At the birth of Christ Jesus, is the recognition of the divine child, and the presentation of gifts. We are informed in the New Testament novel by Matthew, that guided by a star, the Magi from the east came to where the young child was.
"And when they were come into the house (not stable) they saw the young child, with Mary his mother, and fell down and worshiped him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts, gold, frankincense, and myrrh." Matthew 2:2
The Luke narrator—who seems to know nothing about the Magi from the east—informs us that shepherds came and worshiped the young child. They were keeping their flocks by night when the angel of the Lord appeared before them, saying:
"Behold, I bring you good tidings—for unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord."
After the angel had left them, they said one to another:
"Let us go unto Bethlehem and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known to us. And they came with haste, and found Mary and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger." Luke 2:8-16
The Luke narrator evidently borrowed this story of the shepherds from the " Gospel of the Egyptians ", or from other sacred records of the biographies of Crishna or Buddha. It is related in the legends of Crishna that the divine child was cradled among shepherds, to whom were first made known the stupendous feats which stamped his character with marks of the divinity. He was recognized as the promised Saviour by Nanda, a shepherd, or cowherd, and his companions, who prostrated themselves before the heaven-born child. After the birth of Crishna, the Indian prophet Nared, having heard of his fame, visited his father and mother at Gokool, examined the stars, &c., and declared him to be of celestial descent.
Not only was Crishna adored by the shepherds and Magi, and received with divine honors, but he was also presented with gifts. These gifts were "sandal wood and perfumes." (Why not "frankincense and myrrh?") Similar stories are related of the infant Buddha. He was visited, at the time of his birth, by wise men, who at once recognized in the marvellous infant all the characters of the divinity, and he had scarcely seen the day before he was hailed god of gods.
"'Mongst the strangers came A grey-haired saint, Asita, one whose ears, Long closed to earthly things, caught heavenly sounds, And heard at prayer beneath his peepul-tree, The Devas singing songs at Buddha's birth."
Viscount Amberly, speaking of him, says:
"He was visited and adored by a very eminent Rishi, or hermit, known as Asita, who predicted his future greatness, but wept at the thought that he himself was too old to see the day when the law of salvation would be taught by the infant whom he had come to contemplate."
"I weep (said Asita), because I am old and stricken in years, and shall not see all that is about to come to pass. The Buddha Bhagavat (God Almighty Buddha) comes to the world only after many kalpas. This bright boy will be Buddha. For the salvation of the world he will teach the law. He will succor the old, the sick, the afflicted, the dying.
He will release those who are bound in the meshes of natural corruption. He will quicken the spiritual vision of those whose eyes are darkened by the thick darkness of ignorance. Hundreds of thousands of millions of beings will be carried by him to the 'other shore'—will put on immortality. And I shall not see this perfect Buddha—this is why I weep."
He returns rejoicing, however, to his mountain-home, for his eyes had seen the promised and expected Saviour.
Paintings in the cave of Ajunta represent Asita with the infant Buddha in his arms. The marvelous gifts of this child had become known to this eminent ascetic by supernatural signs.
Buddha, as well as Crishna and Jesus, was presented with "costly jewels and precious substances." (Why not gold and perfumes?) Rama—the seventh incarnation of Vishnu for human deliverance from evil—is also hailed by "aged saints"—(why not "wise men"?)—who die gladly when their eyes see the long-expected one.
How-tseich, who was one of those personages styled, in China, "Tien-Tse," or "Sons of Heaven," and who came into the world in a miraculous manner, was laid in a narrow lane. When his mother had fulfilled her time:
"Her first-born son (came forth) like a lamb. There was no bursting, no rending, No injury, no hurt—Showing how wonderful he would be."
When born, the sheep and oxen protected him with loving care.
The birth of Confucius (B. C. 551), like that of all the demi-gods and saints of antiquity, is fabled to have been attended with allegorical prodigies, amongst which was the appearance of the Ke-lin, a miraculous quadruped, prophetic of happiness and virtue, which announced that the child would be "a king without a throne or territory." Five celestial sages, or "wise men" entered the house at the time of the child's birth, whilst vocal and instrumental music filed the air.
Mithras, the Persian Saviour, and mediator between God and man, was also visited by "wise men" called Magi, at the time of his birth. He was presented with gifts consisting of gold, frankincense and myrrh.'
According to Plato, at the birth of Socrates (469 B. C.) there came three Magi from the east to worship him, bringing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
Æsculapius, the virgin-born Saviour, was protected by goatherds (why not shepherds?), who, upon seeing the child, knew at once that he was divine. The voice of fame soon published the birth of this miraculous infant, upon which people flocked from all quarters to behold and worship this heaven-born child.
Many of the Grecian and Roman demi-gods and heroes were either fostered by or worshiped by shepherds. Amongst these may be mentioned Bacchus, who was educated among shepherds, and Romulus, who was found on the banks of the Tiber, and educated by shepherds.
Paris, son of Priam, was educated among shepherds, and Ægisthus was exposed, like Æsculapius, by his mother, found by shepherds and educated among them.
Viscount Amberly has well said that:
"Prognostications of greatness in infancy are, indeed, among the stock incidents in the mythical or semi-mythical lives of eminent persons."
We have seen that the Matthew narrator speaks of the infant Jesus, and Mary, his mother, being in a "house"—implying that he had been born there; and that the Luke narrator speaks of the infant "lying in a manger"—implying that he was born in a stable.