements. There were bumps in the road as they did have free will, but we prayed fervently and continuously, leading them in the Lord through our own walk with Him. Never give up! God treasures them even more than we do. And now we have grandchildren to pray for and lead. ❤️

    • Cynthia Johnston

      We are learning how to pray for our adult children. The decade of their twenties has been discouraging. I am clinging to the promise that they will return to the way in which they should walk. If you believe you are praying enough for your children, pray more!

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