This year for my epiphany sermon I wrote this extract from Melchior’s Diary (he is traditionally one of the Wise Men), really trying to enter into this strange story of hope, disappointment and joy.
You can listen to it here: https://anchor.fm/dashboard/episode/e1cbrfc
Or read it here:
Day 1 –
Well, it’s been decided, we’re going. After we saw the conjunction which clearly showed the birth of a new king of Israel we are headed to Jerusalem. It’s such a long way to go but this is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Never before have I been so sure about the signs in the heavens. It may take us a long time to get there, the journey will be hard, but it will be worth it I’m sure.
Day 34 –
I wonder what kind of welcome we will get when we arrive at the palace? We’ve done our research. The current king is called Herod, I’m sure he’s delighted at the birth of his son. I bet they’re already celebrating there, I’ve heard the hospitality in Jerusalem is excellent. A feast will be welcome after the poor fare we’ve had on our long journey through the desert.
Day 54 –
Well, it was not what I was expecting. Well, the palace was as grand as I thought it would be but there is no news here of the birth of a prince. Our enthusiastic pronouncements were met with not excitement but true fear. The welcome was less than warm. Perhaps we got it all wrong. Why did we come all this way? What an idiot I’ve been to risk everything on this long journey. It’s all come to nothing.
Day 56 –
We’ve been waiting days to be recalled into the presence of King Herod. Apparently he’s had his researchers look into this. We finally were given an audience and according to Herod’s researchers the new King of the Jews is to be born in Bethlehem – a day’s journey from Jerusalem. Herod wants us to go and look for the child and then return to tell him where we found him. Given his initial reaction to our news, I have my doubts about doing this, he responded not with joy but with fear. There’s something not right about that.
Day 57 –
I’ve been so disappointed. Nothing about this trip turned out the way I expected but then today, a glimmer of hope! We saw the star again! We haven’t seen it since we left home for Jerusalem. Just as I was beginning to think I’d imagined it, there it was again and it was just on the route we had begun to Bethlehem.
Day 58 –
It was not what I was expecting. I was so looking forward to that royal feast at the birth of a prince, but we found the child with his father and mother in a modest house in a small town surrounded by fields of sheep. Nothing like our place back home where we have gardens and running water. But as we arrived at the house, we knew it was the one. We greeted Mary, the mother and told the tale of our journey. She confided in me that she had begun to wonder whether the stories were true about her boy, Jesus, she had begun to wonder whether he really was this promised king or messiah was the word she used. We presented her with the tribute gifts we had brought, the best riches from our kingdom. Myrrh for healing, Frankincense for worship and Gold for a King. I must confess, at this Mary seemed both shocked and afraid but after we enjoyed a meal together we all relaxed and marvelled at how we’d been brought together by God.
Day 59 –
We’re on our way back to Jerusalem, as Herod asked us. After all, he is the King of these lands, it would be dangerous to disobey, he might not allow us safe passage out of the country. I hope we get a warmer welcome now we’ve found the king we were looking for.
Day 60 –
Caspar had a dream in the night. I’ve had a funny feeling since we left Jerusalem. Balthazar also woke up suddenly with the conviction we shouldn’t go back to Herod. We discussed and debated it together. To defy the instructions of a king could be punishable by death. The three of us strangers are not inconspicuous in these parts, anyone could turn us in to the authorities. And everyone knows the real power around here are the Romans and there are garrisons everywhere. We saw the crosses on the way into Jerusalem with dying men, a warning to anyone who breaks the law. But all three of us just know we can’t go back to Herod, it is clear that he wants to be rid of this rival to his throne. We can’t allow that poor child to be destroyed or his parents killed. We’re going to have to go home by a different route. We’re going to have to go home the long way round.
Who knows when we’ll get home, if we’ll get home, but now I am carrying with me a treasure greater than those we brought as gifts. Now I am carrying the knowledge that this child is going to save the world, he is going to save us all and he will be a light on our journey home. I carry his light with me. I always will.
The story of the magi is full of hope and disappointment. Nothing quite works out the way they expect, it moves from joy and excitement at the discovery of the star to fear and danger when they arrive in Jerusalem, through to a different kind of joy on the discovery of the Christ child.
2021 didn’t work out how we expected, nothing quite went to plan. Again, as we begin a new year, we’ve had to make last minute changes and travel on a different road like the wise men. But like the wise men, we carry with us the light of the Christ child as we journey on. And that light will never leave us.