He Turns Our Ashes into His Beauty
Bob Ross called them happy little accidents. They were the times his brush slipped and he made a mistake while painting on his iconic show. For those watching, we thought he had really messed up this time. This landscape was ruined. Bob Ross looked at it differently. Rather than view his errors as mistakes that marred the canvas, he chose to embrace the deviation from plan. He took his error and turned it into something wonderful. The paint smudge that ruined most people’s day was transformed into a happy little tree or a bubbling brook with minimal effort.
All it took was the proper attitude, a little hope and the tools of the creator to change what seemed like an accident into something wonderful.
God is way better artist than Bob Ross. From our perspective, it sure can seem like His brush slips at times. It doesn’t. He knows what He is doing. We just don’t see where He is going with His handiwork.
Things we see as ruining the work of God are used to demonstrate His skill as a creator. We get things so wrong at times. God says He uses all things for the good of those who love Him. We know this is true…intellectually. When we are living it and up to our ears in guilt, pain, and shame, it is much harder to see. Yet, it is one of these happy little accidents that send what may be the greatest message from the Christmas story.
The Wise Men Go Astray
Have we ever wondered about the Wise Men meeting Herod?
The Wise Men travel many miles following the Star of Bethlehem. They spend much time, effort and money and get really close to their destination. Yet, rather than push through to Bethlehem their first stop naturally is…Jerusalem?
Didn’t they read the name of the star of Bethlehem? What in the world were they doing in Jerusalem?
It is not hard to understand if we put ourselves in their shoes. The Wise Men are traditionally called the Three Kings. They were men looking for a King of the Jews. Where would we go to find the King of the Jews? That answer is easy.
The King of the Jews should be in a palace of some sort in the capital city of Israel. He should be born in finery with royal attendants. Servants should herald the birth to call all the fine people to come and admire Him.
Think of the scene recently when the English prince’s first child was born. Pomp, circumstance, and finery abounded. This is likely what the Wise Men were expecting when they arrived in the City of David.
Their time in Jerusalem was very different. It seems like a mistake on their part but it is not. It is one of God’s happy little accidents. He is using their mistake to offer grace and mercy.
Behold The Fake King of the Jews
The Wise Men’s detour takes them to Herod’s palace. They arrive and inquire where they may find the King of the Jews? This seems like a huge mistake. They pose the question to a bloodthirsty tyrant.
Herod declared himself King of the Jews. He was the one and only Monarch of Israel and did not appreciate rivals. He killed his own sons to protect his position. Herod was a fake king and an evil man. What good could come from God allowing them to face Herod?
Matthew records the response to the Wise Men’s question:
When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. 5 “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:
6 “‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.”
The visit causes an uproar in Jerusalem for a reason. It is a message sent from God to Israel. The men come following a supernatural sign announcing the Messiah is born. All of the City of David hears the news clearly from the palace itself.
The entire city is on notice of Jesus’ coming.
God arranges the Wise Men’s visit so Israel’s royal city is notified the Savior has come.
Isn’t the mercy of God wonderful! He uses an error by the Wise Men to announce the arrival of the King. Can we imagine the possibilities that could have come from this accidental publicity campaign?
Herod could have gone with them and worshipped Jesus. The palace attendants could have blown trumpets and welcomed their King. All of Jerusalem could have come and adored baby Jesus like the Wise Men, shepherds and a handful of others.
The sad fact they reject the opportunity does not make it any less wonderful.
God in the flesh is a short trip from them and they choose this life over the Life. They cannot claim that God did not notify them.
God sent strange figures from a faraway land following a mysterious star to them. How much more obviously heaven-sent can we get?
Come to Me ALL of You
After a warning, the Wise Men leave Herod’s palace. They depart from the splendor and power of the Court of the King. They go to the home of a poor unknown family from an insignificant town. There are no jewels, wealth and crowns. There are no nobles, scribes or priests. This is working-class people territory in modern terms. They leave opulence and go to a Jewish every man’s house to meet the real King.
The True Savior came for everyone in a place everyone can come to.
When was the last time we were invited to the White House? How easy is it to have tea with the Queen of England? Are we doing lunch with the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia?
For most of us, these questions are ludicrous. We will never travel in such lofty circles. Only a select few are welcomed into those places. It was the same in Jesus’ time. Very few regular Joe’s, or more properly regular Marcus’ or Eli’s, were invited to see Herod or the Roman Emperor. Earthly kings and rules never act like that. Most of us will never be welcomed at the seat of power. We would never consider trying to enter those realms. They are off-limits.
Jesus is no regular earthly king, though.
The Wise Men make the same mistake we would make in their sandals. They look for an earthly King in a palace. They had to be shocked by the King of Heaven and earth arriving in such humble circumstances.
God uses this to send the most wonderful message.
No matter who you are, come to Jesus!
Jesus is the King. He is God whose throne is in heaven. Yet, this King is here for everyone. The fake King of the Jews can have the palace. Jesus wants the people, every last one of us. He wants you!
If you are poor like His parents, come to Him.
If you are pagan from a far off land, come to Jesus.
If you are an outcast like the shepherds, come to Him.
When we follow the journey of the Wise Men from Herod’s palace in the capital of Israel to a poor man’s house in Bethlehem, it is not fixing a mistake. God is sending a wonderful message.
Jesus came for all humanity. He calls the poor, the outcast, the notorius sinner, the priest and the fool. Very few can make it into the palace. The stable of a poor family is open to everyone.
Isn’t God wonderful? Even what we think is the wrong turn is actually God’s glorious work we don’t yet see! God’s happy little accidents are neither little nor accidents. They are God’s awesome plan of redemption at work.