- At the Desert Retreat House -
As we now come to the end of the Christmas season, one last story remains to be told- the story of the "Three Kings," also known as the "Three Wise Men" who travel from the East to the Bethlehem manger and present baby Jesus with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
Like all the great stories of the Christmas season, this one loses its power if it is taken literally and reduced to a historical account of some past event. Skeptics will think it is unlikely to have happened; the "faithful" may accept its historical truth but other than serving as an account of a marvelous event that happened to some special people long ago, it is a story that means very little to the everyday lives of even the most fervent believers.
As I see it, the story of the "Three Wise Men" is indeed a "story" filled with magnificent metaphor and tender poetry. It is a story about the journey of "soul-searchers," about the spiritual quest for wisdom and deeper truth that each of us is invited to undertake.
Of all the Christmas literature, this story of the "Three Wise Men" is my absolute favorite.
The "Wise Men" were something like philosopher-scientists of their own time. They had acquired a wealth of knowledge in their time about how the world works and were highly respected for their wisdom and their intellect. But one day as they gazed up at the heavens charting the courses of the constellations of the stars, they noticed something new had appeared in the night skies - a bright shining star that they had never seen before and couldn't explain. This star ignited a sense of "wonder" within them, urging them to seek a greater truth and deeper wisdom than what they had already come to know.
So these "Wise Men" left behind all the comforts and assurances of their past lives. They threw caution to the wind and followed the star of wonder. They had no idea where the star would lead but they trusted it would not lead them astray, and their trust was not in vain as it led them to the place where Jesus, a light of truth, lay glowing in a manger.
The poetry is stunning.
When I hear this story of the "Wise Men," I am reminded of the Buddhist teaching about a "Beginners Mind." When a person is so filled with answers, there is no room for deeper truth or greater wisdom because the mind is already filled up. But when you look at the world as if you know nothing, as if you are a beginner on a journey of wisdom, only then can you see the old world in new and fresh ways.
Those "three wise men" left behind all their old glib and easy answers and they took on a "Beginner's Mind" - by doing so they truly became "wise men."
We all have a star of wonder shining over each of our lives. Some will be content to ignore the star and stay where they are, others will choose to make the journey.
As Christmas comes to an end and a new year begins, I look to the sky and commit to following that "wonderful" star.
Socrates once said:
Wonder is the beginning of wisdom.