Thursday, December 10, 2015

Advent Calendar Day 11: Melchior

Over the next month, I'll be offering thoughts on the Nativity set model, a large papercraft crèche that you can find and download here:

Advent Calendar Day 11: Melchior

Following up on the writing from yesterday, Melchior is the king whose presence is representative of Asia.  A king of Arabia (though in earlier traditions he continued to be associated with Persia even after his co-kings had scattered to India and Babylonia), he serves to showcase the second stage of life, middle-age, and is usually being depicted as being in his forties.  As Arabia is so often associated with equestrianism, he’s often depicted atop a horse, as I’ve done here. 
Melchior is paired up with the gift of frankincense, generally interpreted as a nod to Christ’s divinity, as the incense would’ve been used in religious ceremony.

Though the kings are depicted in nativity art (like here), it’s generally accepted that they wouldn’t have been there.  The most popular school of thought is that there was likely a one-and-a-half to two-year span between the birth and the Epiphany, the day in which the Church celebrated the arrival of the magi and thus the revelation of Christ to the gentiles (celebrated on January 6th, from whence we get the twelve days of Christmas, the lead up to the second holiday), which accounts for both travel time needed between when the star appeared to mark Christ’s birth, spurring the magi’s quest, and the order by Herod to kill males under the age of two to eliminate this prophesied rival.  Even December 25th proponents who argue for same-season visitation allow for twelve days.  Since Jesus was circumcised at the temple in Jerusalem eight days after being born, the likely scenario is either that the family stayed in Jerusalem (only a few miles from Bethlehem) to await their turn in participating in the census, or, having already done so in Bethlehem, returned to Nazareth.

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