Before long, my wife and I will go afar to adopt our child. At least we'll be in good company. We honestly didn't know much about Ethiopia before we began this process. It's a country in Africa. Other than that, I had no significant information.
It is comforting that the wise men in the Nativity story came from afar. Before long, my wife and I will go afar to adopt our child. At least we'll be in good company.
We honestly didn't know much about Ethiopia before we began this process. Sure, we saw Sally Struthers surrounded by starving children who were themselves surrounded by flies on infomercials. But Ethiopia didn't encompass much more of my memory banks than Rwanda, Sudan or the Congo. It's a country in Africa. Other than that, I had no significant information.
But that seems to change almost every day. We have done more than a little bit of direct studying about the country, to know as much as we can about our new child's heritage. Books, websites and audio books during long drives have added to our knowledge of the history and politics of Ethiopia, as well as the depth and breadth of the orphan problem in the country.
But we have also learned a lot from unexpected places. Who would have thought that watching the show “River Monsters” on Animal Planet would teach me about the Rift Valley and some of the fish its rivers contain and the fisherman who make a living catching them. Then the Discovery Channel's “Life” series taught us even more about the climate, flora and fauna of the region.
Now, at the Christmas season, even more information has become available. Tradition teaches that one of the wise men who came to worship the messiah was from Ethiopia. As it turns out, that is why there was one black man in your Nativity sets.
Don't confuse traditional teaching with Biblical teaching, however. The Bible doesn't say one of the three wise men came from Ethiopia. The Bible doesn't even say there are three wise men. Only the Gospel of Matthew mentions the magi, or kings, or wise men.
Matthew 2:1-2 says, "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 in the East and have come to worship him."
People assume and church tradition teaches that there are three wise men, or magi, who came to worship Christ, probably because it says that they brought him gold, frankincense and myrrh. It could have been only two wise men who brought three gifts –– I bought my son more than one gift this year. It could have been 10 wise men who made the trip and brought the gifts. There could have been a lot of each of the presents.
There are a few reasons traditions presume that one of the magi could have been from Ethiopia. One, Ethiopia has a rich Christian tradition. Even King Solomon had a child with the Queen of Sheba (Ethiopia). That child became the royal lineage that helped in the selection of the ruler of Ethiopia until the most recent turn toward democracy in the ancient African society.
Isaiah 49:7 also prophesies that, "The kings of Tarshish and of the isles will bring presents; the kings of Sheba and Seba will offer gifts."
Another detail that could lead to the belief that one of the magi from the East could have been from Ethiopia is that frankincense was abundant in the country at that time.
So it is very possible that this ancient society could have brought one of the wise men to your Nativity set, except that no wise man ever saw a baby at the stable.
So forget your Nativity set if you are looking for accuracy.
The wise men are part of the story of Christ's early life, but nothing to do with his birth.
Matthew 2:10-11 says, "When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 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 and frankincense and myrrh."
They didn't find a child at a stable or manger. They found him at a house. If they came from afar, you know it wasn't a short journey. They probably weren't allowed to use frequent flier miles on their Hertz rent-a-camels.
If they came from several hundred miles away, it would have taken a long time. Even if they left early, they probably didn't arrive until the Christ child was months or even a couple of years old.
Regardless, Matthew retells the tale of their coming because it shows that rulers and leaders of the day honored the child Messiah and humbled themselves before him.
I hope one of them was from Ethiopia. I hope that idea inspires the child we will soon welcome into our home to seek Christ in the same way the wise men did. In my eyes, he would be a very wise young man.
GateHouse News Service