Have you noticed how the conversations we hear on social media and in our newsfeeds are often overlaid with anxiety, anger, differences of opinion, and disunity? The conversations we listen to often highlight our world’s deep inability to find reconciliation apart from God. Social media trolls plague those who hold opposing views from theirs. Politicians smear their opponents’ reputations to win elections. Even church leaders often oppose one another about doctrine and ministry. This disunity leaves us reeling and feeling hopeless.
But, consider two of the groups of people who came to visit baby Jesus. Why did God choose shepherds and wise men? These men were diametrically opposed. They came from different countries, held different jobs, had dramatically different socioeconomic status, and perhaps even differed in skin color.
The wise men were educated enough to study Israelite documents that prophesied about stars and the coming king. Yet they were foreign to Israel.
In contrast, the shepherds in the time of Jesus’ birth were likely uneducated and illiterate, not wealthy or impressive, and often seen as despised, second-class citizens. Needless to say, you would not find shepherds and wise men mingling at the local coffee shop.
Yet, they both reacted the same way when they saw Jesus. Luke writes that “The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen” (Luke 2:20). Likewise, when the wise men approached Jesus, Matthew says, “They bowed down and worshiped him” (Matthew 2:10). People with vastly different backgrounds, beliefs, and skin colors, had the same response when they saw Jesus: worship. Both the shepherds and the wise men were united in hope by the coming of King Jesus.
Long after Jesus’ birth, Paul taught the Galatians that we “are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). Indeed, Jesus’ birth unified the shepherds and wise men. It unified the diverse ethnicities in the early church. And it should unify us today. In a world of differences and disunity, God’s people find reconciliation and acceptance for one another because we are all sinners, washed, redeemed, and saved by the King of Kings who was born as a baby and died the death of a criminal to pay the price for the sins of the world.
Our hope for unity – in families, workplaces, churches, and communities – lies not in eliminating all differences but in the common call to worship Christ again this Advent.