Every manger scene has the same components and Christmas characters, including the shepherds and the wise men.
Actually, according to the Biblical account in Matthew, (the only gospel where the wise men are mentioned), the wise men do not show up at the manger. By the time they come to Jerusalem to inquire about the new born King, Jesus has already been born, Matthew 2:1.
“... and the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them until it came and stood over the place where the Child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. 11 After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they [e] fell to the ground and worshiped Him.
Notice that Joseph and Mary and the Christ Child are in a house in this account, not in a manger as was the case when the shepherds arrived the night of His birth. Actually, it might have been month or longer before the wise men arrived since Jesus was taken to the temple in Jerusalem to be circumcised and dedicated. Luke 2 tells us:
21 And when eight days had passed, [i]before His circumcision, His name was then called Jesus, the name given by the angel before He was conceived in the womb. 22 And when the days for their purification according to the law of Moses were completed, they brought Him up to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male that opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”), 24 and to offer a sacrifice according to what was said in the Law of the Lord, “A pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”
The days of purification lasted 33 days from the day of circumcision - the 8th day, (Leviticus 12:1-4).
We see also from Luke’s account of the sacrificial offering of two turtledoves that the wise men had not yet come; for the pair of turtledoves were a poor man’s offering when they could not afford a lamb. If they had already been given the gifts of gold they most assuredly would have bought a lamb for the sacrifice for the future King. So the coming of the wise men must have been well over a month after Jesus was born.
Were the wise men then late for Christmas? No, because our Christmas story includes them. Maybe we make Christmas too short, just celebrating a birthday. Actually it was closer to December 25th when the wise men arrived than when Jesus was actually born; most likely in October when the shepherds would still be out in the open pastures before winter.
So what’s the point? Perhaps we should celebrate Christmas more from the Biblical perspective instead of condensing the story of Christmas with shepherds and wise men to a single day.
It must have taken the wise men from the east; perhaps Persia, most of a year to make their trip. But they were celebrating the spirit of Christmas from the start for they were following the Star.
So the point is, we have a Star to follow still, Jesus the King Himself. Therefore we should celebrate the spirit of Christmas all year long. That way, we are never late for Christmas.
God bless us everyone!
‑ Rev. Larry Mays is pastor of the Sunnyside Seventh-day Adventist Church.