I don't know why, but the picture of the wise men traversing the barren deserts under a dark, starlit sky remains my favorite visual imprint of the season. I know it should be the baby in the manger. Or Jesus on the cross. Or something more Christ-focused. But for me, in all honesty, it's the magi crossing the barren wastes under dark of night.
Perhaps it's because a manger my family owned when I was growing up had a painting print on the back of it that showed the picture, and the image stuck. Especially since I used to play with the manger as a child. Maybe it's because my favorite ornaments were three old - now tarnished - metallic colored plastic wise men that hung from the tree branches. I just don't know.
But the image, at least to me, matches that longing in our hearts - even the most die hard atheists - to search for something. Whether truth, God, meaning, I don't know. But to this day I can't look at a picture of the desert, especially one at night, and not think of this image, which of course eventually brings me to that object of my lifelong search. Perhaps that's why it's always been there. Who knows?
1Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, 2"Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him." 3When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. 4Gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. 5They said to him, "In Bethlehem of Judea; for this is what has been written by the prophet:
6' AND YOU, BETHLEHEM, LAND OF JUDAH,
ARE BY NO MEANS LEAST AMONG THE LEADERS OF JUDAH;
FOR OUT OF YOU SHALL COME FORTH A RULER
WHO WILL SHEPHERD MY PEOPLE ISRAEL.'"
7Then Herod secretly called the magi and determined from them the exact time the star appeared.
8And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, "Go and search carefully for the Child; and when you have found Him, report to me, so that I too may come and worship Him."
9After hearing the king, they went their way; and the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them until it came and stood over the place where the Child was. 10When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. 11After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12And having been warned by God in a dream not to return to Herod, the magi left for their own country by another way.