Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The Wise Men Weren't Christians But They're Still Part Of Christmas

Last year around Christmas, I blogged about Josephus' account of Jesus. That seemed to be pretty interesting for most people that read my blog, since it's the second most popular post I've ever written and it still gets views throughout the year but gets heavily visited around Christmas.


This year I want to talk about the "three wise men" from Matthew's account of Jesus' birth. Here's their part in the birth of Jesus (or you can skip down to where I paraphrase the 12 verses below):

"After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”
When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:
“‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
    are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
    for out of you will come a ruler
    who will shepherd my people Israel.’”
Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”
After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route." (Matthew 2: 1-12, New International Version)

They saw a new star that denoted the birth of a Messiah and they followed it to its source. Upon arriving in King Herod's domain, they asked Herod where the child was to be born. Herod consulted with the chief priests and they were able to correctly tell the Magi that Jesus would be born in Bethlehem. The wise men then followed the star until they found the child in a house. They fell down at the feet of the Infant King and worshiped him, presenting him with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. God then warned them in a dream not to return to Herod, so they returned to their country using an alternate route and lived out their lives in their own country.

What does all this have to do with anything?
Well, what most people don't know is that the Magi, or wise men, were Zoroastrians.They were followers of the Prophet Zoroaster (and you can read more about their prophet here: Zoroaster. They were not even Christians the way we define Christians today. Guess what? I don't know of a nativity scene that's complete without the wise men. Let's recap:

-They knew of a prophecy about Christ's birth
-They left their homes to find the Messiah
-When they found him, they kneeled and presented him with gifts that were fit for a King
-After worshiping Christ, God spoke to them in a dream and told them to return to their country via a different route

So in reality, they received two honors that few people have received in this life. They were gifted the chance to worship the Immortal Christ in person. They were spoken to by God in a dream. Does that actually make them Christians?

Here's what I believe. We focus too much throughout the year on excluding people. These people don't belong to this group that I'm in because of this. I don't think they would fit in. Those people aren't Christians like I'M a Christian. It's really annoying. Christianity should be a religion of inclusion. Stop looking at your neighbors like they have the plague. Stop with the jealous thoughts and feelings that run your life. Stop looking down on others who may have received honors from God that you can't even comprehend.

Merry Christmas and happy whatever else doesn't offend you. For me, I would love to kneel at the feet of Christ with the Magi, the shepherds, and the little drummer boy. I wouldn't be thinking horrible things about them because they, like me, just want to worship the Son of God.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Online Donors Raise $100,000 So Orlando, The Seeing-Eye Dog, Can Stay With His Best Friend

I wanted to post something since its getting pretty late into December and I haven't blogged since last month. I thought about writing about the whole Phil Robertson / Duck Dynasty controversy over what he said, but that actually sounds kind of boring to me. Here's what I think. Phil is a celebrity because his family makes duck calls really well. He also runs a very successful business. So unless Phil is talking about duck calls or running a business, I really don't care what his opinion is. Everyone has a right to say whatever they want, but I don't understand how everyone can get into a heated debate over what celebrities think. It's not like they have any knowledge on most subjects beyond what an ordinary person would have.


On to something more important. I don't usually cover news stories on here, but it's close to Christmas and I really liked this story.

The above photo is a picture of Cecil Williams, a blind man, and his seeing-eye dog of eight years, Orlando. Orlando the Labrador is one of the most badass dogs ever. Not only did the dog go above and beyond what he was required to do, he did something very few humans would even attempt.

On December 17, 2013, Cecil fainted and fell onto the train tracks of the subway. Orlando went down to save him. After an unsuccessful attempt at trying to get Cecil off the train tracks, Orlando stayed there with him and licked his face as the train passed over both of them. They both escaped with only minor injuries.

Orlando is nearly 11 and that means he's only a short time away from retirement as a seeing-eye dog. Cecil wanted to keep him as a pet, but didn't feel he had the money to do so responsibly. This is the kind of thing that catches the attention of the internet. A GoFundMe project has raised nearly $38,000 and an Indiegogo campaign has pulled in around $67,500 so that Cecil can get a new seeing-eye dog but still keep Orlando as a pet.

Normally I think that these ridiculous amounts of money raised after a story goes viral are kind of... well... ridiculous. In this case, I don't think so. Yes, the money was raised so Cecil can keep Orlando as a pet. In reality, Orlando went above and beyond the call of duty and he deserves to retire and live out his days with his best friend, Cecil. Will that require $100,000? I doubt it. The extra money will be going to Guiding Eyes for the Blind, an organization that trains seeing-eye dogs and then gives them to blind people at no charge. They were also the group that initially gave Orlando to Cecil.

So Orlando, you are a badass dog. I hope you have a great time as a retired badass. I'm glad that you get to stay with Cecil, the owner that clearly means more to you than your own life.