Posted by: Phil Anderson | December 16, 2012

The Fourth Wise Man

This week, in honor of the approaching holiday, I’m giving you the gift of a short story. It’s not an original story, but my adaptation of a Christmas classic originally published in 1895.

The Fourth Wise Man

By Philip Anderson

Based on The Story of the Other Wise Man by Henry van Dyke

Every year, we hear the wonderful Christmas story of the wise men who followed a star from the east to brings gifts for the Christ Child. Although the Bible doesn’t name them, tradition does: Caspar, Balthasar, Melchior, and George… You haven’t heard of George, the fourth wise man?

Well, a lot of people don’t know about George. The reason for that is that George got lost on the way to Bethlehem that night. You see George was a little bit stubborn. He thought he knew a shortcut. He left the others, who were taking the long way, and then he made a wrong turn. He found himself wandering the streets alone with only his camel for company.

I said that George was stubborn, but stubbornness does have its good side. Then we call it persistence. George was determined to find the Christ Child and offer his gifts. The others had brought gold, frankincense, and myrrh. George’s camel carried expensive, brightly colored silks, fine linens, and beautiful pieces of clothing.

As he wandered the streets of Bethlehem, George asked everyone he saw if they could tell him where the newborn king could be found, but no one seemed to know. He began to get discouraged, but he was not the kind of person to give up easily.

During his search, George met a woman who worked as a seamstress. She seemed very upset about something, and he asked her what was wrong.

“I am supposed to be sewing some elegant, new royal robes for King Herod,” she explained, “but I’m very poor. Business hasn’t been good lately, and I don’t have the money for the expensive fabric I need. If I don’t get these robes finished soon, I’ll be thrown in prison, or worse. I just don’t know what to do.”

But George knew what to do. He had a camel full of expensive silk fabric. He had planned to give it all to the Christ Child, but there was plenty to spare. He gave the seamstress what she needed and, when she had thanked him, he went on his way.

George continued his search for the newborn king, but he had not gone very far when he met a man who had been travelling and was attacked and robbed in an alleyway. He was badly cut in many places and he was weak from all the blood he had lost. George knew he had to help this poor man.

He took some clean linen cloths from the bundles on his camel’s back and wrapped the traveler’s wounds to stop the bleeding. He shared a little of his food and water and soon the man was feeling better. When George was sure the traveler would be all right, he set out again in search of the Baby Jesus.

As he walked, he looked at the bundles on his camel’s back. He had used a lot of cloth on the wounded man’s injuries, but there was still enough for a pretty nice gift for the newborn king.

The afternoon turned into evening, and George was still having no luck finding the Baby Savior. As the stars came out, he saw the special one straight above him. The air turned a little chilly, and he pulled his cloak closer around his shoulders.

Just then he happened to find a trio of small, orphan children. They were dressed in rags, shivering in the cold. They looked so sad and pathetic that George just had to help them. He opened his last few bundles and handed out warm new clothes to the grateful children.

As they scampered away, dressed in their snug little outfits, George sighed. His camel was empty; the gifts he had brought for the Christ Child were gone. There was no reason to continue searching. He had failed to honor the newborn king with his gifts. George found a place to stay and, still feeling a little depressed, finally went to sleep.

As he slept, he had a strange dream. Jesus was in it, but this Jesus wasn’t the infant savior he had been searching for; he was a full-grown man, a king sitting on a golden throne.

He said, “Thank you, George, for the gift you gave me; the expensive fabric, the fine linens, and the beautiful clothes. I appreciate them very much.”

“But Jesus,” George protested in his dream, “I didn’t give them to you. I couldn’t even find you.”

Jesus smiled at George. “But you did. You helped a lot of people today: the poor seamstress, the injured traveler, and the cold, lonely children. The things you did for them, you did for me. The gifts you gave to them, you gave to me. Thank you, George. Well done.”

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