Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Wise Men were Wise Indeed

There is a lot of myth and legend surrounding Christmas, and the images we have of the birth of the Messiah are just as likely to come from the gospel of Hallmark as they are the gospel of Matthew or Luke. One of those myths is the belief that three kings traveled from the Orient to worship the baby Jesus.

Nowhere in original translations is there a record of three kings. Matthew’s gospel says, “Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem. (Matthew 2:1)

These wise men weren’t kings. They belonged to a gentile sect of learned men called magi. From the days of the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar, gentiles had heard prophecies that during the rule of the Roman empire, there would come a deliverer from Israel who would reign as king of kings.

There is also no reason to believe there were only three magi. The magi are referenced in other ancient texts besides the Bible, and chances are there were many more who journeyed out to find their king. These foreigners must have made quite a spectacle as their caravan came trudging into Jerusalem, dusty and dirty from traveling across the desert.

Because, these wise men were looking for a king, they went straight to the palace and asked, “Where is he that is born King of the Jews for we have seen his star in the east and are come to worship him.” (Matthew 2:2)

Their inquiry must have come as quite a surprise to Herod, who was insanely possessive of his throne. “When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled.” (Matthew 2:3)

Herod seethed, knowing that somewhere a king had been born who might threaten his authority for “when he had gathered all of the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born.” (Matthew 2:4)

Sporting his best poker face, the oily King Herod “inquired of them diligently what time the star appeared.” He sent the wise men to Bethlehem, and you can almost hear the contempt as he says “Go and search diligently for the young child and when ye have found him, bring me word again so that I may come and worship him also.” (Matthew 2:7-8)

Whatever it was that guided the wise men, it is unlikely they saw a star in the sky, for they followed it directly to a house, (not a stable) where the young family was then living. Having traveled many months, not days as the Christmas legend implies, their quest was complete.

These foreigners from a distant land must have truly been open to the God of Israel because “being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.” (Matthew 2:12)

When King Herod realized that the magi were not going to return, he flew into a rage. Based on when the magi reported first seeing the star, Herod ordered the execution “...of all children that were in Bethlehem, and in all of the coasts thereof, from two years old and under.” (Matthew 2:13)

But God had already warned Joseph in a dream, “Arise and take the young child and his mother and flee into Egypt...for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him.” (Matthew 2:13)

These wise men were truly remarkable. Their belief in the God of the Israelites and their willingness to travel to the ends of the earth to find this king of kings rightfully places them right at the heart of the meaning of Christmas.

From my home to yours, I wish you a merry one.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Female Vermilion Flycatcher

I saw a bird on one of the neighbor's rooftops. Its size caught my eye because it was too big to be one of the common sparrow or finch residents. As it flitted off its perch and then back again, I knew it was some kind of flycatcher. A quick cross-reference and its a female Vermilion Flycatcher. I've seen the brilliant male Vermilion Flycatchers (They put cardinals to shame!) both last year and this year in a yard near the office.

Yellow-rumped Warbler

This weekend I heard a new bird while I was sitting out on the patio. When I finally spotted it, I made note of its markings including, "This guy has a yellow butt." As it turns out, his name really fits! This bird is a Yellow-rumped Warbler.

Yellow-rumped Warbler
Since I've moved to the Southwest, I've found it interesting to discover how many variations there are within a species because of interbreeding and regional differences. That makes identifying birds out here a bit tricky. Back East, most birds look and sound pretty much the same.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Smart Lizard!

One minute I spot a lizard hanging out on the saguaro skeleton that's leaning against the back patio. The next minute he's swinging on the feeder licking his lips. (Well, at least the lizard equivalent of licking his lips.) He had devoured a bee that was buzzing around the feeder. He hung out there for at least a half hour snagging unsuspecting bees.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Bumper Sticker Wisdom #5

Bumper Sticker Sighting (Tucson)

I have CDO. It's like OCD, but all the letters are in alphabetical order AS THEY SHOULD BE!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Pittsburgh skyline from the Fort Pitt Tunnels

Things I miss about southwestern Pennsylvania (in no particular order).

#5 View of the Pittsburgh skyline through the Fort Pitt Tunnels

Humble little Pittsburgh has one of the most spectacular "entrances." This video plays in real time meaning this is how long it take to get through the Fort Pitt Tunnel. Sometimes it takes even longer since drivers tend to liberally apply their brakes while traveling through it.

Before entering the tunnel, you have no hint that you're approaching the city. Notice all of the hills. Once you exit the tunnel, the city and the three rivers surround you. Note the gray, gloomy sky!!!

Here's a shorter clip (on a rare sunny day) that shows more of the river.

This is the Fort Pitt Bridge--the bridge you cross after exiting the Fort Pitt Tunnel.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Bumper Sticker Wisdom #4

Bumper Sticker Sighting (Phoenix)

Scorpions, Rattlesnakes, Deserts, Gila Monsters
Arizona is not for wimps! .

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Oriole Sighting

I saw the Hooded Oriole sipping out of the hummingbird feeder yesterday. This is a month earlier than I saw him last year!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Sandhill Cranes - Whitewater Draw - Southeast, AZ

Sandhill Cranes seen February 13, 2010 at the Whitewater Draw in Southeastern Arizona.

There were plenty of birds besides the Sandhill cranes to see...

including this Green-winged Teal.

After the sun set, and there was still just enough light to see, thousands of cranes flew in from the nearby fields looking much like this. (Video from Southeastern Arizona Bird Observatory)

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Old Stone House - David Yetman Trail

Where: Tucson, AZ

Trail: David Yetman Trail from the Richard Genser Starr Pass Trail Head to the Old Stone House in Tucson.Mountain Park.

When: January 2, 2010

Weather: Bright and sunny and 70 degrees

Birds of note: Ladder-backed Woodpecker (first sighting)

Trail notes: Walked to the Old Stone House. This abandoned stone house was built in the 1930s by Sherry Bowen who reportedly worked for the Arizona Daily Star.

They must have ridden horses back and forth to this place because it's miles from any type of developed road. The Bowen House was left empty when they moved back east. In 1983, the structure became part of the Tucson Mountain Park. What GLORIOUS views to wake up to every day!