Wisest men of the east
By Lunminthang Haokip
January 1, 2008: An impulsive man who doesn’t know much about motor-mechanism once bought a third-hand motor-car without consulting a mechanic. After a week’s smooth-ride, at every turning the doors of the vehicle flapped like the wings of a bird at take-off point. Made poorer by tens of thousands of hard-earned rupees by the new ‘status symbol’, the Sukh-ram of yore became a Dukhi-ram overnight. Ignorant of the ‘accident’ the old ominous four-wheeler met on the offended owner’s notional highway, curious neighbours kept enquiring, “How’s the condition of your car?”. “Well”, said our irritated man with a sigh of grief, “All the parts are making noise except the horn”.
Christ-less Christmas: The modern-day Christmas celebration presents a dissimilarly similar situation. It has everything in it but Christ. All over the country, Christmas means different things to different groups of people. To the filthy rich purse-proud citizenry, it is a time to surprise the members of one’s nuclear family with lavish gifts in the form of latest designer-types in winter-wear. Exotic items are presented to those who matter in one’s scheme of things in the name of Christmas; but the motive usually is ulterior and an insult to Christ. The shop-keepers eagerly get cracking vying with one another to further fatten their bank balances by exploiting to the hilt the recklessly extravagant bent of mind most Christians indulge themselves in during the season that heralds the birth of the manger-born Saviour.
Joy To The Seller: It is indeed, “joy to the world of unscrupulous bourgeois businessmen” dealing in consumer-durables. On the other hand, pathetic real-life scenes of bickering over money-matters are enacted with irregular regularity in the homes of the lowly-paid proletariat class. Human wants and needs multiply with the setting-in of the coldest season. Heaters and charcoal burn holes in the father’s pocket. Nevertheless, the means to buy are inevitably inadequate for the un-revised pay-structure. There is an urgent pressure from school authorities that fees be cleared before the finals.
If the children get through, bigger headache awaits the parents at admission time. Uniforms, text-books and demands for ad-inspired elitist commodities are enough to keep the parental head hot throughout the wintry chill. The spirit of consumerism is one of the prices our Lord paid for on the Cross. If we will not cut our coat according to our cloth, woe unto us, we are falling deep into a domestic debt-trap. Christmas is no time for buying but for searching and giving. Are you glamour-bound or Christ-bound?
Meat and Drink: The Wise men of the East were a class apart from their contemporaries. Their undaunted determination to meet the new-born Jesus firmly took all other fleshly thoughts into captivity. In contrast, the Wise men of this century consider Christmas as a nice time to throw parties of soft-meat and hard-drinks when they are not thronging eateries offering choicest gourmet-food. We don’t blame them. Even the country-folk shivering in tattered attire inside a shanty battered by communal flare-up of the not-so-recent past, whose stock of paddy is barely sufficient to see them through Christmas, would, without batting an eyelid, generously contribute to the advance and Post-Christmas feasts of purely non-vege variety.
They are the ones who raise a shrill voice of dissent against decent proposals to celebrate ‘Emmanuel’s birth without the ‘flesh and garlic’ of Egypt. Making it at the annual dish-co-munching eat-together of the village is taken as a matter of ‘prestige’ when there is no prestige left in the impoverished household. Why should cattle tremble in every Birth-anniversary of the true Joy-Giver?
Indifferent Jerusalem: In the backblocks as well as in the city by-lanes, Christmas is a amorally associated with undue pomp and gaiety that have nothing to do with the birth, breeding and beatitudes of Lord Jesus. Even Jerusalem was in such a state. Down the ages, the prophets foretold the birth of the Messiah-to-be which the people of the biggest Jewish city couldn’t possibly be unaware of. But when the star-guided Magi broke the Good News of the millennium in the holy city, not a soul bothered to mill around and go along with them to Bethlehem, lying a mere seven miles away. Some staying nearest to church are farthest from God. How often people react repulsively to humble invitations to hear the Word of God?
Settlers of Jerusalem took the Magi and their other-worldly queries to be a little round-the-bend and queer. But their quintessential quest could no be quenched by the quacking quibble around town. It’s sad that they were alone in their meritorious mission to meet the Messiah. Till today, real followers of Jesus find themselves isolated, ridiculed, persecuted and hated by the world. “If the world hates you, you know that it hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you (John 15; 18,19)”. Whatever the hurdle, at the end of the day, it’s richly rewarding to serve Lord Jesus. You’ll soon feel cheated and used when you serve worldly men. Let our adversaries spew a venom of vitriolic vilification, we’ll not budge. If they will not go to heaven with us, we must not go to hellfire with them.
Insecurity of the Usurper: “ ………. When Herod the king heard these things, he was troubled and all Jerusalem with him (Mt. 2:3)”. Herod was an Edomite. He was appointed king of Judea because he enjoyed the favour of the then Roman rulers like Augustus and Wise men halted at Herod’s head quarter and unknowingly hassled the hedonic monarch with queries about the hallowed “King of the Jews”. Loathe to see any human hanker for his throne, Herod hammered out a heinous half-baked plot to nip the heir-apparent in the bud. Here’s a classic example of the insecurity of mortal men who gain positions by hook or by crook. King Saul was after the blood of David, the shepherd boy, because his subject hailed David as a greater war-hero.
