Why didnít the Wise Men go straight to Bethlehem?
by Rev. Ragnar Boyesen
The wonderful tidings about the newborn babe in Bethlehem spread quickly. People spoke of them openly in towns and villages. When the wise men came from the east to ask where they might find the Lord, saying "We have seen His star in the east, and are come to worship Him," old, suspicious King Herod was afraid and wanted to destroy the Divine child. But we know that the wise men had a dream and were warned of God that they should take another way home.
What a wonderful visit to Bethlehem the wise men had! They were among the first actually to come and worship the Lord. The shepherds came on the very night the Lord was born, and later, perhaps about two months later, the wise men came to Jerusalem. And what do you think brought them there? The star, of course! The wise men had been accustomed to watching for a certain sign that the Lord had come to this earth, because they knew the Divine stories from the Ancient Church. They loved to think about and wait for the sign that the Lord Himself had come to give mankind the beautiful gift of salvation. The wise men knew that they also would receive this gift if they continued to watch for the star, and go to the Lord when He came.
So the wise men had followed the star from the east to the River Jordan, and had finally come to Jerusalem to ask if anyone knew where the Lord was. And, do you remember, the priests and scribes in Jerusalem did know. They knew from prophecy also, and could read from the Word; and they said, "In Bethlehem of Judea" Christ will be born, "for thus it is written by the prophet, And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, art not the least among the princes of Judah: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule My people Israel." When Herod found out why the wise men had come-that they had seen a star in the east - he sent them away to Bethlehem.
Perhaps you have wondered why the star could not have led the wise men straight to Bethlehem in the first place. Now here the Word shows us something marvelous. All who want to receive the gift of salvation from the Lord can receive it, if they believe from love in what the Word teaches. You see, the priests and scribes in Jerusalem who had the books of the Word in their hands and read them with their eyes, did not have the Word in their minds and hearts. But the wise men from the east had learned to love the knowledge of the Lord's coming to this earth that had come to them from the Ancient Word. They studied it carefully and never doubted the prophecies as did the priests and scribes.
The learned men in Jerusalem knew where the Lord was to be born, but the wise men knew something far more wonderful. They knew why the Lord would come, and how to read His message in the sky. What they saw was the truth of the Lord's wonderful coming to this earth celebrated in a heavenly society of angels. That society shone with the splendor of a great star in the other world. The wise men believed in the sign of the star. Therefore they followed wherever it led; and when it first stopped in Jerusalem, this was to show that the knowledge of the Lord's coming was in Jerusalem, but that no one among the learned there believed in the real truths of the Word. Only the shepherds and the wise men knew in their hearts and believed. Heaven could not have been opened to them if they had not loved the truths of the Word.
We know from the Writings that the wise men came from Syria, a country east of the River Jordan. The east represents love to the Lord, and we see from the story that the wise men carried the love of the Lord in their hearts. So when they left Jerusalem to go to Bethlehem they were filled with great hope. Would they find the Lord? You may imagine what wonder and delight they must have felt in actually seeing the star again, this time shining brilliantly over one of the houses in Bethlehem. "And, lo, the star which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy."
Then the wise men went in to see the baby Lord as He lay in Mary's arms. Taking their presents of gold, frankincense and myrrh, they knelt down to worship Him. Now they knew in heart and mind that He was the King of kings and that the star had guided them right. "And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary His mother, and fell down, and worshiped Him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto Him gifts; gold, and frankincense and myrrh."
Would it not be wonderful if we could all present gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to the Lord this Christmas? If you love the truth you have learned from the Word, you, too, can offer spiritual gifts to the Lord. Think of it this way: gold is true love to the Lord from a pure heart; frankincense is love to the neighbor from a pure mind; and myrrh is good deeds done because we know what is right.
After the wonderful night in Bethlehem when the wise men saw the star again, men could lift their hands in prayer and thanksgiving to the Lord for His most glorious gift of salvation. The Lord alone can save us; the Lord alone can show us the bright and wonderful star of His Word which shines forever in the minds of those who want to be His children. Let us pray the Lord that we may be His children; that we may bring gifts from our hearts and minds and offer them to Him.
-New Church Life 1972;92:535-537