There is a story in Thailand,… a king gave a poor man a gift of a white elephants, the elephants could not be disposed of , they could not work and were very expensive to keep . The recipient of the elephant and everyone in the village knew that the gift was dangerous and useless. Yet the white elephant in that country symbolized regal power strength. It was given as a mark of respect.
Our travellers from the East are wise men, for sure; everyone agrees on that. They might even be rich men, or kings, if the legends are true. But that’s not how the text introduces them, is it?—”rich men from the East.” No, it is very clear: “In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, ‘Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we have observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.’”
Let us cut straight to the point. Being wise is not the same as having common sense. To search for the Christ is the epitome of wisdom. To underestimate King Herod is the epitome of stupid.
The first people to hear this story would have caught the supreme irony at work in the telling, because they would have remembered what it was like, when King Herod was on the throne. Herod was one of the cruellest dictators ever to pass through the Middle East, a man so paranoid about succession that he had his own sons executed, to keep them from inheriting his throne.Being wise is not the same as having common sense. You can be wonderfully clever at astrophysics and yet not have an ounce of being street smart.
The truth is that earnest seekers only ever have part of the truth. The pursuit of wisdom, the search for the Christ, is a lifelong journey. It unfolds over time and with a lot of help. We will, as the “wise men” demonstrate, make a lot of mistakes—really stupid ones.
May God send us the dreams, the spirit, the wise ones to guide our journeys.
God of wisdom ,
Christ our morning star that never sets
Help us to wise people
and to follow you.