Reading the stars is something my people have done for ages. It is in our history. It is in our blood.
The stars tell us many things, but recently, they have been telling us something new, yet not completely unexpected.
This is why I am packing my things...
A new star in the west beckons. I and two other men of my community are going on a journey to see where it leads.
We are on a mission to find the One Whose birth this star in the West announces ...
The Long Expected of the Nations.
Our people have known the prophesy of the Long Expected One for centuries.
I remember hearing of it as a child.
My whole life, it seems, I have studied the stars. I have often dreamed that this event would occur during my lifetime. My companions have done the same.
But never would I have imagined...
As I prepare my camel and pack for the journey, thoughts swirl in my mind.
Who is this child?
Why is he so important?
What will I do when I see Him?
What shall I say?
What can I offer Him?
I decide on frankincense--a gift truly worthy of a king.
Precious, pleasant, and useful.
As we make our way in the dark, its smell wafts up from my bag, and I feel confident in my choice. The gold and myrrh of my companions are nice, but this... this is a treasure unlike any other.
I am pleased to offer it.
The star shines brighter and more steadfastly than all the rest, making our way easy, albeit uncertain.
Where is it leading us?
We discuss our many expectations and questions along the way.
How will we find this child?
What will He be like?
Surely, the entire world be there, welcoming Him. This prophesy is of old. We can't be the only ones who know it and have waited...
Will He be surrounded by sumptuous riches?
Will we even have an opportunity to get close, to give the gifts we bring?
There is bound to be a crowd.
I suspect it will be difficult to get close, but not impossible.
We are not nobodies.
The sandy dunes we traverse are familiar, as are the stars.
All but the One.
We are a nomadic people. Travel is what we do. The stars have always led us. Our camels are our trusty companions.
More than anything, we trust in the stars.
They do not lie.
My seat is high and my camel is warm. From this height, I can see quite far. The stars light the way.
But the One... it beckons unlike the others.
I feel an unfamiliar tug at my heart.
What is this feeling?
What is calling me?
What awaits me there?
As we near the city of Jerusalem, the star mysteriously goes dark. Perhaps He is here, in the city...
And yet... the city's inhabitants all seem to all be completely unawares, going about their daily lives.
Do these people know what occurs in their midst?
Perhaps we are late.
I feel a sinking feeling that everyone has already seen Him and welcomed Him...
The stars do not lie.
We need directions. Who would know better than the King?
To Herod's palace we go.
Melchior is not desirous of asking directions--he feels it beneath him.
I do see his point--we are a nomadic people after all... If we don't know the way, who does?!
But I refuse to waste time on my pride.
I have to find this Child.
Nothing will stop me.
I feel an urgency now.
An ache in my heart that I've never felt before. As though my life would be wasted if I did not find this child whose birth is announced by a Star.
Despite the prophecy, Herod seems taken aback by our news.
How could he not know?
His men... have they been asleep?
Is this not the birth of their King, after all?
Do they not care?
I refuse to waste time marveling at their blindness.
To Bethlehem we go--the House of Bread.
There is no time to waste.
Outside, we see The Star!
It shines brightly in the South.
I knew it would return. I felt it in my bones.
I feel it tug at my heart.
It whispers to me.
Come... come... come.
The tightness in my chest is unfamiliar to me.
What is this emotion?
This is not my king, yet I journey to meet Him while His own people sleep.
Is it madness?
Or is it in the stars...?
Why is the world not abuzz with the excitement that shouts from my heart?
My companions and I ride in silence, each of us enveloped in our own thoughts.
I will admit, when I began this journey, I felt confident and proud, excited to meet the Long Expected One, and confident that I was chosen for this.
I was made for this.
And yet, as we near Bethlehem, and the star seems steady in its place, I feel uncertain,
like a tiny child.
But the Star beckons.
The bustle of Bethlehem is a bit of a surprise; a little town full of people.
Then I remember the Census. Of course.
I look around...
Could there be a palace fit for a King in this tiny town?
I don't see anything like one...
The Star seems to pulsate gently now.
