Christmas thought from a Langham Scholar
By Langham Scholar Anna Lo, who is studying at Fuller Theological Seminary. Anna was previously a missionary and professor in Cambodia.
Wise Men from the East
The visit of the wise men from Matthew 2:1-12 is a story I love to tell in Cambodia during Christmas. Many ministers are aware that there were not three wise men, as people have traditionally assumed, and love to spend time clarifying this detail. Others focus on the gifts offered by the wise men and make an effort explicating their symbolic meanings. The wise men story tells us something more though.
The story begins with the proclamation that Jesus is already born in Bethlehem of Judea (v. 1). What follows immediately is a description of how some wise men from the East came to Jerusalem and asked about the birth of the king of the Jews (v. 2). What is striking about this is that the first group of people who become aware of the birth of Jesus are the wise men, who live farther away than the people who live in Jerusalem. What is even more striking is that the wise men are led only by a star.
The following depiction of different people’s responses to the news about the birth of Jesus contrasts further with the wise men’s faith. Matthew 2:3 says, “When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him.” The chief priests and scribes tell King Herod about the prophecy concerning the Messiah (vv. 4-5). King Herod summons the wise men to tell him more details about the star (vv. 7-8). He even orders them to visit the child and report back to him so that he may go and pay the child homage.
However, as many Christians know, in the end, only the wise men visit Jesus and worship Him. Despite hearing about the birth of Jesus, the people in Jerusalem do not go to worship Jesus. Despite being familiar with the prophecy, the chief priests and scribes do not go to worship Jesus. Despite having the power to find out whatever he wants, King Herod does not go to worship Jesus.
Only the wise men keep following the star and offer their precious gifts, which they bring from the East to Jesus Christ. The question then is: are you the wise men, the people in Jerusalem, the priests and scribes, or King Herod?
A Cambodian Christmas Tradition
Cambodians love listening to this story. Because of a Cambodian Christmas “tradition,” I have many opportunities to tell this story in different churches. Rather than celebrate Christmas on December 25, different Cambodian churches choose different days in November and December to do so. The origin of this practice is uncertain. Some say that missionaries in the old days taught them this practice. Some say that it is mainly for a practical purpose: there are not enough ministers to organize the celebration. Therefore, different churches celebrate on different days so that ministers can travel around to help. The Christmas season is indeed the busiest time for ministers and seminaries in Cambodia. They travel to different churches every week in order to help organize the celebration and preach the word of God.
Personal Prayer Updates
My husband Kakda and I worked in a Bible school in Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia, before we came to the USA to further our studies. Along with our colleagues, we have a vision to open a graduate school of theology in a university setting in order to further develop theological education in Cambodia and offer more opportunities for ministers to equip themselves.
Here are Anna’s prayer requests:
1) Pray for Anna’s preparation for her comprehensive exams, which she will take this coming February.
2) Pray for Kakda’s English studies at a nearby college, so that he can gain the fluency he needs for pursuing a ThM later.
3) Pray for the Church in Cambodia, which has limited financial and human resources. Pray that ministers will have the perseverance they need in order to keep serving the Church.