When the Wise Men finally rumbled into Israel, their first target was Jerusalem. Where else would a king be if not in the capitol? So their weary caravan dragged itself up the side of the mountain and into the Holy City. But the king wasn’t there, only the governor.
Notice their question, I can just hear them say it with all the dignity and pomp they could muster given their exhausting journey. “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw his star in the east and have come to worship HIM.”
Everyone stops and stares at them. Mouths are open. Maybe the Magi repeated it, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw his star in the east and have come to worship HIM.” I envision the second iteration was given with even more melodramatic flair.
Still blank stares. Then the Magi ask sheepishly, “Please tell us that there is a new King. We’ve been on those ridiculous camels for two stinking years! There is a king, isn’t there?”
The Jews scramble to make sense of this. Someone blew the dust off of Micah 5:2 and read out loud, “And you Bethlehem, Land of Judah, are by no means least among the leaders of Judah; for out of you shall come forth a ruler, who will shepherd my people Israel.”
The Magi look puzzled. A scribe explains: “According to our ancient book, the Messiah is supposed to be born in Bethlehem. It’s about 8 miles southwest of town. Little bitty place. Just one flashing yellow light and a Dairy Queen.”
Don’t miss the point. The Magi went to the wrong town! I love it. Even wise men lose their way. Do you think Caspar looked over at Balthasar and said, “That’s it. I’m tired of the mistakes. Let’s go back east!” No. They loaded the camels and headed southwest.
If we are going to hitch out camels to a star then we must be willing to fail.
One of my favorite commercials was that Nike ad from several years ago. Michael Jordan is walking into the arena and thinking aloud, “I’ve missed 9000 shots. I’ve lost 300 games. I’ve been trusted to take the final shot for a win or loss 26 times and missed. I’ve failed so many times.” Then he paused and said, “That’s why I succeed.”
Corporate America recognizes the value of failure. In Peters and Waterman’s classic business management text, In Search of Excellence, they tell the story of the Ore Ida Cannon. The folks at Ore Ida (the frozen potato people) learned a long time ago that failure was a necessary part of success. So they put a cannon on their property. Any time someone committed what they called “The perfect failure,” everyone would gather at the cannon and celebrate by firing off a round.
We must not be afraid to fail.
Following God can be notoriously unpredictable. Just ask the wise men. When they missed the mark they didn’t pack up and head home. They simply adjusted their plan and went in a new direction.
And so must we.
Here’s a powerful principle from the Wise Men: “Star followers don’t always know where they are going, but they know they are going in the right direction.”