Christmas cards and nativity scenes depict the wise men visiting the Christ-child. But I think the story is bigger than the way it’s presented. The wise men’s journey is also a paradigm for our spiritual journey.

“We saw his star,” the astrologer-astronomers said (Matthew 2:2). That star, sent by God, catalyzed their quest to find Him. Like them, I believe our own spiritual journeys begin with such a stirring (John 6:44)—perhaps through a crisis or just a sense that there must be more to life than this.

“We saw his star,” they say, “and we have come.” After the stirring comes a searching. And what a search the wise men made! They may have traveled by foot for nearly a year to get to Jerusalem. What’s more, upon arrival they had to go against the directives of a Roman-appointed king known for his brutality (Matthew 2:7-16). Few of us today pay such a price to search for God. But people still search, even if it’s just by buying a self-help book promising the secret to finding “something more.”

We “have come to worship him.” After the stirring and the searching comes a humbling. In a defiant act against Herod (the self-proclaimed “King of the Jews”), their Persian kings (traditionally crowned “Kings of Kings”) and their religion, the wise men bowed to Jesus (Matthew 2:11).

This final stage of the journey for us is key, as it judges the results of our search. Does the spirituality we find call us to self-fulfillment alone, or to self-surrender? Does it lead us to ourselves or to Someone greater? Does it cause us to worship humanity or to bow before God?

I’m convinced that if our spirituality doesn’t cause us to bow to Jesus, whom the wise men found, it’s not big enough to accept.

NLT 365-day reading plan passage for today: Hebrews 11:1-40