The elder brother felt threatened by the return of the prodigal son. The main occupation of every big boss is to mind the business of his own immediate deputy. Touchy jealousy is typical of down-sliding rulers. Nearing retirement, and haunted by the lonely lack-luster isolation ahead of him, an outgoing employer had no compunction in making the professional lives of his own staff difficult because he is troubled in advance by the latter’s progressive prospects even after his impending oblivion.
Other-Worldly Kingdom: Herod harboured a hidden hang-up that the Messiah may meddle with his secular interests. The incorrigible sinner also thinks the Gospel is going to make life tight, terse and throttling that would deprive him of the joys and pleasures. Nothing can be farther from the truth than such a superimposed supposition. The life of Jesus is an open book for all to read. He has no stake whatsoever to claim in the wicked kingdom of Herod nor in the commercial credits of Harrod’s (the gigantic departmental store and pride of London). Those who oppose Him do not know that He alone can ruffle and soothe the upheavals of the heart like hot iron pressing flat crumpled dresses to shape.
“When they saw the star they rejoiced with exceeding great joy (Mt. 2:10).”
No Gift Too Dear: What are you wise for? For yourself or for your Lord? The wisdom of the Wise men of the East had as its top priority the feverish cross-country search to find the Son of God. They had to trudge along vast stretches of parched desert-land enduring patiently adverse weather and perverse demeanour. But their craving to meet their Lord was too compelling that no distance was too far, no danger too risky, no cost to high and, no gift too dear. No matter what their sartorial get-up was, God was pleased with sincerity of their mental make-up and brought down heavenly set-up. A bright star made a special appearance to take them afar to Jerusalem where it disappeared. At Bethlehem they were at their wit’s end, but not at their faith’s, as to the exact birthplace of the Saviour. Then, the star reappeared and helped them locate the blessed manger.
At times we get bogged down by the woes and cares of this conflict-riddled expanse between two poles and get pushed off our divine rocker. Are you drifting away towards an aimless and aid-less life? Do you cease to get a holy kick out of reading the Scripture? If you do, you had lost sight of your star. Crucified and resurrected for our sins Jesus Himself becomes the indispensable light-giver today. Happiness will continue to elude you unless you repent, set things right and on bended knees, travail in passionate prayer that the Star may re-emerge to show you what you sought and missed. The Star is the symbol of God’s reassuring presence. Keeping track of it will slowly but surely lead you to heavenly bliss.
“And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary His mother, and fell down, and worshipped Him : and when they presented unto Him gifts; gold and frankincense, and myrrh (Mt.2:11)”.
He Matters Most: Faithful obedience to God’s Word only can land you up onto the higher experience of conversion. Spiritual brokenness in true conversion will fill your heart with ‘joy unspeakable’ that the Wise men tasted at the birth of the ‘Young Child’. In both cases one meets one’s Lord and nothing else matters. Such an excited lifting of the spirit will manifest itself in complete surrender to and compassionate worship of the Lord. If that’s not happening, lesser things will. It’s said the years a woman subtracts from her actual age are never lost, they are added to a rival-lady’s age.
If you fail to psyche yourself to adore the Prince of Peace, you’ll get effortlessly mesmerized by the ‘princes of this world’. If you skip Church meetings on the Lord’s day, you’ll end up doing something horrible that you’ll surely repent for.. A wretched villager who’s wardrobe poverty had nearly reduced to the straps of his underwear, with Rs.50/- in hand, bunked Sunday service to buy a few kgs. of rice from the market. There thinking he would multiply his purchasing-power, the gambling fool risked his hard-earned capital in a gamble-of-dice (Lagao) and lost. Poor fellow, he looked up, beat his forehead lamenting, “oh! I should’ve purchased the rice first”.
Time To Give: You can’t take chances with your spiritual salvation, it’s far far better to follow the Star than make bids to be on par with the Czars of this universe. We don’t have to go on to shop till you drop or deck up our houses with glittering stuff in the name of Christmas. The Son of the poor carpenter of Nazareth will certainly feel ill-at-ease in the midst of ostentatious display of wealth. If anything, Christmas is the time to give. The Wise men, apart from their hearts, presented gold, frankincense and myrrh to the ‘New-born-Child’. Usually gifted to kings, the gold symbolized a tribute to the ‘Kingship’ of Jesus. Frankincense was offered to the ‘deity’ of Christ for they honoured God with the smoke of incense; and myrrh as to a Man who should die, for myrrh, otherwise was used in embalming dead bodies. The Magi gave everything they had to Jesus and underlined their spiritual presence in every Christmas observance.
Victory Can Be Yours: What are you going to offer your Lord this season? The inn of Bethlehem had no room for Him. Christ today is looking out for a place to enter inside your heart. Are the chambers of your heart fully occupied by the world and sin? ‘He who knew no sin became sin’ that sin in us may be conquered. Nothing will please your Savior more than total and absolute forsaking of the sin-nature in you. The victory of the Cross will at once be effective in your life the moment you receive assurance of salvation through repentance. Not before that. If you are triumphant over sin, the Holy Spirit, as was done to the Magi, will lead you to the Holy Star and you will develop an insatiable urge to give your all to the Lord; Herods and Harrods notwithstanding.
The writer is an Additional Deputy Commissioner under the government of Manipur, a northeast state of India.