Just like the angels who sang to the shepherds, the magi delivered the Good News of the Christ child's birth. Not everyone received the message with joy.
New Revised Standard translation
In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.”
When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet: ‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.’ ”
Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.”
When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy.
On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.
Matthew 2:1-12 ~ retold by Deborah
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem, visitors from the east came to Jerusalem. Their arrival caused quite a stir.
They were on a mission from heaven, these glittering star-gazers, clad in bright-colored fabrics that shined like the sun, their eyes as black as midnight, their teeth as white as pearls. It was as if divine beings had come to earth mounted on weird, lightning-fast beasts adorned with bronze harnesses and saddles fringed with tinkling bells, their packs filled with fragrant spices, jeweled caskets — and glittering swords.
They had come to honor the child who had been born to be the king of the Jews. After they had seen his star arise in the sky, the sign heralding his birth, they had set off to see him in person, and now they were here, asking to see him — which could only mean that he was here, too.
You can probably guess Herod's reaction.
He was terrified, as were all of the bureaucrats and courtesans and hangers-on. What would become of them if Herod were replaced by another? It simply couldn't be allowed to happen!
So the king called together a committee of clergy and religious scholars, to see what they could tell him about where the divinely-sent leader was to be born. They told him it would be in Bethlehem. “As the prophet wrote,” they said, “‘You, Bethlehem, can hold your head high, because the ruler who will shepherd My people Israel will come from you.’”
Herod went away from the meeting wiping his forehead; this could mean serious trouble. But already an idea had begun to form in his mind. He sent a trusted advisor to bring the stargazers to see him. “But be sure to bring them in through the servants’ entrance,” he said.
The king entertained the visitors in his private dining room. They sat on soft cushions and dined on sweets and spiced tea while Herod spoke of his earnest desire to feast his eyes on the child.
Taking a grape from the tray before him, Herod asked, “When, exactly, did you first notice this star? I’m tremendously disappointed not to have heard of the child’s birth sooner; otherwise I’d certainly have arranged to have him taken care of — I mean: I’d have provided for him. When you find him let me know immediately, and I will have him brought here, and my people will know what to do…” He turned to wash his hands in the gilt-edged water bowl held by a servant, “After all, we want to be certain that the kingdom is secure.”
“Before you go,” the king added, clapping his hands to summon another servant, “You’ll love this. My little girl has a dance recital coming up; I want you to see what she can do.”
The visitors breathed a shared sigh of relief after being released from the palace and sent on their way. They hurriedly set out for Bethlehem, where Herod had told them the child would be found, still relying on their celestial navigation.
The star was directly overhead when they reached the town. They were overjoyed; certain that this was the end of their search.
It was late and the tiny village inn was filled; there was no room for the travelers. All around them the houses were dark and silent — except for a small cottage at the end of a lane. A light seemed to be shining in a window there, almost unnaturally bright; like the sun at its rising.
Joseph answered their knocking at once and immediately invited the visitors into his home. “Welcome,” he said, shepherding them inside, “I know what it is to be in need of shelter on a dark and lonely night.”
It was there that they found the one they had been seeking. There, in a simple dwelling in a small, insignificant town, they saw a young child resting in his mother’s arms.
Having spent their whole lives searching for meaning in the distant stars, it took a few moments for the travelers’ eyes to adjust to the Light that had come down from heaven. But then, in an instant, they were filled with understanding and they knelt down before Him and offered all that they had to give.
The travelers left that same night, determined to find a route home that bypassed Jerusalem. They knew that their dreams for the future were very different from Herod’s nightmarish fantasies.
And they carried the Light with them.
May we do likewise.
Virtual hugs and real-time blessings,
How does the Light of the World illuminate your journey?
In this telling of the story I imagined the magi to be from the Far East, rather than Persia as they most likely would have been, and mounted on horseback, rather than camels, thus the seemingly “weird” character of the beasts they rode.