How many of your Nativity sets have wise men in them? Where do you usually place your wise men? Do you want to know where I place mine? Good! I place mine either on the other side of the entertainment center (across from the nativity) or if they are larger, on the other side of the room they are in. My friends have called me the “Manger Nazi” because I will go into their houses and move their wise men.
When I bring this up with the children (and with the adults) in my church, they inevitably want to question why I do this. This is the whole goal of why I bring it up in the first place! I have just hooked their curious little minds and now they want to know “Why does Mr. Terry do something so silly as move the wise men?” I then give them homework and make a game of it. Anyone who gives me the right answer the following week will win a prize.
For those of you reading this asking the same thing as my children do, here is why I move the wise men. Luke 2 tells us that Mary gave birth to Jesus and “wrapped Him in swaddling cloths and laid Him in a manger” (Lk. 2:7). Immediately after writing that, Dr. Luke tells us that “in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them…When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened…’ And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger” (Lk. 2:9-16).
Matthew 2 picks up the story “after Jesus was born” that “behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem” (Mt. 2:1). We know that they discovered from chief priests and scribes that Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea (Mt. 2:3-6). Matthew then tells us that they picked up the star again and found that it “came to rest over the place where the child was” (Mt. 2:9). Verse 11 is the key. We read, “And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother.” Also, when Herod gets mad, he decides to have all boys under the age of 2 killed (Mt. 2:16).
I have italicized four words in the above quoted passages of Scripture. Luke tells us that shepherds visited the baby in the manger. Matthew tells us the wise men visited the child in a house.
Yes, it may be splitting hairs, but it does accomplish the goal of getting the children to study the Scriptures more closely which is always a good thing. Have fun with this and challenge your children (and parents!) to be Bereans during this Christmas season.