Mysteries, Symbolism & Metaphysics of Christmas

Published December 16, 2014 by

Wise Men Follow the Star

Once upon a time, Wise Men in the East studied the night sky for signs and wonders, searching for the Star which would lead them to the newborn King.  The Biblical story in Matthew does not name or count them, but tells their story and lists the gifts which they presented to the Christ Child.  Because there were three gifts, it was assumed that there were three Wise Men, but they were not named until the Eighth Century.

The Other Wise Man*, written by Henry Van Dyke in 1895, introduces a fourth Wise Man who followed a very different path.  Artaban sold all his possessions and purchased three jewels to honor the Child: a sapphire, a ruby and a pearl.  But because he stopped along the way to help others, to heal and to lift up those who suffered, he missed  meeting up with his fellow Wise Men, he missed finding the child in Bethlehem, in Jerusalem, in Egypt, in Nazareth. . . . 

Always just a bit behind in his search for the King, his life’s journey was spent serving others.  Only at the end of his life did he stumble into the crowds headed to Golgotha.  He struggled forward hoping to ransom the life of his King with the pearl, but his final gift ransomed a child from slavery. Even as he released his last hope, the earth began to shake and the walls to tumble and he was struck down.

What had he to fear?  What had he to hope for?  He had given away the last of his tribute to the King.  The quest was over and he had failed.  What else mattered?**

As Artaban lay there, near to death, he responded to a voice only he could hear:

Not so, my Lord; for when saw I thee hungered and fed thee.  Or thirsty and gave thee drink?  When saw I thee sick or in prison and came unto thee?  Thirty-three years have I looked for thee; but I have never seen thy face, nor ministered unto thee, my King.

The sweet voice came again, “Verily I say unto thee, that inasmuch as thou hast done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, thou hast done it unto me.”

A calm radiance of wonder and joy lighted the face of Artaban as one long, last breath exhaled gently from his lips.  His journey was ended.  His treasure accepted.  The Other Wise Man had found the King.

Rev. Claudia Naylor

This story is sometimes called The Fourth Wise Man. 

The Other Wise Man, by Van Dyke**

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