Keith Wishum: What are you doing here?

Published 2:00 pm Tuesday, December 29, 2015

What are you doing here? That’s what I wonder when I see the typical nativity scene. It’s those wise guys that I’m wondering about. We’re accustomed to seeing them there now, but I’m thinking theirs would have been very much a surprise visit on that first noel.
Would you expect strangers to drop in if you just had a baby? Do you even expect any strangers to drop in for Christmas? More likely, it will be your family gathered on that day. Maybe some close friends. But chances are, everybody there will be very much like you.
Not so when Jesus was born and those mysterious magi showed up. Magi — as in magic. “From the East” — as in very much not Jewish. “We saw his star,” they explained — as in really into astrology. Imagine the shock to Jewish folks to discover that Gentile star gazers were among the first to lay eyes on their newborn King! And, it was God who led them there!
For a nation who long believed that “people of God” was an exclusive club reserved for them, a new day was dawning. One Jew who basked in that new light is the one telling us about the magi. Only Matthew of the four gospel writers includes this information. Matthew — the tax collector. Matthew – whose Facebook friend list included “sinners” and tax collectors but very few of the church crowd — came to understand the significance of that birth to outcasts of all castes — those from Persia, as well as those who had been estranged right there at home.
Matthew, who shows us these strangers at Jesus birth, concludes his gospel with Jesus’ parting command to “go and make disciples of all nations” (all “ethna,” from which we derive our word ethnic). Matthew understood and enjoyed that, with the coming of the Christ, the doors of God’s kingdom were opened to all.
During this season of celebration of our savior’s birth, may we be reminded of that as we see those wooden wise men scattered about town. Neil Cole once commented, “If you want to win this world to Christ, you are going to have to sit in the smoking section.” Or maybe in the astrology section. Or the sinner section. Or whatever section of people we are tempted to segregate.
May we be wise enough to learn from God’s welcoming of the wise men.

Keith Wishum is minister, Williams Road Church of Christ, Americus.