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Though tradition has linked the wise men of the East with the stories of Christmas, they came to Bethlehem some time after the birth of Jesus. (Matt. 2:11.)

From a brief scriptural account in the Gospel of Matthew we know only a little about these Magi who came from a land east of Palestine to pay homage to the new-born Messiah. (Matt. 2:1.)It has been assumed that there were possibly three of them who came, since three specific gifts they bore are mentioned.

These were certainly not ordinary men. They were not mere astrologers as some have assumed. They were more likely righteous men who knew the prophecies of the birth of Christ and who were able to discern the new star that appeared in the heavens.

They were sent to witness that, indeed, the Son of God had been born on earth. If they were to stand as witnesses, then there would have been at least two or three of them.

That they were spiritual men is evident by the fact that after their encounter with the wicked King Herod they were warned of God in a dream not to re-visit Herod but to return home by another route. This they did, in response to the spiritual counsel that came to them.

As Latter-day Saints, there is much that we can learn from Matthew's account of these wise men that can help us during this sacred Christmas season.

- They knew from scripture and prophesy that the Messiah was to be born. Likewise, we must turn to the scriptures to learn of Christ. From sacred writ we learn of His birth as the babe of Bethlehem and as the One who atoned for our sins and redeemed all mankind.

- They came as witnesses. Even as they came to see the young child for themselves so they could bear witness among those with whom they lived, so we need to have in our lives the personal witness that Jesus Christ lived and died for us and now lives in heavenly glory as our triumphant Savior and Redeemer.

- They sought counsel from others as to where they might find the young child. Because they understood that He who was born was to be King of the Jews, they first went to the king of the land, Herod. Herod and his advisers, though unrighteous themselves, at least gave proper information that led the wise men to Bethlehem. In our day, we have true prophets and apostles who can lead us to Christ. We need to follow those who have been called by prophecy and revelation to lead us. They will bring us to Christ and can help make Him the center of our lives.

- They brought gifts as tokens of love and respect. This is a season when we give many gifts to friends and loved ones. But we should also plan to give gifts to Jesus Christ, since it is His birth that we celebrate. We can give symbolically our gold, frankincense, and myrrh, first by faithfully paying our tithes and offerings to sustain the Church that bears His name. In the meridian of time, frankincense and myrrh represented sacrifice and purification. We can bring to the Savior our sacrifice and willing service in His Kingdom, and a desire to strive each day to purify our lives and sanctify ourselves before Him so that we may ultimately stand before Him and be comfortable in His presence.

- They heeded the promptings of the Spirit. During this season, and at all times of the year, we need to live close to the Spirit and heed that still small voice that prompts us and warns us. Our obedience really is a gift of love to Jesus, for He said "If ye love me, keep my commandments." (John 14:15.

As we celebrate this season for Jesus' sake, let us remember that it was He who said ". . . inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me." (See Matt. 25.40.)

And for this we will be wiser men and women ourselves, whether from the east, the west, the north or the south.

Merry Christmas to all!