Christmas’ second meaning

At this point it’s nearly cliche to badger everyone about commercializing the hell out of (or into) the Christmas holiday, but nevertheless…

Christmas does not need to be strictly “Christian” in its broader meaning. Christmas begins with the story of three wise men, Eastern Kings, men of great wealth and means who lay their own glory at the feet of a newborn child in a stable after traveling thousands of miles at considerable personal risk to find him. This has a potent symbolism, for me, that transcends religion or dogma. It reminds me of the true sources of power and wonder. And reminds me that wealth and influence are not everything, but to the extent that they are anything they are best used as currency in the pursuit of things more pure, more simple and more essential to the human experience.

The wise men–the kings–and how they spend their loot, is Christmas’ second story.

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6 thoughts on “Christmas’ second meaning

  1. Touching but as a Jew, I am quite curious. Why did they leave the child at risk (manger birth, hostile occupying government) and leave a few gifts and split? Were they wise men or kings, and if the latter, is there a historical record of who they were? Least they could have done was set up some mutual funds for the kid’s education, donchathink?

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  2. Brian,Of course, most NT scholars would say that the wise men and the nativity story in general are later additions to the Jesus myth. So no, there is not a “historical record of who they were.”

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  3. There is no historical record but a fair amount of quasi-historical tradition. Marco Polo writes of having been brought to the tombs of the Magi near Tehran. Of course he also writes of their bodies having still been in preserved condition.There are, however, interesting circumstantial items that suggest celestial events that would have attracted the interest of astrologers like the magi are meant to have been.From an MSNBC article: “Historical records and modern-day computer simulations indicate that there was a rare series of planetary groupings, also known as conjunctions, during the years 3 B.C. and 2 B.C.The show started on the morning of June 12 in 3 B.C., when Venus could be sighted very close to Saturn in the eastern sky. Then there was a spectacular pairing of Venus and Jupiter on Aug. 12 in the constellation Leo, which ancient astrologers associated with the destiny of the Jews.Between September of 3 B.C. and June of 2 B.C., Jupiter passed by the star Regulus in Leo, reversed itself and passed it again, then turned back and passed the star a third time. This was another remarkable event, since astrologers considered Jupiter the kingly planet and regarded Regulus as the “king star.”The crowning touch came on June 17, when Jupiter seemed to approach so close to Venus that, without binoculars, they would have looked like a single star.”But all of this, really, is quite secondary to the symbolic meaning of the story, thinks me.

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  4. Ah, I understand now. So, astrology trumps historical records and one may reliably count on the stars to lead one to a divine birth. Sorry, it’s all a little confusing to Jews. After all, as they say, Jesus Saves, Moses Invests.

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  5. Sir Brian,You seem to have not read the previous message thoroughly. That ain’t astrology. That IS the historical record, i.e. there WAS a convergence of stars that constituted a highly visible celestial event that would have been noted by gazers of the day.What these “wise men” did (or did not do) with that event might be called astrology. The event itself is quite historical.

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