The Three Wise Men...

We three kings of Orient are,
Bearing gifts we traverse afar,
Field and fountain,
moor and mountain,
Following yonder star.

January 6th marks the feast of the Epiphany, or as it is better known here in Malta as It-Tre Re. In my childhood it was a very loved tradition, that we write letter to the Three Kings or to our favourite King: Melchor, Gaspar or Baltasar. Santa Claus was quite well-known, and he delivers toys and presents, but the real stars were the Three Kings. These Three Kings are the ones who followed a star to meet the new King of Kings and that's the reason why they are a very important part of the Christmas Story.

The tradition is that three Magi came with the gold, francincense and myrrh. Three wise men, no doubt extravagantly dressed in exotic clothing and riding on camels.

It is thought they were probably of Zoroastrian belief and could very well have been priests. The gifts would indicate they were both of a priestly and possibly royal line.

The names Casper, Baltazar and Melkior have been attributed to them-Melkior means king, while Baltazar means ‘Lord God protect the king’ and Casper apparenly means ‘treasurer’. They came from the East, most probably from Persia, India and Arabia.They left their countries for a long journey to Bethlehem after seeing an unusually brilliant star blazing in the sky that was described as an omen in ancient astrological texts. It signifies the birth of a great ruler - whom they find in a cave used for stabling animals, with a feeding trough for a cradle. Alongside Mary and Joseph, an assortment of farm animals and a ragtag bunch of shepherds, the three kings of the Orient settle down in the straw to spend time with a newborn baby named Jesus and by doing that they attracted unwanted attention from one bloodthirsty King Herod

The gifts they brought and laid at Christ’s manger were the symbols of their own status and the gods they worshipped. They were giving them up to the real God. They were giving up a great deal. Of course the symbolism was potent; gold for a king, francincense for a priest and myrhh for a prophet and a symbol of death as it was the spice used to anoint the body. The fact that myrrh has long, sharp thorns is also an interesting note. I think I have read somewhere that Christ’s crown may have been made of myrrh branches-but this may not be very likely.

The spice was worth far more than either gold or franincense. It was and still is used in medicine, sometimes mixed in wine as it was at the time of Christ’s crucifixion.
So what does the story mean?
It’s impossible to answer that question without knowing something about the other significant visitors to Jesus during his babyhood.The shepherds in the Bible have been sanitized by generations of Christian artwork and children’s nativity plays and fairytale images of rolling green pastures dotted with cuddly white sheep. In reality the shepherds of first-century Palestine were very different. They were bandits. They were gossips. The townspeople used to hide away their unmarried daughters whenever the shepherds hit town, just in case. They definitely weren’t sweet country bumpkins with a fondness for the simple life.
Yet the angel Gabriel and the hosts of heaven appeared to some of these men on the hills of Bethlehem, to tell them that the longed-for messiah had been born. You will find him in a stable. Go to him.
Picture the scene: a bunch of smelly, dirty, illiterate shepherds with criminal leanings crowding into Jesus’ birthplace and sitting down next to a group of extremely refined, well educated and wealthy foreigners who had also come to pay their respects. It’s unlikely that the wise men were really at the stable on the night of Jesus’ birth. The Bible suggests that they visited Jesus at some point during the first two years of his life, so they probably never met the shepherds at all. Does that matter? No.
The nativity set that my family has in the lounge has three shepherds and three wise men grouped artistically round the manger, in deference to the legend. Three of each? It seems too picture-perfect. It is too picture-perfect. But even the details and embellishment added by legend have a meaning: to illustrate quite plainly that absolutely everyone is welcome here
It also helps us make more sense out of our traditional nativity scenes. There are Jews in the scene (Joseph, Mary, the Shepherds) there are Gentiles in the scene (the Magi) there are representatives of creation (the farm animals and angel) and even the heavens themselves (the star.)
Site Meter


Popular posts from this blog

ONLY IN Malta- Sponsering MasterChef while trying to win it

Hiccups Pub Paceville- still the best burger you could ever have had...but luckily you still can have...