By Henrylito D. Tacio
OF course, you are very familiar with the Three Kings – Gaspar, Melchor and Baltazar. After all, the three royals are part of the familiar Christmas scene, along with baby Jesus, Joseph, Mary, the shepherds and the animals.
Unknown to many, there was a Fourth King and his name was Artaban. He, too, set out to follow the star and he took with him a sapphire, a ruby, and a pearl beyond price as his gifts for the Newborn King. According to the now-forgotten story, he was riding hard to meet his friends – the Three Kings – at the agreed upon place. Time was running out when he came upon a traveler stricken with fever.
If Artaban stayed to help he would miss his friends. He opted to stay and helped the man. His three friends were no longer there when he arrived; he was now alone. Because of his act, he had missed the caravan of his friends. He had to sell the sapphire to get the needed supplies and camels and bearers, and he was saddened because the King would never have this special gem.
Artaban finally reached Bethlehem only to find Joseph and Mary and the baby gone. While at the home where they had been staying, soldiers from Herod’s army came by to kill all the boy babies in the house. The mother wept behind Artaban as he stood in the doorway. To save the child from certain death he paid the captain with the ruby so he would not so much as enter the home. One boy child was saved and the ruby was gone – now one less gift for the King.
For years, Artaban wandered, looking in vain for the King until some 30 years later he found Him in Jerusalem during His crucifixion. He thought just maybe he could use the pearl to buy His freedom. On the way to the hill a girl came running from a band of soldiers who were chasing her. She cried out, “My father is in debt and they are taking me to sell me as a slave to pay the debt. Please… help me, save!”
Artaban hesitated, and then sadly, Artaban took out his pearl, offered it to the soldiers, and bought the girl’s freedom and cleared the debt.
The sky went dark and the King died.
Now, think… Did not Artaban give his gifts to the King because he had cared for those who needed his gifts? “I tell you the truth,” the King said in Matthew 25:40, “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for Me.”
D.D. Monroe wrote: “(Christmas) is the one season of the year when we can lay aside all gnawing worry, indulge in sentiment without censure, assume the carefree faith of childhood, and just plain ‘have fun.’ Whether they call it Yuletide, Noel, Weinachten, or Christmas, people around the earth thirst for its refreshment as the desert traveler for the oasis.”
“That magic blanket that wraps itself about us,” and “that something so intangible that it is like a fragrance.” Those were the words Augusta E. Rundel used to describe Christmas. She further explains: “It may weave a spell of nostalgia. Christmas may be a day of feasting, or of prayer, but always it will be a day of remembrance – a day in which we think of everything we have ever loved.” David Grayson admits that sometimes people expect too much of Christmas Day. He observes, “We try to crowd into it the long arrears of kindliness and humanity of the whole year. As for me, I like to take my Christmas a little at a time, all through the year. And thus I drift along into the holidays – let them overtake me unexpectedly – waking up some find morning and suddenly saying to myself: ‘Why, this is Christmas Day!’”
As we celebrate this year’s Christmas, remember this statement which appeared in the December 25, 1937 issue of ‘New York Times’: “We hear the beating of wings over Bethlehem and a light that is not of the sun or of the stars shines in the midnight sky. Let the beauty of the story take away all narrowness, all thought of formal creeds. Let it be remembered as a story that has happened again and again, to men of many different races, that has been expressed through many religions, that has been called by many different names. Time and space and language lay no limitations upon human brotherhood.”
While helping her mother prepare for Christmas, a little girl asked about the meaning of this holiday. The mother told her that Christmas was the time of the year we celebrate, the birthday of Jesus, God’s Son.
The little girl asked her mother why Jesus didn’t get the presents if it was His birthday. The mother explained the tradition of gift exchange as a way of showing love for one another and the matter was dropped at that.
The evening before Christmas the little girl brought a gift-wrapped package from her room and placed it under the tree. “What’s in the box,” her mother asked.
“A gift for Jesus,” the little girl replied. “I am leaving it under the tree so He can open it tonight while I am asleep.”
The mother did not want her daughter to be disappointed, so during the night she opened the package. But there was nothing in it.
The next morning her daughter raced into the living room to see if her package had been opened. It had! She shouted to her mother, “Jesus opened His present last night!”
The mystified mother walked over to her daughter and asked what she had given Jesus. The little girl explained, “I figure that Jesus has about everything he needs, and I can’t give him much because I’m just a little girl. But there is one thing I can give Him. So I decided to give him a box of love.”
The little girl is right: all Christmas really is a big box of love. ‘The Living Bible’ states so well: “When we were utterly helpless with no way of escape, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners who had no use for Him” (Romans 5:6).
The entire chapter spells out that love: “Even if we were good, we really wouldn’t expect anyone to die for us, though, of course, that might be barely possible. But God showed His great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners” (Romans 5:7-8).
John 3:16 reminds: “For God so loved the world that He gave His One and Only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
The late Jaime Cardinal Sin surmised, “Jesus on the Cross showed us how valuable mankind is.”
Yes, Jesus is the main reason for this joyous season! — ###