Given that Lent is almost upon us, I thought I’d start with a Christmas question: How many wise men visited the infant Jesus?
|What do you mean, it's not very realistic?|
If you’ve listened to as many Christmas sermons as I have, you’ll know it’s a trick question. Tradition – and countless school nativity plays – tell us there were three, to correspond with the number of gifts brought, but the Bible itself is not specific on this point.
In 1895, Henry Van Dyke’s story The Other Wise Man was published. It tells of how there were originally four magi, who agreed together to go and seek out the new king. The fourth one, Artaban, arranges to meet his travelling companions at a set time and place, and packs his bag with three precious jewels to offer to the baby. However, he misses his rendezvous, because he stops en route to help a dying man. Undeterred, he races off to Bethlehem, only to find that his friends (and the holy family) have moved on a few days previously. What’s more, Herod is in a foul mood…
If you want to know how the story ends, you can read it here: http://www.classicreader.com/book/593/1/. But without giving too much away, it’s clear that Artaban’s attempts to find Jesus are continually being thwarted by unforeseen distractions, and it’s only with hindsight that he realises that these interruptions are in fact a part of the search.
|This could be a metaphor for my writing...|
So, here’s another question: How well do you cope with interruptions? Personally, I hate being distracted, particularly when I’m in the middle of writing. (Unless it’s a self-imposed distraction, obviously: if I never publish that best-seller, Facebook and Twitter will have some explaining to do.) And I know it’s important to carve out time for my writing, service preparation and so on. But this story reminds me that, if I’m not careful, the obsessive pursuit of my dreams could mean that I miss encountering Jesus in the mundane chaos of everyday life.