December 22nd – The Fourth Wise Man


This is a bit of the Christmas story almost everybody knows, from Matthew Chapter 2 v. 1-2 and v.11:
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? ….On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshipped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh.
Most people know the story by Henry Van Dyke, called ‘The Legend of the Other Wise Man’. Let me remind you of it. The Bible doesn’t say that there were three wise men. We have assumed there were three because they present three gifts. Well, in Van Dyke’s story there was a fourth. He was called Artaban, a medium from Ecbatana. He discerned from the heavens, and from studying ancient writings, that a king was about to be born in Israel. He sold all his possessions and purchased three gems, a sapphire, a ruby and a pearl, to give to the new born king.
He missed meeting the other three magi, who met at the Temple of the Seven Spheres, because he had stopped to save a poor man from dying, for which he had had to sell his sapphire. He continued his journey alone. He arrived at Bethlehem too late. Herod’s soldiers were massacring the innocents. Artaban saved a baby boy’s life by bribing a fierce soldier to spare him, but the price was the ruby. Now he only had one gift for the king. For years he wandered, seeking the king, and found himself in Jerusalem at Passover, which was in uproar. They were crucifying three men, one of whom had said he was the King of the Jews. Surely this was whom he had sought for over 30 years. In the crowds going to Golgotha a girl pleaded for help. She was to be sold as a slave to pay her father’s debts. He gave her the one gift he had left – the pearl as her ransom.
In the strange darkness late that afternoon an earthquake shook the city, and a dislodged slate fell onto Artaban, wounding him fatally. As he died, bemoaning his failure to give his gifts to the King Jesus, he looked up and, in puzzled wonder, asked “But when did I see you hungry and fed you, sick or in prison, and came to you? 33 years I have sought you, but have never seen your face, nor ministered to you, and (and the rescued little maid said she heard a voice saying) “Inasmuch as you did it to the least of these my brethren, you did it to me”.
These are A. E. Houseman’s words:
Light looked down, and beheld darkness
“Thither will I go”, said Light.
Peace looked down, and beheld war
“Thither will I go” said Peace.
Love looked down and beheld hatred
“Thither will I go” said Love.

So came Light and shone
So came Peace and gave rest
So came Love, and brought life.

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Thought 4 The Day

Christ rose again, but our sins did not; they are buried for ever in his grave. (J. Brown)

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