the guys who were so wise
opened our eyes to the skies
led us on a journey to a small child
whose mother was calm and mild
they followed the shining star
roaming over hills and so far
from their homes, not knowing
where they were going
yet trusting the star to lead them
to a small child in Bethlehem
long last this tale of gifting
from the magi who foretold
the story of the cradle
beyond the star and the stable
by Annette Gagliardi
Gifts of The wise guys
I wanted to do another blog about how REALLY (you can insert any expletive you like in here) COLD it is, and has been for ten days or so. But one of my new year’s resolutions Is to find more positive things to say. And really, for someone who is naturally inquisitive, it is pretty easy to find another topic.
There were three, maybe more, guys back in the day, who were (at least) astrologers. They were ancient observers of the heavens and worked on establishing explanations of why the celestial bodies did what they did.
These guys saw a star – a very special star; and through their reading of that star, they decided this was the one to follow. They were not (yet) Christians because Jesus had not yet been born. But they were learned men who believed in the Old Testament prophecies.
Most likely, the magi (or the guys who were so wise) were members of a priestly cast in ancient Persia whose learning “was chiefly astronomy astrology and enchantment”. Another definition for Magi is sorcerer. Hmm? These men were in a group who looked at the stars and made predictions. People might have thought they were sorcerers. We do know they must have had some wealth in order to travel so far and to offer such valuable gifts. Most likely, the wise men who came to visit Jesus, were members of the caste of learned men and not sorcerers. (a sorcerer would have never come to worship the Son of God).
These magi knew of the writings of the prophet Daniel (Daniel 9:24-27). His writings included a prophecy, which gives a timeline for the birth of the Messiah. The magi may have been aware of the prophecy of Balaam whose prophecy specifically mentions a “star coming out of Jacob.” (He was from the town of Pethor on the Euphrates River near Persia. See Numbers 24:17)
We assume that there were three wise men because of the three gifts that were given: Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh (in Matthew 2:11). However, the Bible does not say there were only three wise men. There could have been many more. Tradition says that there were three and that their names were Gaspar/Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar/Balthazar. But, the Bible does not mention them by name. And, it doesn’t say there were only three.
One question I have is why? Why did these guys, these wise guys, give gifts to the baby Jesus? They traveled hundreds of miles. We know that the magi were from "the East," most likely Persia, or modern-day Iran. This means these guys traveled 800 to 900 miles to see Jesus.
The wise men were guided to look for the King of the Jews by a miraculous stellar event, the “Star of Bethlehem,” which they called “His star” (Matthew 2:2). They came to Jerusalem and asked concerning the birth of Christ, and they were directed to Bethlehem (Matthew 2:4-8). They presented themselves to king Herod, who was no prize, and continued on to Jesus. When they arrived in Bethlehem, they gave costly gifts to Jesus and worshiped Him.
Tradition says the Magi arrived in Judea to see Jesus on ‘Little Christmas” or Epiphany. In fact, the wise men came days, months, or possibly even years later. That is why (Matthew 2:11) says the wise men visited and worshiped Jesus in a house, not at the stable. We do not know how long they visited. But, we do know that God warned them in a dream against returning to Herod, so, in defiance of the king, they left Judea by another route (Matthew 2:12).
Let me turn your attention to the gifts for a minute. Many of us wonder why these gifts? What about the Gold, the Frankincense and the Myrrh? Women might have brought a warm blanket, a hot casserole, a flock of chickens. Gold was and still is a valuable commodity. It could have been the needed funding for Mary, Joseph and Jesus’ travel to Egypt. The gift of gold to the Christ child was symbolic of His divinity—God in flesh.
Frankincense is a white resin or gum. It is obtained from trees that are cut and the tree resin is allowed to run and be collected. It is then burned and is highly fragrant. Frankincense, which is an incense used in Catholic masses, is a symbol of holiness and righteousness. The gift of frankincense to the baby Jesus was symbolic of His willingness to become a sacrifice, wholly giving Himself up, analogous to a burnt offering.
Myrrh is a product of Arabia and is also a resin gotten from trees in the same manner as Frankincense. Myrrh is a spice that was used for embalming. It was also sometimes mingled with wine to form an type of drink. Such a drink was given to our Savior when He was about to be crucified, as a stupefying potion (Mark 15:23). Matthew 27:34 refers to it as “gall.” Myrrh symbolizes bitterness, suffering, and affliction and foretells the crucifixion of Christ.
After the guys gave the gifts, they went away. Why did they do it? If they were just going to leave right away, why travel so far just to return again so quickly?
Maybe it is all in the journey. Maybe they were collecting frequent traveler miles and didn’t want to get behind. But, it seems they did not stick around long. It is for us to think about the journey we are on, such as the magi. How far are we to go to share our gifts? What do we do after they are delivered?
So, the magi were men who 1) read and believed God's Word, 2) sought Jesus, 3) recognized the worth of Christ, 4) humbled themselves to worship Jesus, and 5) obeyed God rather than man. They were truly wise men!
What does all this mean to me? I don't have Gold, Frankincense or Myrrh. I am not a wise guy (Okay, some days I’m pretty snarky, and some other days pretty smart, but still.). The gifts of the magi were meant to prophecy the future and to help in the 'today' of Jesus' life. The magi had gifts they were willing to share. And they took some great effort to bring and to present their gifts to the baby Jesus. They did so with joy and with faith that their gifts were meant to be shared.
I wondered what gifts I could share and how I am supposed to decide which gifts to use as I begin this New Year. Perhaps a listing of my gifts would be in order. So, I sat down with piece of paper and pencil and listed the things I am grateful to have, such as pretty good health, good food, a roof over my head, my brand new Sorrel boots that keep my feet warm (Thank you to my loving spouse). Then I listed the skills I have acquired that might help people, such as being able to cook stuff, sew stuff and clean up. I organize thing pretty well, too. So, I added that to my list.
I invite you all, dear readers, to create your own list of what you have: Material gifts and spiritual gifts, moral gifts, talents and abilities that you possess.
We all have more than we think we do, as we go about our day-to-day lives. Add to your list of gifts, your friends, neighbors who know you, children or siblings and the checkout person who is always at the ready to take your money. These people we meet each day - in that meeting is a gift, as well.
Now, for the hard part: How and When do I share my gifts? Which gifts should I share? Here's an example: I sent an email to a fellow poet this fall returning a few poems he had sent me to critique and inviting him so send more. It was a chatty email, as I was feeling pretty chipper that day. Apparently he needed a friend and my email was just the gift he needed.
That’s the kind of gift we could be. My wish for this new year, is that I will bring the gift needed; that I too can be the magi to some one in need of special gifts.
What gifts are you willing to share this year?
Got Questions? at: https://www.gotquestions.org/three-wise-men.html
New Advent The Franciscan talks about Magi at: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/09527a.htm
The Journal of Biblical Accuracy at; http://www.jba.gr/about-the-wise-men.htm