“Somehow, not only for Christmas,
But all the long year through,
The joy that you give to others,
Is the joy that comes back to you.
And the more you spend in blessing,
The poor and lonely and sad,
The more of your heart’s possessing,
Returns to you glad.”
John Greenleaf Whittier~

One of my all time favorite Christmas stories is The Other Wise Man by Henry Van Dyke.  I remember sitting in a family circle while my mom, tears in her eyes, read this timeless classic.  A soul-touching Christmas tradition.  The Other Wise Man always makes me cry every time I read it.

From Classic Reader:
“You know the story of the Three Wise Men of the East, and how they travelled from far away to offer their gifts at the manger-cradle in Bethlehem. But have you ever heard the story of the Other Wise Man, who also saw the star in its rising, and set out to follow it, yet did not arrive with his brethren in the presence of the young child Jesus? Of the great desire of this fourth pilgrim, and how it was denied, yet accomplished in the denial; of his many wanderings and the probations of his soul; of the long way of his seeking and the strange way of his finding the One whom he sought–I would tell the tale as I have heard fragments of it in the Hall of Dreams, in the palace of the Heart of Man.”

Van Dyke goes on to weave the beautiful story of Artaban, the fourth Wiseman, and how he sacrifices his every cherished gift for the Christ child in the service of mankind and, in doing so, ultimately for Christ,  The message is profound and badly needed in this world.

From Goodreads:

“1895. American clergyman, educator, and author, Van Dyke explains the origins of the story of the Fourth Wise Man as having arrived suddenly and without labor.  One night he saw him distinctly, moving through the shadows in a little circle of light.  His countenance was as clear as the memory of his father’s face. The narrative of his journeyings and trials and disappointments ran without a break. Even certain sentences came complete and unforgettable, clear-cut like a cameo. All that he had to do was to follow Artaban, step by step, as the tale went on, from the beginning to the end of his pilgrimage…”

Fascinating how this story came to him.  No wonder it rings true and makes me think maybe there really was another wise man.  The Magi have always intrigued me. I'd love to know more about them.

9 comments

  1. Mary Ricksen // December 3, 2011 at 11:55 AM  

    I never heard of that story. Makes you think. I'd like to know more too. What would possess them to travel so far, to give gifts? Where there prophecies they had in each of their cultures? Why?

  2. Beth Trissel // December 3, 2011 at 2:04 PM  

    Good questions all, Mary. From what I've gathered, the Magi were exceptionally educated--wise men--who studied the stars. And they were wealthy. Not sure why that combination unless rich dudes had more time. They read in the stars about the birth of an important new king, and followed the signs in the heavens to Bethlehem. They probably also had prophetic abilities. They creche scenes with the wisemen and the shepherds in the stable is a photo op. According to the New Testament they didn't arrive until up to two years later.

  3. Mary Marvella // December 3, 2011 at 2:31 PM  

    Interesting they would continue the search so far. I can see how they might have gained or lost someone on the way. Who would have believed their story?

  4. Barbara Monajem // December 3, 2011 at 5:47 PM  

    The story sounds familiar, but if I ever read it, it was many, many years ago.

    Many religions have stories of wise men searching for a Promised One. Sometimes they find Him in the flesh, sometimes not until later.
    I'll make a point of reading that book, Beth -- thanks for posting about it.

  5. Beth Trissel // December 3, 2011 at 10:21 PM  

    OK, good. Report back. :)

  6. Pamela Varnado // December 4, 2011 at 12:03 AM  

    This is so thought provoking, Beth. I've never heard of it. Is the book still for sale? Thanks for sharing John Greenleaf Whittier's words of wisdom. Giving brings me way more joy than receiving. Knowning that I'm responsible for the happiness I see on someone else's face is the best gift I could ever receive.

  7. Josie // December 4, 2011 at 5:25 PM  

    How interesting. I'd never heard this story before. The other day, I watched "The Star of Bethlehem" on DVD. This is a fascinating study of the stars that night in Bethlehem.

  8. Beth Trissel // December 4, 2011 at 8:45 PM  

    Thanks all. And Yes, it's for sale. Here's the Amazon link: http://www.amazon.com/Other-Wise-Man-Henry-Dyke/dp/082495565X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1323049433&sr=1-1

  9. Judy // December 5, 2011 at 8:03 AM  

    I'm not familiar with the story but how heartbreaking to set out to see the baby Jesus and not be able to make it. I'll try to look up the book. Thanks for sharing this.