Summary: Looks at how the Magi returned from their visit to the stable.
The camels cast eerie shadows as they made their way across the desert sands. The full moon lit the desert floor like a giant spot light and the caravan wove unerringly through the trackless night. Their mission complete they now returned to their distant home, as mysterious in their departure as they had been in their arrival.
What symbolizes Christmas more than the picture of the Magi kneeling in adoration before the new born messiah. Across the desert sand they had come, mile after mile following but a promise of a distant start. I wonder if as they packed their camels in Persia if their family friends and neighbors thought of them as wise men?
“So guys, where’re you going?”
“Oh and what is your final destination?”
“How will you know when you get there?”
“The star will stop”
“Well, who are you going to see?”
“Uhhhh, and what’s the baby’s name?”
“Wonderful, counselor, prince of peace, Everlasting father.”
“You know Bob I do believe that the boys have been out in the sun way too long.”
And yet the Magi of the East made their pilgrimage across the sea of sand to the little town of Bethlehem to worship at the cradle of Christ. We know very little about the Magi, but we do know that they were from the country of Persia which is now Iran. And we know that the Magi were originally from a tribe of Medes who tried to overthrow the King. When their little coup failed they put their political aspirations behind them and chose safer work as holy men, priest and teachers of Kings. It was from this occupation that we discover that Magi is the root word of Magic. Now we don’t know why the sign came to these men, maybe it was there for everyone but only these few choice to follow.
Regardless of the reason, it was the Magi who followed the star to visit the Christ child, and maybe it was simply to signify that Christianity would ultimately be for the gentile as well as the Jew. Because even though Jesus came as the Jewish Messiah we are told that there was this sense of expectancy over the entire area of the world concerning the coming Messiah of the Jews. The belief was summed up by the Roman Historian Suetonis when he wrote “There had spread over all the orient and old and established belief, that it was fated at that time for men coming from Judea to rule the world.”
Now we might not know a lot of factual information, but a lack of facts has never stood in the way of anyone and so what facts can’t tell us we learn from tradition. Early tradition told us that there were 12 in this group of wise men, but of course our contemporary belief is that there were only 3. And tradition did what political aspiration couldn’t do and it turned the Magi into kings. And then tradition gave our 3 Kings names, Melchior, Caspar and Balthsar. And then tradition gave them faces. In this painting, entitled “Adoration of the Magi” we can see Melchior who was the oldest, his gift was the gold. Next is Caspar the youngest who brought the frankincense. And Balhsar was the African bringing the gift of myrrh. It’s interesting that if you look through the classic paintings of the adoration of the Magi these three are always there.
And we still create tradition, if you go to many churches this time of year you will hear that the Magi never saw the new born Christ, instead we are told that they arrived two years after Jesus was born. The rational? They refer to where the Bible says that they went to the house where the baby was, maybe a room opened in the inn the day after Jesus was born. They talk about how it would have taken the magi two years to make the trip, although the same trip was made on Camels a few years back in 3 months, check out this website. But if God could put a star in the sky to guide the wise men he could have put it there so they arrived on time. And finally the proponents of this new tradition point to the fact that Herod ordered the death of all male children under the age of 2. So what? The man was a kook. When he was on his death bed he ordered that some of the most distinguished people in Jerusalem be arrested and killed at the moment of his death so some tears would be shed. I want to know why Mary and Joseph and Jesus would have hung around Bethlehem for two years after the census was finished, inquiring minds want to know.