I continue to examine our nativity scene looking closely at the animals. Each year as I set up our creche, I create particular groupings of people and animals. I place the donkey near Mary and Joseph. (After all, it was the donkey Mary rode while traveling to Bethlehem.) The sheep flock around the shepherds. (Sheep and shepherds belong together.) I nestle the camel with the Magi outside the actual creche. (They have not yet arrived on the scene.)
Although the camels and Magi were not present at Bethlehem’s manger, they are common figures in traditional accounts of the nativity celebrations. They have an important part in our Christian tradition. Camels were part of the animal world surrounding Jesus’ birth.
The account of the Magi and their camels is found in Matthew 2:1-12. For approximately two years, the Magi rode their camels and followed a star that ultimately led them to Jesus in Bethlehem. Verses 9-11 says, “. . . they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stood over the place where the Child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with great delight. On coming to the house, they saw the Child with His mother Mary, and they fell down and worshiped Him. Then they opened their treasures and presented Him with gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh.”
In Bible times, camels were a symbol of wealth. They transported treasures and riches. These particular camels carried Magi. Also referred to as Wise Men, the Magi were part of the hereditary priesthood of the Medes. They exhibited profound and extraordinary religious knowledge. These camels transported respected men and expensive gifts. Extraordinary animals for an extraordinary purpose.
Most camels are dromedary camels, characterized by a single hump. They are usually 5.9 to 6.6 feet tall and weigh between 990 and 1,320 pounds. While standing, they are majestic animals that demand attention. My eyes look up.
However, as the camels sit or lie down, my eyes look down. They kneel on their knobby knees and gradually lower their bodies. As a camel lowers itself on its knees, it reminds me of a person kneeling in prayer. Psalm 95:6 says, “Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker.”
The purpose of the Magi’s journey was to worship the newborn king. Matthew 2:11 says, “On coming to the house, they saw the Child with His mother Mary, and they fell down and worshiped Him. Then they opened their treasures and presented Him with gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh.”
The camels and Magi journeyed together sharing a common purpose. Camels and Magi reflected a prominent status by appearance. However, both knelt and worshiped Jesus. Let’s find our place with the camels and Magi. As God’s people, let us fall on our knees to worship Him.
The camels were privileged to carry great men on their backs and bring them into the presence of the King of kings and Lord of lords. They are an example for our prayer lives. As intercessors, we carry people to the Lord in prayer. Paul says in I Timothy 2:1-3, “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people– for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior.” Ephesians 6:18 is also a significant verse. “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.”
Who do you need to bring before the Lord in prayer today? Kneel before Him and pour out your heart in prayer and praise.
The camels were coming. Are you coming? It was a long journey for the camels to finally kneel before Jesus. Currently, we are sharing an Advent journey. It will be our privilege to kneel before Jesus and honor His birth in another week. However, our pilgrimage will not end on December 25. Our life’s goal should be to draw closer to Jesus each and every day. Jesus was born in Bethlehem’s manger for a greater purpose than living on earth for 33 ½ years. He was born to die for our sins so we could be born again. Our destination in eternal life with Jesus.