Why the Wise Men Followed the Star

Deal W. Hudson
December 23, 2017

Wise men have always looked at the heavens with wonder. For them, the night sky filled with stars represents the luminous, the utterly ineffable, the holy. With this sense of overwhelming awe, comes a question: “What lies behind it all?”

Wise men don’t ignore this question by burying themselves in practical matters, to ignore their own inner prompting – they search. With the first step another question is evoked; it comes as an unexpected whisper — “Why is there something rather than nothing?”

Wise men are thus called because they seek what the ancients called knowledge of “first things,” the foundation of all knowledge, and the source of all. When the Three Wise Men were amazed by the one star outshining all the others in the Eastern sky they saw it as their destination, the goal of their search, a place where all they sought would be revealed.

Thus, from the East, the Wise Men came, from the crucible of civilization, the most ancient of learned cultures, to the court of Herod in Jerusalem. Whether they were deceived by Herod’s flattery we do not know, nor do we know if they sensed his murderous intent in asking them to return and report on the child’s whereabouts. Though wise men, we do not know if these kings were worldly-wise. We do know, however, they believed in the message of their dreams.

They found who they were looking for, the babe with the title “The King of the Jews,” but would come to realize they had found much more, perhaps something else altogether. After all, they must have thought, “Would a king be born like this and to a peasant family?” But this was the place where the star’s light had led them. The Three Kings did not turn back; they knelt in the stable, worshipped the babe, and offered him their royal gifts.

The Wise Men slept deeply that night because they had journeyed far. During their sleep, a dream arose containing a warning not to return to Herod, as they had promised they would. They did not know why — they did not know then that the birth of this child born to peasants had provoked a Roman king to a murderous rage, born of fear and jealousy.

As they rode away, without returning to Jerusalem, the Three Wise Men must have asked each other why a child born in a manger to a carpenter and his young wife would pose any threat to Herod, or the Empire itself. But then, the night had been extraordinary in other ways. They had not been the only ones to pay tribute – they had knelt as kings next to shepherds who reported being summoned by angels.

What they had experienced at the end of their journey was not expected. A poor child in a stable, with some sort of divine protection, was something they had never even imagined. Did this newborn child explain their wonder at the existence of things? Not at all.

But they didn’t accuse the star of leading them to the wrong place or consider their long journey a mistake. For they had received a glimmer of something to come: Their experience with the babe in a manger seemed to announce the beginning of a life that would overturn the order of things and challenge the supremacy of all earthly powers.

“But for what purpose came this child?” they might have asked themselves. Whatever it was, they may have reasoned, it must be universal, a mission to all men. What else could bring kings and shepherds to kneel together, cause the most powerful man in the land to rage, for some divinity to send a dream of warning, and set the night sky itself aglow with the brightest star the world had ever seen.

By Deal Hudson

Deal W. Hudson was born November 20, 1949 in Denver, CO, to Emmie and Jack Hudson, both native Texans. Dr. Hudson had an older sister Ruth, and eventually, a younger sister, Elizabeth. Emmie Hudson, Ruth Hudson and Elizabeth Hudson now live in Houston, TX; Jack Hudson passed away some years ago. The late Jack Hudson was a captain for Braniff Airlines in Denver at the time of Dr. Hudson’s birth. Later the family moved to Kansas City when his father joined the Federal Aviation Agency. From Kansas City, the Hudson family moved to Minneapolis, then to Massapequa, NY, and finally to Alexandria, VA, where they first occupied a home overlooking the Potomac River adjacent to the Mount Vernon estate. After a year, the family moved to a home on Tarpon Lane a few houses up the street from the Yacht Haven boat docks. Dr. Hudson attended Mt. Vernon Elementary School from grades 4 to 6 and has a special gratitude for the teaching of Mr. Hoppe who first told him was a ‘smart lad.’ Having moved with his family to Fort Worth, TX in 1960, Dr. Hudson attended William Monnig Junior High and Arlington Heights HS. In high school, Dr. Hudson was captain of the golf team, editor of the literary magazine (Guerdon), and performed the role of Peter in the ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’ during his senior year. Dr. Hudson graduated cum laude with a major in philosophy from the University of Texas-Austin in 1971 where his undergraduate advisor was Prof. John Silber. His teachers at the University of Texas included Prof. Louis Mackey and Prof. Larry Caroline. Dr. Hudson minored in both classics and English literature. Dr. Hudson lived in Atlanta from 1974-1989, where he attended Emory University, receiving a Phd from the Graduate Institute for the LIberal Arts. He also taught philosophy at Mercer University in Atlanta from 1980-89. In 1989 Dr. Hudson and his family left Atlanta when he was hired to teach philosophy at Fordham University in the Bronx. Dr. Hudson taught at Fordham, and also part-time at New York University, from 1989 to 1994. Dr. Hudson first came to Atlanta in after graduation from Princeton Theological Seminary (PTS) with an M.Div. While at PTS, Dr. Hudson managed the Baptist Student Union at Princeton University and became its first director. Dr. Hudson also was licensed at a minister in the Southern Baptist Convention at Madison Baptist Church in Madison, NJ. Dr. Hudson’s primary area of study at PTS was the history of Christian doctrine which he pursued with Dr. Karlfried Froelich. In 1984 Dr. Hudson was received in the Catholic Church by Msgr. Richard Lopez, with the special permission of Archbishop Thomas A. Donnellan, at the chapel of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Cancer Home in Atlanta. Dr. Hudson has been married twenty-five years to Theresa Carver Hudson and they have two children, Hannah Clare, 23, and Cyprian Joseph (Chip), 15, adopted from Romania when he was three years old. The Hudson family has lived in Fairfax, VA for more than fifteen years, after having lived five years in Bronxville, NY and a year in Atlanta, GA, where Theresa and Deal were married.

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