We are close.
Lo! It stops just above...
Is it, could it be a stable?
Not a cave...
My companions and I look at one another.
What is this?
We slowly dismount and gather our gifts.
Is this it? our puzzled faces say.
The Star directly above sparkles and glows with an intensity we have not seen during our entire journey.
This must be it.
And yet, this is no other cave.
A warm light emanates from its mouth.
My nose expects manure and damp.
Instead I smell a heavenly fragrance unlike anything I've ever smelled before.
It is more magnificent than anything I could have ever dreamed...
I am shaking.
It occurs to me that the fragrance of my frankincense pales in comparison to the aroma coming from the the cave, I am still grateful that it doesn't clink loudly like Melchior's gold.
Normally, I wouldn't shy away from making an entrance, but now...
I know that we are unworthy.
Why am I here?
Why did I come?
Inside, a few shepherds kneel, hats in hand, heads bowed.
The animals seem to kneel and bow their heads as well.
We timidly make our way closer and my heart begins to pound in my chest.
I lower my eyes and bow my head.
In the periphery, I see a glow, and I know that it comes from Him.
I am afraid to raise my head.
I am afraid to raise my eyes.
The light is so bright.
Will it blind me?
No. It beckons.
Its warmth draws me in.
Like a gentle hand on my shoulder,
and another under my chin, raising my head,
raising my eyes...
I look upon His little face and His eyes rest on mine.
It is as if He knows me.
As if He knew I would come, and He is glad to see me.
How is this possible?
I feel frozen inside, and yet somehow manage to drop to my knees.
A feeling of unworthiness washes over me and my eyes cloud with tears.
And then, a rush of love.
The Babe smiles.
I think it was a laugh. Maybe it was a hiccup.
Newborns do not laugh... do they?
I see his mother and his father.
She is so beautiful.
He is so loving.
Both look down in adoration
His eyes do not move from mine.
Is He reading my mind?
Reading my heart?
I am certain that He sees inside my soul.
In the depths of my heart, I can hear Him whisper,
"I have known you since before you were in your mother's womb."
Never have I felt so seen.
Never have I felt such warmth.
Never have I felt so loved.
Somehow, I manage to present my gift.
The Lady's smile is almost as radiant as the Babe's.
I can see where He gets His beauty.
She is radiant and more beautiful than any woman I've ever seen.
Out of the corner of my eye, I see Melchior and Balthasar kneel and present their gifts as well, and I see that I am not the only one with tears in his eyes.
Time seems to stand still.
How long were we there?
I cannot say.
But in those silent moments,
For the first time in my life, my heart loved as it was made to love.
And I know that my soul was loved as it had never been loved by any other.
I rested in His warmth,
Time loses all meaning in this cave.
Is this Babe outside of time?
Who can say?
Eventually, we must make our way back.
We must leave this warmth.
We must leave His gaze.
How can I leave that face?
How can I look away from that smile?
But just as I felt beckoned by the star, I suddenly feel commissioned by the smile.
Go, it says, and tell the world.
Tell them about Me.
Everyone except Herod, of course.
One last look.
One last smile.
A bow to the Lady.
I cannot resist embracing her husband--what a man to be entrusted with these two!
There is strength in his face, and I know that they are in good hands.
Outside of the cave, we come alive again, our hearts filled with a joy and purpose that makes the long and arduous way home seem like nothing.
What a Star!
What a Journey!
What a Family!
What a King!
The world must know!
This is our mission.
Let us begin right away and never rest
until we rest in the warmth and love that filled that cave,
which, I know, came from the heart of the little Babe
whose look and smile lit my heart on fire.
IMAGES: August von Wörndle: Journey of the Magi with their Retinue (1852); The Magi Journeying (Les rois mages en voyage) - James Tissot; Velázquez - Adoración de los Reyes (Museo del Prado, 1619); Adoration of the Magi, Abraham Bloemaert (1623-24); Adoration of the Magi by Corrado Giaquinto (1703–1765); Leonaert Bramer, The Adoration of the Magi (1630 - 1635)