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Advent Unwrapped: The Gift of Perseverance

By Jennie Pollock | 3 December 2018 | Comments (5)

Have you ever noticed that the Bible doesn’t actually tell us that the Magi ‘followed’ the star to Jerusalem? Look closely at Matthew 2:1-2:

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose [some versions: in the east] and have come to worship him.”

I had often wondered why they followed the star all the way from Persia (where most scholars think they came from), but then stopped following it when they came to Jerusalem and went into see Herod instead of continuing on the road to Bethlehem. But what if they saw it when it rose, and knew (or worked out, through diligent research) what it signified, but by the time they were ready to go and meet the king it told of, it had disappeared? If that were the case, they would naturally go to the most logical place where they might expect to find a king of the Jews: the king’s palace in Jerusalem.

When they discovered the baby wasn’t there, and were sent to try Bethlehem, they went outside and “the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them” (v9). The text doesn’t say “the star they had been following”, but implies that they had seen it when it rose, but not again. In fact, “When they saw the star, they were overjoyed”, which seems an unlikely reaction to a star they’d been following for months on end already.

Why does this matter? The Magi’s story has always been one of perseverance, but it is all the more remarkable when you realise they had undertaken a long journey to pay their respects to the future king of a foreign power, based on a sign they could no longer see. Given that Herod went on to kill all the boys aged two and under “in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi” (v16), it could well have been two years since they had seen the star. Yet still they persevered. What an incredible journey of faith.

We too are called to walk by faith, not sight, and our journeys require a similar level of perseverance. In our current culture of instant gratification and immediate results, perseverance is perhaps more of a challenge than ever. The Magi show, though, that it reaps a rich reward: because of their perseverance they saw the long-awaited Messiah with their own eyes.

I wonder how they were able to keep going for so long. I suspect that they encouraged each other along the way. If there had only been one of them, he might easily have begun to think he had imagined the star, or had misinterpreted its meaning, but a group together could reassure one another, reminding each other of the truth. This is why the Christian life is meant to be lived out in fellowship – we can all give each other the gift of perseverance at different points along the road.

Who can you give the gift of perseverance to this advent? Who can you remind of God’s promises, of the truth they need to cling to? Are you persevering in prayer for those with long-term needs, or for family or friends who do not yet know Christ? This kind of dogged perseverance is a challenge, but the Bible assures us that in the end it produces godly character (Romans 3:5), maturity (James 1:4), and ultimately the crown of life (James 1:12).



Posted by Jennie Pollock

Jennie Pollock is a freelance writer and editor. She lives and worships in central London, a gift for which she is forever thankful. In her spare time she loves exploring the city's culture, dancing, providing hospitality... and curling up with a good book and a cup of tea. She blogs at and tweets as @missjenniep


Katryna Latif

December 3, 2018 8:24 AM
Hi Jennie
Thank you for taking the time to really read the biblical record and by doing so get a clearer more accurate picture of these eastern travellers than the blurred one we are so much more familiar with. I am daily encouraged in my walk with Christ by the suppport and example of my christian family to persevere and to have my hope refreshed and renewed

Julie Taylor

December 3, 2018 8:27 AM
Extremely well timed explanation of perseverance as I'm having to push hard to prepare church services/resources for the coming month at a time when I'm exhausted from dealing with personal problems. It is good to be reminded of the importance of the encouragement of others. I've woken up to two offers of help and encouragement from colleagues as well as this blog so feeling blessed at the start of a busy week. Thank you.

Alison Whyte

December 3, 2018 11:03 AM
Really helpful - thank you - had never thought of it like that before.

Kathye Shuman

December 3, 2018 4:02 PM
Author John MacArthur has written/preached about the Magi for years and he says that the Magi probably learned about the coming "King of the Jews" from teachings passed down from Daniel. He also says that when the Magi arrived in Jerusalem, it probably wasn't just "three travelers" but a huge Persian royal caravan, which would have terrified Herod.


December 4, 2018 2:20 AM
Fun to look at the story and consider new possibilities and yes, perseverance is not easy. Thanks for reminding me of the reward.

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