Last Christmas, you might remember my post about my salt dough nativity, which consisted of the core trio of Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus. I was working on adding the wise men, but it was a multi-staged process with a lot of decisions that needed to be made. Here’s the post, detailing my process. So, they weren’t ready to display until this Christmas. But now, I can share with you my 2008 Nativity, including the Magi, in all their colorful splendor.
You might be thinking that these don’t look much like any wise men from nativity sets you’ve seen before. I did that on purpose. I wasn’t going for the status quo. Because I found the biblical account fairly silent about their ethnicity and even their kingship, I went pretty wild with the artistic liberties.
As you can see, I gave my wise men three distinct looks and ethnicities. There’s the wise men in a traditional Arab headdress, bearing a gold-like gift. The bible does say that one of the gifts was gold, so I could at least represent that one accurately. This magi didn’t have far to travel, comparatively. His skin tone is middle eastern, and I was thinking more along the lines of the traditional Persian wise man.
The magi in blue is stooped over, probably aged and very short, but then again, he might just be bowing (he sort of shrunk a bit in the oven). He’s Asian, perhaps Chinese. The wise men came from the east, so he’s the strongest nod to that reference (Matthew 2:1). Why not China? I have him wearing what I imagine to be a China blue silk robe.
The final wise man is a little more difficult to place, but I put him somewhere in the islands in Southeast Asia, such as Indonesia. Culturally, he’s another step away from the other two wise men, and he also brings a new skin tone to the mix. I love how he’s tall and muscular, a strong man with a purpose, but his arms are joined in humble supplication to baby Jesus. And his boldly colored island outfit is vibrant and alive in the desert setting.
So why did I make my wise men come from all over the globe? Did I just want a more colorful nativity? Okay, guilty on that count, but there’s also some symbolic reasons for my choices as well.
In Revelation, we see all countries, all skin tones, all peoples and nations and tribes bowing before Jesus’ throne:
“After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: ‘Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb'” (Revelation 9-10).
I love the idea that these wise men are enacting a little pre-glimpse of what is to come at Jesus’ second coming. It’s foreshadowing at his birth. The bible is full of that sort of thing, so why not here?
This year, I’m continuing work on expanding my nativity. I’m making a shepherd, and once again, it’s proving to be more difficult than it seemed at first. But if all goes well, next year, you’ll get to see the new addition.
Have a blessed Christmas everyone.