Each year about this time I find myself reflecting on the Christmas story from the perspective of one of its characters. I wonder what it would have been like to be that person. What were they experiencing? Struggling with? Thinking about? Wondering? This year, it’s the Wise Men I’ve been journeying with.
I came across a poem written by Don Dowling (printed with permission). The poem is what propelled me down the path with the Wise Men. Listen to these words:
“So we got there, eventually,
Delayed by issues at the border crossings,
Strip searches, sniffer dogs, suspicious officials flanked by hard-eyed young men toting guns.
They questioned us: Were we smugglers?
Might the costly spices we’d brought as gifts
be banned substances?
And what of the gold?
Was it to finance arms smuggling, insurrection or business bribes?
Did we stick by this cock-and-bull story about following a star?
Why didn’t we use satnavs?
Why this obsession with astrology?
“A star portending the birth of a Jewish Ruler!”
That alone nearly got us arrested.
But they let us go, their racial prejudices trumped by their conviction
that we were harmless crazies bent on a wild goose chase.
Finally, we reached journey’s end, despite
that last unnerving interview with Herod,
Honey-tongued, but with ill-disguised murder seething in his eyes.
Was it all worth it to discover by starlight
a poor couple’s boy child in a tiny shack?...
Yet here, we sensed, we had touched divinity;
Now for us life would never be the same
Home we went another way and found another life."
The journey these men take is the adventure of a lifetime! They don’t really know what they are looking for, except it is in search of a king…and there is that star they are captivated by... so they travel! I read it and it makes me assess: what adventures have I been propelled on – in search of my King, over this last year?
They travel at night. In the dark. Because you cannot follow a star in the day. Do you think different thoughts as you plod along in the dark? It’s quieter. There are less distractions. Perhaps they are more reflective with all that time to think. And I ask myself, where do I find time to think deeply, living in the bright light of a rushing life? Where is space for thoughtful reflection to be found?
They stop at the palace of King Herod, and I can't help but think they do this not because the star led them there, but because they have made an assumption about where a king would be found. In a palace, amongst royalty, yes? Except, in this case, the assumption is incorrect. The King they are looking for has a different kind of kingdom, not hooked to the empire with its wealth and power and privilege. Their assumptions take them to the wrong place. We cannot fault the Wise Men in their preconceived notions. They are totally rational and logical assumptions. But that’s what happens when you don’t know the King. As I continue to wonder, I ask myself, what assumptions do I make about the King I follow, that take me in the wrong direction? I pray that God would (graciously) nudge me to join Him where He is!
They find Him eventually. In a backwater town in Judea. In a regular house. With working class parents. I cannot even begin to imagine their utter surprise. They came all this way for – this? But the journey has been long and the signs clear. They are in the right place. They worship and leave their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. It may not have been what they expected, but one never gets the sense they are sorry they did the journey. Stop for a moment and wonder with me. Where has God utterly surprised you in this last year? Where have you found yourself that you would never have anticipated you’d be? Can you sense that God has brought you here? Is with you? Has things to show you that will put you on your knees worshiping?
The Wise Men return home a different way, we are told. Re-routed, as it were. The route is not the only thing different as they head back. They are different – changed by the journey itself. Changed by an encounter with the King. They will never be the same. The journey changes us. With God as leader and guide, we trust that the changes are for the good.
I love the Christmas story. God uses it to speak new things to me every year. In this season, let me encourage you to journey with the Wise Men, that we too may be transformed as we seek the King in this coming year.
Blessings on you in this season,