In my nativity set, I have camels, presumably to carry the wise men to Bethehem. We occasionally saw camels in Israel, but it was in Jordan that I had the chance to ride a camel. It was great fun and I have new respect for the Wise Men.
We did not hear about Wise Men while in Bethlehem though the scriptures testify that they visited the baby Jesus. The wise men did not
really kneel at the manger as we often imagine. They came much later, perhaps as much as two
years later. We know this because Herod on learning that he had been tricked by the wise men ordered the death of all babies two years and younger.
Even though we know this, we celebrate the coming of the Wise Men when we celebrate Christmas. We display them in our nativity sets and we include them in our singing of carols and in our Christmas pageants
The wise men, or Magi, came from afar, and unlike
the common, humble shepherds were men of wealth, influence, and
power, perhaps even kings. And so we see that the Savior did not
come to just one nation or class of people.
The Savior’s mission was to all people, rich and poor, learned and ignorant,
humble and influential, Jew and gentile. All men, no matter what
their race or station can come to the Savior and become whole. We are
reminded that when he comes again every knee will bow and every tongue confess
that Jesus is the Christ.
We feel a sense of wonder as we imagine the Wise Men opening their treasures
for the small Jesus. Their gifts were so well chosen. Gold, a
gift reserved for royalty, a gift representing a crown, a gift befitting a
king. Frankincense, a type of incense used by the priests in the temple.
This was given as a symbol of his priesthood, his divine power, his Priestly
nature. Frankincense was used in the temple for sacrificial offerings,
and was given to the baby Jesus... Jesus, who would one day teach us much
about sacrifice...Jesus, who had come to sacrifice himself for us, that we
might live again. The third gift, myrhh, was a type of perfume used for
burial, a gentle reminder that Jesus would one day die for us.
Don't you love these images: Learned men searching for Jesus, the source
of truth and knowledge; Influential men traveling through the darkness, to find
the light of the world--following the star to seek the bright and morning star;
perhaps even Kings, bowing before the King of Kings.
Wise men still seek Him.