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What is it about nice people that attract total idiots?Nice people are martyrs. Idiots are evangelists.

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Saturday, December 8, 2012

A Christmas post

So I got the lights put up last night.  And as I show them off, I thought I'd do a little musing about a sermon I heard the other day on the "Three Kings".

From the front...


I put that in quotes because one of the many things you learn on looking into them is that they weren't kings, and there may not have been three of them.  The Bible only lets us know there were more than one, and tradition has held that there were as many as 12.  Another place I looked at suggests that due to the length and importance of the journey, it may well have been an entire diplomatic caravan, complete with Secret Service guards stopping off at the bar after hours getting liquored up on the Persian dime.

They were Magoi, or the philosopher/priests of Media/Persia, who had long interaction with Jewish thought through Daniel.  One thing that can be made sure is that they were pagan- not only because they had to go to Herod for directions, but because of the term they used for the messianic King they sought.  King Of The Jews was a term usually used by foreigners (thus the placard Pilate ordered for Jesus' cross), where Jews would have said "King of Israel".

Which led me to the thought, isn't it interesting:  The shepherds, who were Jews, had to be plainly told by angels.  The wise men, who were Gentiles, were able to see the signs and believe.

Darn it, Daddy, I want to go out and take pictures, too...
I also learned that this wasn't the only time such signs led them to take great journeys- Seneca said they made such a journey at the death of Plato, and Cicero adds that they came at the birth of Alexander to see "the Destroyer of Asia".

Another thing that gets confusing is when they showed up.  According to the timeline they gave Herod, and depending on how soon Herod decided they'd left without returning, the Child might have been 2 years old before the Magi found Him.  That explains why, forty days after His birth, the parents paid the poor offering of 2 turtledoves rather than the two sheep they'd have been able to afford with the gifts.

When you combine the two involved Gospels (Mathew and Luke), you see a timeline that involved not only the visit of the Magi, but the family going from Bethlehem to Jerusalem, back (possibly) to Nazareth, returning to Bethlehem where the Magi found them, fleeing to Egypt when Herod orders the slaying of the Holy Innocents, and Jewish tradition suggests that the Messiah was to be called out of Egypt after a year's time.  Which would make sense, as Herod's horrifying death came soon after the generally accepted date of Jesus' birth.

So I wonder: Did the census cause them to sell all they had to make the journey to Bethlehem?  Was Joseph planning just to pull up stakes and move there (because why else would they still be in Bethlehem 2 years later)?  God didn't tell us, for His own reasons.

The lights in my bedroom window.  I wasn't trying for angel wings, but I got closer than when I did try...

And what about the gifts?  One source tells me that "it is unlikely that the Magi intended any symbolism", but I think that's wrong, both because of their knowledge of Jewish tradition and the perfectness of that symbolism.  Gold, for a King.  Frankencense, for a God.  And myrrh, to prepare him for death.

Speaking of symbols, some of what I found along the way includes that at 40 days old, Jesus was presented at the Temple.  Firstborn males were presented as they were sacred to God, but could be redeemed ("bought back from God") for 5 shekels.  Why five?  Because, allegedly, that was the price the brothers got for Joseph when they sold him as a servant into Egypt.  Interestingly, it was thirty shekels to redeem a servant/slave, and thirty pieces of silver (shekels) that Judas got when he sold Jesus to the priests.

So put that in perspective: Jesus was more valuable as a slave sold to the Cross than He was as a child purchased from God.  Sort of reminds you that Jesus' value was not in how He was born, but how He died.

Taken with the flash, I got a lot of extra sparkles.

And so, whatever happened to the gifts?  Some speculate that they were used to fund the trips to Egypt and Nazareth; others say, well, now Jesus DID have four brothers and at least one sister (on His mother's side), and kids aren't cheap.  One commenter even went so far as to call it child support from God, because nobody likes a deadbeat dad.  And you gotta admit, they threw a pretty big wedding feast in Cana.  Some tradition said that Joseph (who was supposedly much older than Mary) died when Jesus was yet a teenager, so it is possible that the gifts were used to set the family up well.

Think on it this way- God set up a lot of parallels between Jesus and Moses.  Both were born of poor folk, both went went into a desert period (Jesus for forty days of getting bugged by Satan, Moses for forty years of working for Jethro) prior to embarking on very similar ministries (a story for another time).  Given that, why not the further parallel of having a well-to-do lifestyle in between poor birth and desert preparation?

And how about the star?  People for years have tried to "find evidence for Jesus" by saying that the star was a conjunction of planets, or a comet or meteor, or some other provable astronomical sign.  But one source pointed out that the star reappered after the Magi learned about Bethlehem, and LED them to the home in Bethlehem, just as the column of fire led the Israelites through the Sinai.  That is why Paul said:

"But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness..."

Because logic is telling people to search for something that can be scientifically proved to explain something clearly spiritual.

A star?  Are you Sirius?

4 comments:

  1. I really liked "So put that in perspective: Jesus was more valuable as a slave sold to the Cross than He was as a child purchased from God. Sort of reminds you that Jesus' value was not in how He was born, but how He died."

    Your post encourages me to think, however, with the long, long hours and 7 days a week of working, my brain is too fuzzy to think. Perhaps after the first of the year.

    Got to get back to work...

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    1. Totally agree. On all accounts. Which is why I am just going to nod and completely agree with Alisa's comment, because I am far too tired to make a comment of my own.

      But I was here. :)

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  2. There but for the grace of orders-not-what-they-were-expecting go i...

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  3. CWM:
    The tales about the Biblical "coinage" and the buying and selling of the various people brings to mind a saying:
    "Live good...die well".

    It would seem that Jesus did just that.
    (Word to us ALL perhaps)
    Good post.

    Stay safe (and well-lit) up there.

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