Summary: A monologue of one of the magi making the point that how you approach Jesus determines how you return.
MANY HAPPY RETURNS
It starts today: The return season. Gifts of wrong size, color, and taste return. Some returning from vacations or visits to family. But other things return too. Somewhere in the next week to ten days we will face returning to a lifestyle more or less like the one we left behind before Thanksgiving. But we do not have to. Should we at all?
Today we remember what the story said about the wise men. We begin where their story ends:
And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route. Matthew 1:12 NIV
And young man, please water that camel good. That beast name is Nebuchadnezzar and he has served me well. It has been a long journey and we still have a ways to go. Do a good job and there will be an extra coin in it for you. I’ll just step over here for a moment’s rest.
Hello fellow traveler. Are you headed home? I am. In fact, if I press on I’ll make it to my house in that Persian mountain range by nightfall. That way I’ll not have to spend another night out here in the open. I never thought of my palate on the floor of my house as all that comfortable, but compared to the hard ground where I have been resting, it will be like sleeping on a cloud.
Where have I been? I’ve been to see the King! No, not Caesar Augustus, though he is master of many kings. No, I’ve been to Palestine. Yes, the king there is Herod. You no doubt know him from his reputation as the great builder of the port city of Cesarea, the aqueduct, and the temple in Jerusalem. Yes, we did see him. But Herod is old. The one we went to see was the newborn king. You’ve not heard of a new king? Ahhh, You have eyes my friend, but you do not see. Don’t feel too badly that you missed the news. You are among many.
While I am eager to get home to my own bed, I will say, there is something nice about spending the night under the stars. I have invested so much of my life to studying the lights of the heavens. Me, and magi like me, believe that the stars reveal eternal secrets. But understand, the heavens can be fickle. If you are not watching you may miss its announcements. Not only do you have to watch the night sky. You also have to watch what is written about the cosmos.
Several months back, Gaspar, my fellow Magi, found words recorded in the ancient writings from Hebrew ancestors who had lived years ago in Babylon. Their scrolls recorded words by the ancient prophet Balaam. They read: There shall come a star out of Jacob, and a scepter shall arise out of Israel. We concluded that the prophet was telling his astute readers that the arrival of a great star would indicate the arrival of a great king. With that, my Magi friends and I began looking intently for the appearance of a new star.
Then one night, we were gathered on the terrace of my mountain home. I had the terrace built to give us a place for clear views of the Persian evening sky. We watched silently in a blended quiet both of awe and study. Balthazar suddenly broke the silence as he shouted Look! We turned and he was pointing out a spark born out of the darkness toward the western plain. A casual observer might have missed it. But we were students of stars and saw purple, crimson, and orange spiral upward from a single point of white radiance. Collectively we all bowed our heads. It is the sign, I said. The king is born and we must go to meet him.
With haste we all retreated to our homes and gathered up the necessary provisions for a long journey across the desert. Included in these were the gifts we would bring to the king. Gaspar brought gold. Gold was a gift you would bring to pay tribute to a king or ruler, acknowledging the royalty of the king.
Balthazar brought frankincense, a resin that was very fragrant and used in worship by a priest. And I chose to bring murrh, an expensive spice used to anoint the temple.
When it became obvious we were preparing hastily for a long trip, my neighbors would ask, Where are you going? I don’t really know. How long will you be gone? I don’t really know. We got some strange looks.
Once we met up not far from here, along with our servants we headed out for our long journey. The heat of the day was only matched by the chill of the night. But the night sustained us as we looked each evening and found the guiding star. You might say we walked by faith and by sight. At long last, after many weeks, we arrived in Jerusalem. Jerusalem, the city of peace, the capital of Israel. Surely if a king was to be born from the Hebrews, this would be the place.