You have a reputation. I have a reputation. Mine’s not so good. How’s yours?
Since becoming a Christian almost forty years ago, one thing I have always tried to do is get Scripture right. To understand it. To believe it’s truth. To hold God’s Word up with a spirit of reverence. 1 John 4:1 says “try the spirits.” How else would you test what you hear but against Scripture? What does the Bible say and what doesn’t the Bible say? If it says something, it must be there for a reason.
The song says, “We Three Kings,” the Bible doesn’t say that. This became the tip of the iceberg for me. What parts of all the other songs, stories, traditions, and Nativity scenes do not line up with Scripture? All the Nativity scenes that I have seen have wise men at the manger. The shepherds belong there of course, but do the wise men? The more that I studied the Christmas story in Matthew 2 and Luke 2, the more I didn’t think so. The proof that they were not there in Bethlehem, the final say of Scripture hinges on Mary’s Reputation.
Mary doesn’t have a bad reputation. Just the opposite. Joseph too, for that matter. In Matthew 1:38, Mary’s response to the angel is basically “whatever God wants.” Every message that Joseph receives in a dream, he acts on. Mary and Joseph have a reputation for integrity. It’s their integrity while at the temple that is the key to the placement of the wise men in the nativity story.
At the temple, Luke 2:24, “And to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord. A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.” Then later, Luke 2:39, “And when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Gal’-i-lee, to their own city Naz’-a-reth.”
Nothing to say in the Scriptures here that they did anything that could be deemed unacceptable. To see the law of the Lord here we need to go to Leviticus 12. Verses 2 through 4 deal with the period of time for the mother’s purifying for a male child. A total of 40 days, then she can go to the temple. Verse 5 deals with a female child. A total of 80 days. Then Verses 6 and 7 tells us what the sacrifice should be. “...a lamb of the first year for a burnt offering, and young pigeon, or a turtledove for a sin offering.” Why was Mary’s sacrifice acceptable? Because of the last verse of Leviticus 12. Verse 8 states, “And if she be not able to bring a lamb, then she shall bring two turtles, or two young pigeons.”
Lambs were available for purchase in Bethlehem. Mary and Joseph could have purchased one with the gift of gold from the wise men — if the wise men had delivered their gifts in Bethlehem. Because of Mary’s reputation, we know that she would have done the right thing. We know that God, through His Word, testifies that Mary’s sacrifice was proper. Proper because they were unable to purchase a lamb because of the lack of funds.
Luke 2:39 starts with “And when…” Not when and a little while. Not after a couple of years. And when they were done, Nazareth. Where did the wise men find the Christ Child? Nazareth.
Why does it matter you could ask? I had one pastor tell me that he was almost convinced to change his Christmas message, but he didn’t. I had another pastor tell me that it was not a hill he was willing to die on. Two others wouldn’t talk to me. I draw my conclusions from Scripture alone. The best answer I can give you is that I believe that it is pleasing to God. That we treat His Word with respect. I do not think of myself as anything but a sinner saved by grace. And I long for the day when I hope to hear “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”
-Michael Fish, Wausau, Wis.