The Gift of the Magi

"Think of it this way. The rural shepherds came down from the hills because the angels appeared and told them of the Savior’s birth. The animals were all on their knees, moved by the visible sight of the divine. But the Magi had to have set out long before, in order to arrive in time. They had to read the stars, the signs of the age and the deep meanings of the universe—and then act on what they thought they had discerned. These were city dwellers and learned people, and when a great star appeared in the sky, they followed their intellectual curiosity and journeyed off to discover where it led. They brought gifts, because they wanted to honor the newborn king for whom they were searching. More to the point, they brought gifts because they imagined they might actually find him.

All of which is to say, they had the intelligence to examine honestly the clues the world offered them. They had the wisdom to seek the truth for its own sake, whatever it might prove to be. These are believers in the mind, in other words, who undertook a great expedition because they trusted their thoughts, conjectures, and hypotheses—and refused to shake themselves back into the small thoughts of ordinary life.

A cold coming they had of it, the worst time of the year to take a long journey. The ways deep, the weather sharp, the days short, the sun farthest off: in solsitio brumali, the very dead of winter."