Have you ever wondered why the wise men, the magi, were searching the stars for signs of a coming king?
Who were they looking for?
How did they know a king would be born to the Jews?
Deep in the pages of the Old Testament the clues begin with the story of a young man who was captured and taken to serve the king of another country, hundreds of miles from his home. Daniel and his people were marched on foot to exile in Babylon for 70 long years. We know, too, that while there, he and many of his friends stood strong for God even while serving in the Babylon kings’ palaces. But after chapter 12 the book is closed.
Here is how I think the rest of the story unfolded.
As the wise men, with whom Daniel worked in the king’s palace, watched him interpret the king’s dreams, predict the future, and remain unscratched by a den full of lions, I imagine some of those men saying, “Hey Daniel, can we talk about this God of yours, privately after hours?” Or maybe other wise men had conversations with Shadrach, Meshach, or Abednego when they survived the fiery furnace without even smelling like smoke.
Wouldn’t you have wanted to know about their God?
My guess is Daniel, his friends, and other unnamed Hebrew residents of Babylon shared their faith with their captors, their employers, and their neighbors. For centuries, the great hope of the Jewish people was the coming Messiah who would deliver them from bondage. This faith kept the Jewish people hopeful even enduring a long exile.
God had given hints of His precious gift, the coming king, throughout the Old Testament writings. One of the metaphors used to describe the coming One was a star. “A star shall come out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel” (Numbers 24:17).
Daniel, near the end of his life at 85, wrote these words, “Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above, and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever” (Daniel 12:3).
Centuries after Daniel lived, a team of wise, learned men, who had studied astronomy and natural science for years, discovered a star unlike any others they had ever seen.
Might those wise men have been descendants of the wise men in Babylon who Daniel undoubtedly influenced with his unwavering faith?
Might they have had a copy of the Hebrew Scriptures?
Might they have read them searching for clues about the coming Messiah handed down in stories from Daniel’s visions?
In their quest to understand the meaning of this star and the truth they hoped it would reveal, these wise men made preparations for a long journey west. For many months they traveled, following this moving star. Arriving in Jerusalem, they asked, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him” (Matthew 2:2).
Miraculously, “the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them, until it came and stood over where the Child was” (Matthew 2:9 KJV). The reward for the wise men that followed the star was great joy followed by worship.
This is what we are missing in our modern celebrations. We were made to respond with worship when we discover and look on our Creator. And part of worship is anticipation as we look forward to seeing Jesus, just as the wise men experienced growing anticipation as they followed the star.
This year our new ornaments, His Eternal Names, are three gold stars. You can use these star-shaped ornaments, each printed with a name of Jesus, to help your family anticipate the arrival of the baby king on Christmas morning. These ornaments will be beautiful on your tree, but even more beautiful to add a festive activity of anticipating and worshiping Jesus.
For a fun advent activity in your home, centered on adoring the One who came, hide one star in a different place around your house each day, starting December 1. Encourage your children to find the hidden star (or you might designate days for each child to avoid sibling squabbles).
When the star is discovered, read the name of Jesus that appears on one side and read the Bible verse that is on the other side of the star. Use this time to teach your children who we are waiting for. Initiate conversations with children even as young as 3 or 4 about what it means for Jesus to be Alpha and Omega.
With the set of three stars, you’ll receive a read-aloud storybook that explains each name of Jesus printed on the ornaments. Take time as a family to read the text together when the star is found. Sing or listen to the suggested hymn included in each story. Have younger ones color pictures as they imagine the scene.
Make a commitment this Christmas season to not miss out on the fun, but to make the daily holiday fun about something that truly matters.
Teach your children to “follow the star” just as the wise men did. And talk, as often as you can, about the journey of the wise men, asking questions like:
- What was hard about the journey?
- Where did they sleep at night?
- How long do you think it took?
- Do you think only three men traveled?
- How long were they gone?
Finally, as they’ve been waiting all month long, on Christmas morning place the star on your tree or above a manger to announce: Jesus, born in Bethlehem, “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).
May you experience a taste of the awe of the Magi as they saw Jesus and then “fell down and worshiped Him” (Matthew 2:11).
Here are some ideas for “hiding” spots:
Add a star to a bookshelf
On the counter
Or hide one in the silverware drawer
Mix it in with some regularly used toys
In a guest room