Sunday, January 6, 2008

January 6th, Wise Men's Day

Today is Wise Men's Day - the date traditionally celebrated to acknowledge the arrival of the Wise Men to see Jesus.

Most of the Nativity sets I've seen include figurines of the Wise Men and their camels. and there are always three Wise Men. (My set only has two because one got smashed under a careless foot years ago. Yes, You're right. The Nativity set was under the tree.)

So were there really only three Wise Men? Probably not. Three men, no matter how important, wouldn't have caused the stir in the capital city of Jerusalem and so enraged King Herod. There were perhaps many more who came, but we use three because of the gifts mentioned that they brought to Jesus.

When King Herod asked the Wise Men when this star had first appeared in the sky, they said about two years before. (They had a long journey.) Hence, if Herod wanted to kill off a rival to his throne, he'd have to kill all boys up to two years old. Herod's own prophets told him the Messiah was scheduled to be born in Bethlehem. so he sent the Wise Men to Bethlehem.

"When you have found him, bring me word so I can go and worship him, too." That's what King Herod said, but that's not what he meant.

Needless to say Jesus was no longer in the manger when the Wise Men arrived, even though our Nativity sets show it so. The Bible says the Wise Men followed the star to the house where Joseph, Mary and Jesus were now.

Did the Wise Men go back and tell Herod where they found Jesus? No, they were WISE! Actually an angel warned them in a dream to go home another way and they did. But when Herod found out he'd been tricked, he ordered all boys age two and under to be killed.

One of my favorite Christmas figurines is called "Flight to Egypt." It shows Mary and Jesus on a donkey led by Joseph on their way to Egypt to escape King Herod's soldiers. Isn't it interesting that one of the prophecies in the Old Testament about Jesus says, "Out of Egypt I have called my Son."

The end of this story is that after King Herod died, Joseph, Mary and Jesus returned to Nazareth, their home town, and that's where Jesus grew up.

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