HAVE YOU WONDERED? The 'extras' in the Christmas story, shepherds, Magi and Simeon

Russ Whitten
Russ Whitten

I recently rewatched Catching Fire, the sequel to The Hunger Games. For me, the most exciting moment in this blockbuster movie was ... Steve. Right there in the middle of this epic cinematic masterpiece was Steve, my dear friend from college. He is now a very successful ophthalmologist in Atlanta where they filmed Catching Fire and he happened to be chosen as an extra in the movie.

Have you ever wondered about the “extras” that God selected to be a part of the greatest story ever told?

First, there were shepherds — (Luke 1:8-20).

We would expect important world leaders, such as kings, queens and emperors, to be on the guest list of the most joyful birth in human history. But shepherds? Why them?

Shepherds were usually poor, smelly, outcasts with bad reputations. According to an ancient Jewish law document, a shepherd could not even testify in a court of law because their word was considered unreliable.

Yet, on this holy night, God invited this delegation of nobodies to be the very first to see, to worship and to celebrate the good news of the birth of Christ.

Not only were these simple shepherds chosen to be extras in God’s Epic Story, but also they had the privilege of witnessing the most elaborate angelic sky-show the world has ever experienced in recorded history.

It began with just one angel with the comforting first message from heaven after the birth of Christ — “Do not be afraid!”

This angel then brought the shepherds the glorious news that in Bethlehem the promised Messiah had been born. Then, all of a sudden, the sky exploded with joy, light, worship, glory and a symphony of angels praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 1:25-26)

The Greek word used for “multitude” or “a great company” means that the number of angels was beyond counting.

What a sight these shepherds were privileged to see when they arrived in Bethlehem. This baby who couldn’t even speak yet is the one who spoke creation into existence. A young woman holding her Creator. God had entered our world as a baby.

Then, there were the wise men.

“When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route." (Matthew 1:10-12)

Ancient historians tell us that in the areas of Persia and Arabia, Magi were well known for their love of astrology, sorcery, fortune telling and magic. In fact, we get our word “magic” from the

Greek word translated Magi.

Why would God choose these guys to be extras in His grand story? Why would God mobilize a star to invite these foreign, pagan star worshippers to the birth of His Son? These men were total outsiders — by race, by religion, by nationality and by profession.

The fact that God invited these exotic visitors suggests that the Christ was far more than a Jewish Messiah. This is a profound reminder that all are invited to Jesus. God desires every person, from every race, language, background and nation to come to Jesus Christ and to be saved through Him. In other words, the Magi were searching for Jesus because God was first searching for them.

And then, there was a man named Simeon (Luke 2:22-40).

Max Lucado writes the following about Simeon. “Some people don’t want to die until they’ve seen the world. Simeon’s dream was not so timid. He didn’t want to die until he had seen the Maker of the world.”

What do all these “extras” have in common? Some were poor, some were rich, some were Jewish, some were foreign, some were

humans, some were angels. The one thing they had in common was that they all wanted to see and worship the King of Kings. For the shepherds, it wasn’t enough to see the angels, they wanted to see who sent the angels. For the wise men, it wasn’t enough to see the Star of Bethlehem, they wanted to see the Light of the

World. The beautiful thing about the Christmas story is this: Anyone who wants to see Jesus is invited. All are welcome. No one is turned away. No one is rejected from approaching Him.

John 3:16 puts it this way: For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have

eternal life.

Russ Whitten is a local minister, writer and musician. His band, The Bonhoeffers, play every week at The Village Door. His book Have You Ever Wondered? is available on Amazon.com.