Saturday, December 23, 2006


The Real Meaning of Christmas in
(1985, TV-Live Action, 72 min)

This is an example of the real meaning of Christmas being made partly explicit, but mostly implicit. It is the story of ARTABAN (Martin Sheen) supposedly the fourth Magi, and his servant ORONTES (Alan Arkin). Artaban sells all that he has in exchange for three rare gems, which he plans to give to the Messiah. The duo plan to travel with the other three wise men to find the Promised One, but are unable to connect with them. Artaban then spends the next 33 years searching for the Messiah, yet misses him at every turn. Along the way Artaban uses the gems (and his skills as a doctor and learned man) to save lives of those in trouble and to feed and help the destitute. At the end of his life Artaban is near Jerusalem and sees Christ in the distance being crucified. A short time later, heartbroken Artaban slumps over near death in the street. At that moment the resurrected Christ appears to Artaban, and in their dialogue the true meaning of Christmas is explained:
ARTABAN: Ah, Master, I have longed sought you. Forgive me. Once I had precious gifts to give. Now I have nothing.
JESUS: Artaban, you've already given your gifts to me

ARTABAN: I don't understand, my God.

JESUS: When I was hungry you gave me to eat, when I was thirsty you gave me to drink. When I was naked you clothed me. When I was homeless, you took me in.

ARTABAN: O, not so my Savior, I never saw you hungry, no thirsty, I never clothed you. I never brought you into my home. I've never seen you until now.

JESUS: When ever you did these things for the least of my brothers -- you did them for me.

ARTABAN: Orontes! Did you hear -- Jesus say? We have found the King. We found him, Orontes, and he has accepted all my gifts.
Now during the entire story, Orontes is trying to win his freedom from being a slave. Orontes did not want to go on this journey, but Artaban's father, whose property Orontes is, has promised Orontes' freedom upon Artaban's safe return. Therefore, Orontes cares very little for Artaban's physical goal of finding the Messiah, and only about getting Artaban back safely to his father. As a result, every decision that Artaban makes to give away his wealth, or stay in one place for years to help others, further delay's Orontes freedom. This puts Orontes at odds with Artaban and reveals Orontes innate selfishness and prejudice, and Artaban's selflessness and love. Near the end, too late for Orontes to enjoy his freedom, if he was to return to Araban's father, Artaban becomes frustrated with Orontes' selfishness and releases him, giving him his freedom. But now, because it is so late in life, Orontes realizes that such an act does give him freedom but only abandons him. There is nothing for Orontes to do. His life is over, and because he has focused entirely on himself, there is nothing much left for him to do.

In these two characters then, we are able to see the moral premise of The Fourth Wiseman; it may be stated like this:

Seeking to serve self leads to abandonment; but
Seeking to serve others leads to fulfillment.

No comments: