I had spent my life seeking wisdom; more, which only the wise will understand, seeking to know what wisdom is. What is knowledge? What is ignorance? What is it that makes one man’s knowing wiser than another’s? What is truth and where can it be found?
The search has taken me into many places, both high and exalted, and very ordinary and mundane. I have sought the wisdom of kings, and the wisdom of potters and weavers. I have even sought to understand the wisdom of women, though I never felt that I grasped it. After all, I am a man. I have sought the wisdom of delight and the wisdom of sorrow, the wisdom of abundance and the wisdom of denial. But most of all I studied the heavens, for surely the highest wisdom should be set in the highest place? That is what my people have taught for many generations. The God of light surely set these lights in the sky to guide our way
So I was one of those who first saw the star, one of the group who eagerly discussed it night after night, watching in amazement as it grew brighter. What did it mean? We discussed it endlessly, sometimes rather heatedly, but we arrived, fairly quickly, at some basic conclusions. The appearance out of nowhere signified a birth, its magnificence indicated the birth of someone very important, and the direction of its movement indicated where this exalted baby was to be found. We were the star-watchers, the message was for us.
Now wisdom may begin with observation, reason and theory, but it is incomplete if it does not lead to appropriate action. But in this case, since the action required involved travel to an uncertain destination for an unknowable length of time, it was clearly not possible for all of us to go. Some were old and frail to embark on such a journey, others had commitments to family or to the service of the king, and besides, few may travel more swiftly and unremarked than many.
So we set forth on our journey, and the days were long and the end uncertain, but ever the star rose brilliantly before us, and so we continued, weary but persevering. We thought we had reached our goal when we arrived at Jerusalem, for where else would a Jewish king be born? But the evil-minded king called in his wise men, and they directed us to Bethlehem, a no-account town of shepherds in the back blocks of the hills..
And that was our journey’s goal, among the poor and forgotten, in the hired house of the humble. We saw the child, and, in that moment of seeing, all our presuppositions were forgotten, and our assumptions nullified. This was not something to theorise about, and discuss around the fire on a chilly winter’s night; this was the real thing – the source of all wisdom lay in a cradle, too young to speak a single word. We looked, we pondered, then we bowed down and worshipped, stunned by wonder.
We took out the gifts we had brought, chosen with such care to be tokens of esteem and honour, costly and precious. They suddenly looked so silly in the sharp, common light of day. And yet, we gave them, laying down the pathetic vanity of our great learning, in a gesture that was the faintest echo of the self-giving of God Himself. And, as the tears clouded our eyes, we began at last to truly learn, to be unmade so that we could be remade in His image.