After Jesus was born in Bethlehem village, Judah territory --
this was during Herod's kingship -- a band of scholars arrived
in Jerusalem from the East. They asked around, "Where can
we find a pay homage to the newborn King of the Jews? We observed
a star in the eastern sky that signaled his birth. We're on pilgrimage
to worship him."
When word of their inquiry got to Herod, he was terrified --
and not Herod alone, but most of Jerusalem as well. Herod lost
no time. He gathered all the high priests and religion scholars
in the city together and asked, "Where is the Messiah supposed
to be born?"
They told him, "Bethlehem, Judah territory. The prophet
Micah wrote it plainly:
It's you Bethlehem, in Judah's land,
no longer bringing up the rear.
From you will come the leader
who will shepherd-rule my people, my Israel."
Herod then arranged a secret meeting with
the scholars from the East. Pretending to be as devout as they
were, he got them to tell him exactly when the birth-announcement
star appeared. Then he told them the prophecy about Bethlehem,
and said, "Go find this child. Leave no stone unturned.
As soon as you find him, send word and I'll join you at once
in your worship."
Instructed by the king, they set off. Then the star appeared
again, the same star they had seen in the eastern skies. It led
them on until it hovered over the place of the child. They could
hardly contain themselves: They were in the right place! They
had arrived at the right time!
They entered the house and saw the child in the arms of Mary,
his mother. Overcome, they kneeled and worshiped him. They they
opened their luggage and presented gifts: gold, frankincense,
In a dream, they were warned not to report back to Herod. So
they worked out another route. left the territory without being
seen, and returned to their own country.
A lovely way to look at our life is view ourselves on pilgrimage.
While the completion of journey is certainly a worthy goal, there
is nothing like paying attention as we travel.
I enjoy the various stories of the Wise Ones who find themselves
delayed all along the way. Those seeming side trails become a
great blessing in anticipation of the blessing coming from their
intended goal of honoring a new leader.
The best known of these is probably "The
Other Wise Man" by Henry Van Dyke.
Christina G. Rossetti wrote that wonderful hymn we know as "In
the Bleak Midwinter" (#221 UMH) that ends: "what can
I give him: give my heart."
You can follow this song online at CyberHymnal.org.
Note that there is an intriguing third verse not found in our
hymnal. It might even become the kernel for your thoughts about
the coming of the Magi. (do you suspect it was left out because
of its body imagery or its emphasis upon "enough.")
Just like our heads, if our hearts are not connected with stars
and dreams they are probably not connected with other parts of
life. Will you receive and give visions and hopes of more than
sugar-plums? What is your gift to share with the rest of the
universe and those next door?
With their heads in the stars, they came. With dreams in their
heads, they went.
What's guiding you these days, in addition to trying to secure
your economic base?
How do we tell the story today, implementing Henry's and Christina's
story and verse through the images and cadences of today?