Perhaps nothing is more mysterious in scripture than the story of the Magi who come to visit baby Jesus. Who were these people and where did they come from? Why make such a long journey? Couldn’t they have just been satisfied with the knowledge that they had received from the stars?
In The Story of the Other Wise Man, Henry Van Dyke attempts to answer these questions. With scholarship and style he makes a fascinating fictional case for what the wise men were up to. In Artaban, the “other wise man,” you have a true pilgrim whose pure heart and devotion to his calling is most admirable.
Apparently, Van Dyke’s short story is more than 100 years old and is a classic Christian writing. It has also inspired a feature film starring Martin Sheen. I had never heard of it until this past year. My only qualm with this story is that so much is spent at the beginning with the explanation for why the journey would be beneficial that the actual journey and subsequent results seem rushed. Still, Artaban’s life and service to others raises powerful questions about one’s response to Christ. I like wrestling with these questions because Christmas stories don’t have to be summed up by a Christmas card sentimentality.