The Other Wise Man

Every year in order to prepare for Christmas I do certain things. I trim the tree. I make sure I’ll be singing at least one piece from the Messiah someplace. (This Sunday my choir at Park Street Church will be doing For Unto Us A Child Is Born!) And I read The Other Wise Man by Henry Van Dyke.

You won’t find the story of the Other Wise Man in the Gospels. But that doesn’t mean it rings any less true. It’s the tale of Artaban the Median, a follower of Zoroaster who sees the star and sets out in search of the King whose birth it heralds. Unfortunately, he misses the caravan of the other Magi and has to sojourn alone.

Beauty of language always calls to me and this short story is so elegantly constructed, so brilliantly written it never fails to captivate me. Here’s a little sample:

How close, how intimate is the comradeship between an man and his favorite horse on a long journey. It is a silent, comprehensive friendship, a relationship beyond the need of words.

They drink at the same wayside spring and sleep under the same guardian stars. They are conscious together of the subduing spell of nightfall and the quickening joy of daybreak. The master shares his evening meal with his hungry companion and feels the soft, moist lips caressing the palm of his hand as they close over the morsel of bread. In the gray dawn he is roused from his sleep by the gentle stir of a warm, sweet breath over his sleeping face and looks up into the eyes of his faithful fellow-traveler, ready and waiting for the toil of the day. Surely, unless he is a pagan and an unbeliever, by whatever name he calls upon his God, he will thank Him for this voiceless sympathy, this silent affection. And his morning prayer will be for a double blessing–God bless us both and keep our feet from falling and our souls from death.

I’m happy to tell you this little jewel of a story is in the public domain and you can download a free Kindle version of it. It’s only 50 pages. You can read it in one satisfying sitting. Keep a tissue handy. It’ll make you cry.


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