They’re on horseback on the left-hand side of the picture, galloping uphill, their faces turned up looking for the star which has led them here. The wise men are also part of the Christmas story, and they don’t just bring their strange and exotic gifts, but they also bring the world of politics and military power into the story.
King Herod, a violent and cunning ruler who was paranoid about his hold on power, is alarmed by his unexpected visitors, and eventually orders the horrific massacre of all newborn boys in Bethlehem in an attempt to liquidate any rival to his throne, no matter how young.
In the picture, the uphill angle of the horses tell us about the long, hard journey made by the wise men, and how important the event was to them. Maybe they alone in the story had realised something of what was truly happening. And the speed of their horses tells us of the urgency and danger in their part of the story.
They show how the story of the birth of Jesus was rooted in the real world of political corruption and intrigue, with a ruler who was prepared to kill anyone who stood in his way.
It was this real world of oppression, death and danger, which Jesus had come to save.
Spend a few moments in thought and prayer while you’re at your computer. If it’s night-time, dim or turn off the lights in your room.
If possible, light a candle or night-light and think of the wise men who made their long, exhausting journey to Bethlehem, and the fear and suspicion they stirred up in King Herod.
Think of a situation somewhere in the world today where people suffer and die because of the corruption of powerful governments. Spend some time praying for those who suffer and reflect on what you can do to make a difference.
Here is a prayer to pray…
Holy Child of Bethlehem,
whom Herod sought to kill;
we pray for all who live with danger,
all who are persecuted.
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An Eastern icon of the Nativity introduces us to the main characters in the cast of Christmas: Jesus, Mary, Joseph, shepherds and angels, and the wise men. With notes, short reflections and prayers for you to follow.
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