Sunday, January 06, 2008

The Three Wise Men

In the old Christian calendar January 6 is the feast of the Epiphany when the wise men followed the star to Bethlehem and found the baby Jesus with his father and mother.

In Spanish Philippines January 6 is when kids got their presents. When my grandparents were alive, I got my presents on January 6. When American practices supplanted that of the Hispano-Filipino, kids shifted to Christmas day when presents are opened.

The wise men brought gifts of gold,frankincense, and myrrh. Some presents to give to a baby! But tradition says that these gifts were not for the child but for the divine in Him. Tradition also holds that the gifts were prophetic,with gold (kingship), frankincense (priesthood) and myrrh (sacrifice). To this day a monarch is expected to reign, lead the realm to God and if need be die for the realm.

But who were the wise men or magi? Medieval tradition has turned them into kings but it is likely that they were zoroastrian astrologers from Persia. They were the scientists of their day and having analysed the star's ascent came to the conclusion a king has been born.

It is debatable that the Magi realised that Jesus was God but they knew that they were seeking the King of the Jews. This was the title they said to Herod. As this was a challenge to Herod's throne,he had all the baby boys in Bethlehem killed. The magi went home by another route.

The Star has been hypothesised as a comet, supernova or even a planetary alignment. But no one knows for sure. Some scholars believe it was included in the Gospel as "artistic embellishment".

But one thing is sure. The Magi started the gift giving craze. But no one would like myrrh and frankincense as presents.

I wonder what happened to the gifts the baby got?

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