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Pastor's Pen: The Other Wiseman

Henry Van Dyke was a Presbyterian pastor, an author, an English professor, and even a diplomat. In 1895, he was the pastor of the Brick Church in New York City. There, he wrote The Story of the Other Wise Man, which is a favorite of many at Christmastime. In Matthew's gospel, we learn how Magi from the East follow a star to discover the new King of Israel born in Bethlehem. Van Dyke imagines another wise man named Artaban, who follows the same star. However, this wise man is delayed. He arrives late to Bethlehem, where the other magi and the Holy Family have already left. Thus begins a lifelong quest to find this king and Messiah.

Along the way, Artaban learns some valuable lessons about the nature of Jesus’ Kingdom. Jesus came into the world, not among the upper reaches of society, but into the family of a poor carpenter. He was celebrated not by King Herod and the elite but by a rag-tag group of shepherds. He was rejected by the religious leaders but heralded by a group of Gentile astrologers. He didn’t hang out with the rich and powerful but with sinners, prostitutes, and tax collectors. In his own words, Jesus said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick” (Matthew 9:12). This king doesn’t lord over us but instead acts as the Great Physician who offers comfort, grace, and healing. Van Dyke’s story serves as an invitation to join in Christ’s ministry to the world. As the Apostle John writes, “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19).

After last year's great success of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol for the radio, the Presbyterian Radio Players are at it again. This year we have adapted Van Dyke’s story starring our own Dawson Strong as Artaban. You can catch it on WLKR 92.9 FM on December 22 at 5 pm and Christmas Eve at 9 pm. (If you missed last year’s A Christmas Carol, it will be on at 11 pm on Christmas Eve.)

Van Dyke also wrote hymns. The most famous was “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee.” It’s a celebration of God’s creation, but the last verse, like his Christmas story, serves as an invitation.

“Mortals, join the mighty chorus,

Which the morning stars began;

God's own love is reigning o’er us,

Joining people hand in hand.”

Artaban learns to love as he seeks the Christ child. This Christmas season, let that be said of us.

Grace & Peace,

James Hodsden

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