Published on January 27th, 2017 | by John Locke0
THE MAGI AND “FAKE NEWS”
YOU MAY WONDER IF THIS A CHRISTMAS STORY. IT’S NOT.
The Magi, usually referred to as the Three Wise Men of the Christmas Story, are a fascinating part of our Judeo-Christian heritage and culture, and I believe their true purpose in the story, and in history, has been mostly, tragically, forgotten (or ignored).
OUT OF THE EAST
The Magi were, according to tradition, from Persia, which is located mostly east of Bethlehem (which is just 8 miles south of Jerusalem in modern-day Israel). As we all know, this is the birthplace of Jesus Christ, according to scripture.
The Magi came to visit the baby Jesus, who likely was not a baby by the time they got there. A more focused reading of scriptures tells us that by the time the Wise Men visited the Holy Family, Jesus was, in fact, a young boy, perhaps as old as four or five years. Of course, when dealing with such Biblical accounts, certain myths have crept in apparently compressing the story, often giving followers over the ages various impressions that may, or may not, be true. Besides, these Biblical accounts were written down nearly a century after Christ’s birth.
A NEW, MARVELOUS EXPERIENCE: THE NEWBORN KING
The Magi appeared to have come a great distance, in a time when Middle East land travel, or travel anywhere, was an arduous, even dangerous, affair. They came, we are told, to honor the “Newborn King” and to present valuable gifts (gold, frankincense, and myrrh), and to learn if the rumors were true. Apparently they were not disappointed.
The Wise Men appeared to understand the significance of the event, and marveled that a king would enter this world under such humble circumstances. They knew many kings, advising and serving them all their lives. This was something different, however, something they had never before seen.
The story doesn’t end there. The Magi appear to have conspired with the Holy Family to protect the Christ child from the schemes of Israel’s (Roman-puppet) king, Herod, who wanted to find the baby and eliminate him as he had done to so many other perceived rivals for his throne. I’ll let you read the story, if you don’t know it already (I’m surprised, considering our Judeo-Christian heritage, that everyone doesn’t already know every detail), found in the Holy Bible (Luke 1:26-38; 2:1-19; Matthew 1:20-21).
BUT THE WISEMEN HAD THEIR OWN QUEST
These so-called “Wise Men,” I believe, would have had their own personal missions, even individual desires, to teach not only the kings of their day, but perhaps more so, the common people, and especially future generations. To do this they had to acquire truth and knowledge. Certainly, there is a reason why they were called “Wise Men.”
Too often people today view the Magi as magicians, court appointed soothsayers who used magic and astrology to divine the future and to advise the King when the stars were in the proper alignment, or some such mystical gobbledygook. Though that’s something they may have done at a king’s request, I don’t believe that’s primarily what they were about. They were “searchers after truth.” Their willingness to travel so very far following a bright light in the sky should prove to us that they sought so much more than “magic.”
The Wise Men were considered wise for several reasons, but primarily because they spent their life in humble search for the Truth. And yes, I mean Truth with a capital “T.” They understood that the more they learned the more they realized they didn’t know. This humbled them mightily (as it does all genuine seekers after truth), and set them on a lifelong quest for those most priceless pearls of wisdom, the kinds of understanding that could save mankind, answer age-old questions, and raising the quality of life and peace of mind for all.
I believe, from the writings of great seekers after truth from history (and the “Magi” of today) that they could see that most men and women wasted their earthly existence in frivolous, worthless, or maddeningly routine pursuits, never having the luxury, or even the desire, to step back, rise above, and seek genuine, life-changing Truth. How many today fritter away their lives with social media, video games, addictions, or endless hours of couch-potato TV sports, for example? The Wise Men were wise not because of their great knowledge, but because of their humble, teachable, even divine lifelong quest for Truth, often at great cost and hardship. They did not seek the Christ-child with preconceived notions, and were not subject to the prejudices of local leaders, like Herod. When Herod asked them to help locate the child, to their eternal credit, they did not cooperate.
CASPAR, MELCHIOR, AND BALTHAZAR
They came out of the East, likely from the Persian Empire. They had seen many things in their travels. Tradition says that Caspar was old (60), Melchior middle aged (40), and Balthazar young (20) and a black man. They are often thought to have been astrologers, as mentioned, likely for a kingly court. But, again, tradition says that they were men on a mission, searching for something they could not explain, but somehow deep within knew it was critical they find. Tradition also claims that later at least one was contacted by Jesus’s Apostles and was baptized a Christian.
Throughout history men and women have struck out into the world seeking truth. More often, however, truth is just as likely (perhaps more so) to be found much closer to home. The example the Magi would set for all humankind, however, is a simple one, an example we can all follow today. It is also the heart and soul of my prayers each day, asking in faith that perhaps, that day, I might be led to at least one worthy truth, one that can change my life and help me to better understand and help others. Unfortunately, it appears that today many are going in the opposite direction, embracing “fake news” with lazy impunity, and thereby enabling those who so willingly produce such disinformation and outright lies.
In such a life-long quest for Truth it is hard to find a better historical example than these three searching men who faced each of their God-given days with a gentle, humble heart and clear and open mind. Again, as I’ve said so many times in these Posts, this is, as I believe, the reason we are here. This is our life’s purpose, the divine pursuit of Truth and the avoidance of Fake News, following in the humble footsteps of Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar.