8— THE WISE MEN II
Cradle of Majesty
Stop! Stop everything right now. This is none of your business, magi, or whoever you are. This is not your religion. It’s ours, and we have everything the way we want it. We cannot abide any outsiders. You’ll just come in and change everything.
Forget your star search or whatever you call it. You are not wanted. This is our religion, our king, our Deliverer. We know what’s going on. You’ll disrupt everything. Stop before you start intruding into things you do not understand.
- BC 5
- Ecbatana, Media
And so they move on. Following the ever-fading memory of the star, the star they have thus far followed to all the wrong places.
Upon their arrival, the four magi—Yasib, Dushatra, Kumar, and Michel—go immediately to the gigantic library that holds the archives. Michel is in high spirits. He is the only one who is.
“Among these national archives,” he explains in the courtyard, “are documents of kingdoms the Babylonians and later the Medes and Persians conquered centuries ago. Our ancestors’ kings brought each country’s archives here, along with their more educated captives.”
“We saw the religious records of those countries over in Nippur,” Kumar responds, as they walk inside and look up at the ornate ceiling. “Are you suggesting the star we saw might mean the beginning of a new kingdom, one more powerful than even the Roman Empire is today?”
“That is an unequivocal yes!” Michel replies without hesitation.
“You cannot know that. No one can predict the future that successfully,” Yasib objects, pausing to look at an open scroll in an unusual language.
“But they already have.” Michel leads them down the long dark aisles, talking as he goes.
“What do you mean?” Dushatra asks.
“The Jewish religious writings predicted the downfall of numerous kingdoms including Egypt long before they actually occurred. As you are well aware, all the kingdoms on the east coast of the Great Sea long ago fell under the power of Babylon, then the Medes and Persians, then the Greeks and finally now the Romans.
“One prophet actually predicted that the Jews taken exile to Babylon would be freed—the exact year,” Michel continues proudly, “The seventieth year of their captivity. Furthermore, another prophet predicted the exact name of the emperor who would free them—over a century before he was born—Cyrus.”
Michel continues on down the aisle, knowing exactly where the archives are that they need. He has been here before.
“As is widely known to historians, one of our country’s magi government leaders six hundred years ago was Daniel, a descendant of Jewish royalty. He was greatly respected and held in high esteem by our emperor.
“Daniel himself wrote a book which he left behind in our archives. Oh, here we are. If you will be seated, gentlemen, I will find it and read the portion that predicted the unknowable centuries before it occurred.”
The other magi find a table and wait. Occasionally one of them gets up and looks at the titles of the scrolls on the shelves nearby, searching to see something that might be helpful.
“Here it is,” Michel finally says, rushing back to them. “During the time of King Nebuchadnezzar six hundred years ago, Daniel predicted the rise and fall of the Babylonians, the Medes and Persians and the Grecians. The fourth kingdom he predicted would crush everything in its way. That fourth kingdom, gentlemen, is the Roman empire of our own time.”
“No. It can’t be done. No one could know the future that far ahead,” Kumar objects.
“Now listen to this, and I quote,” Michel continues undaunted. “‘During the time of the last kings, Jehovah, the only God, will establish a kingdom that will never end… It will destroy every other kingdom, but it will never end.’”
“Never end?” one of them whispers. They look at each other questioning what he has read to them.
“Did Nebuchadnezzar believe it?” Dushatra responds.
“The king made Daniel ruler over the province of Babylon with daily access to the royal court.”
Michel reaches for another scroll, a continuation of Daniel’s writings. “Furthermore, he gave the exact year the predicted one would be anointed as high priest and king of the kingdom.”
The others stare at Michel in astonishment.
He goes on. “Since Jewish priests do not serve until they are thirty years old, if the priest king was born with the star last year, he would begin ruling exactly 29 years from now.”
The other magi look at each other with doubt in their eyes. Michel sees it and waits for them to absorb his words. Finally, one of them breaks the silence.
“Prove it. Show us where he predicted the exact year.” Kumar leans back in his chair, eyes narrowed.
In anticipation of their request, Michel has just now scrolled to the passage.
“Here it is, gentlemen. It’s been in our archives six hundred years. No one had anything to gain by changing it. This is what it says: ‘Pay attention: From the time the king orders Jerusalem rebuilt until the Anointed One, the priest and king comes, it will be seven ‘sevens’ and sixty-two ‘sevens.’ So, 7 x 7 = 49. And 62 x 7 = 434. Adding these together, with twenty-nine, you have 483 years.
“Our Jewish book of Ezra says King Artaxerxes ordered Ezra to return to Jerusalem to begin rebuilding the city during his seventh year. Artaxerxes gave this order 453 years ago as of last year when the star appeared. If this priest king begins to reign when he is age 30, that will make it exactly 483 years.”
Yasib, Dushatra, and Kumar sit and stare at Michel. He does not rush them. He gives them time to think.
Thank you, Jehovah that you have made it possible for me to reveal you to them.
Dushatra is angry. He had not wanted Michel to be right. He rushes to the entry to the library and leaves out the door.
Jehovah, guide their hearts and minds. They never wanted to believe, Michel prays.
Kumar stands, walks back to the lobby, and puts his hands on his head. He leans against one wall and slides down it, then puts his head on his knees.
It is hard for them to admit they’ve been wrong. Go easy on them, Jehovah.
Yasib stays where he is, but stares at the scroll. He gets up and begins reading it for himself. He does not take his eyes off it. He scrolls to other parts of this amazing document.
“There are no mistakes in it, sir. Daniel would not have allowed his writing to be distorted.” Michel takes a seat at the now deserted table and continues to wait. He knows deep in his heart they will be back.
Jehovah, open their hearts as you did Abraham’s when you promised him a miracle baby, Michel pleads with God.
The stool next to Michel scrapes along the floor. Kumar is back. He is not saying anything, but he is back.
Michel closes his eyes. Jehovah, be especially kind of Dushatra. It is such a shock to him.
They hear footsteps coming down one aisle. Dushatra, being a large man, cannot keep from making some noise when he walks. It echoes softly.
By now Yasib has seated himself back at the table.
Dushatra appears. He runs his fingers through his hair. His eyes are bloodshot.
“I didn’t know,” he whispers. “I didn’t know.”
Yasib speaks first. “Well, uh, gentlemen, uh, perhaps we need to investigate the other writings of this Daniel. Did you say he had other writings, Michel?”
“Yes. Are we ready to search for a reference to a star?” Michel continues.
Dushatra clears his throat as he pulls out his stool and seat himself. “Indeed,” he says so softly, the others have trouble hearing him. “That is what should be done.”
Kumar mutters. “You won’t find any mention of a star there. But we must examine it so no one can say we didn’t investigate everything.
Michel finds several copies of Daniel’s book and gives one to each of them. Each finds another table where he can spread out his work, seats himself and reads.
Michel looks up from his own reading now and then. Have they been sufficiently convinced they are on the right track?
Don’t let them skip over anything, Jehovah. Make them read every word. It is critical to our mission, Michel prays. Are we close to the answer for King Phraattes?
One by one they read the predictions regarding world powers that they know for a fact came true about Babylon, Persia, Greece and Rome. They read about the impossible made possible.
They read of Daniel’s defiance of the great god of the Babylonians, Marduk.
Kumar scratches his head. “How did that Daniel manage to survive through four emperors in the royal courts?” The others shush him, and all go back to reading.
They read about Daniel’s dream. One by one they go to the librarian to request copies of the zodiac charts to determine the significance of the lion, bear and leopard among the stars. But nothing they figure out from the charts makes sense.
They read of another dream of a ram and goat. One of the horns of the goat throws some of the starry host out of the heavens and down to earth to be trampled.
“You mean the ram represents the kings of Media and Persia, and the goat the king of Greece, Alexander the Great?” Kumar asks, interrupting the others. No one answers him. “Well, the ram could represent good and the goat could represent evil. Will evil succeed in conquering good?”
Michel smiles and he watches each of them struggle, their eyebrows together, the forehead wrinkled, their eyes focused only on their scroll.
Next, they read for themselves the prediction of how many years it will be from the order to rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the Priest-King, comes to reign over the world. That’s the 483 years Michel had explained to them.
They continue to read strange and amazing things. Startling things.
Then they come to it. It is toward the end of Daniel’s writings. Yasib is the first to arrive at that point.
“Hordes who lie buried in the earth will come back. Some will be delivered to live forever, others to die forever. Wise men will radiate like the heavens, and they who lead others to the right way will be like the stars!” Yasib rereads the passage aloud. “Wise men? We magi are supposed to be the wise men that Daniel predicted?”
But, it warns not all the wise men will be accepted. “What must we do?” Yasib asks.
Michel has found the passage too. He helps the others find it so they can read and analyze it together.
Over and over they read the passage. What must they do to be accepted? They must lead others to righteousness. Lead others?
They read on a little further. Then, there it is. The Star! “Each truly wise man,” they read, “will receive his own star.” It is the wise who will shine like stars!
When Michel reads it, he rises from his stool, lifts his arms and shouts, “Yes! We found it!”
This time, he reads the entire passage aloud.
“No, this cannot be,” Dushatra says. “We’ve been fooled before. We will not be fooled again. We’ve been fooled by references to a star in the Hindu writings, the Buddhist writings, the Zoroaster writings and the others, but we won’t again.
“Sorry, Michel,” Kumar finally says, walking over to his colleague. “It’s not enough. It doesn’t prove anything.”
But Michel is not through with them.
“Gentlemen, in these archives are the books of the Law of the Jews, commonly called the Law of Moses. The Jews also have books only of prophecy. We will read them all, just like we did the writings of the other religions, and look for any references to a star. Agreed?”
The other three reluctantly agree. It will take time. Possibly another month. But it is necessary. They must be able to report something to their King Phraattes. That, or remain in exile.
The next day they return to the archives. They obtain copies of the scrolls they need and retire to reading rooms. Day after day they read. But to no avail. Absolutely nothing.
A week passes. Then Yasib spots it. With guarded excitement, he calls the others and reads it to them. “‘A star will come out of Israel’s descendants. A crown will rise out of the kingdom.’ So, we have one reference to a star and it being a king. But we need more than this.”
After the others have found the passage and read it for themselves, they agree it has possibilities. But they must have more evidence.
Since this passage is near the end of the Jewish law books, a few days later they are ready to begin reading the prophets. The first is Isaiah. They do not have long to wait.
Kumar sees it first. He calls the others. “Listen to this, gentlemen.” He clears his throat. “‘People in night darkness saw a great light, a light that has just appeared… For a baby has just been born, he will govern and be called…’”
Kumar stops reading. He looks at the others. They look back expectantly. He finishes the passage. In slow motion.
“‘…He will be called God!’”
Once more he pauses. The four magi stare at each other. Old Yasib’s hands tremble. Dushatra pulls out a handkerchief and wipes his sweating brow.
There’s more, Kumar announces. “‘His kingdom will never end! He will reign where King David did forever!’”
They go back to their reading. Now with a sense of wonder. A sense of awe. It is not until they read to nearly the end of Isaiah’s writings that they find another mention of the light and what they should do about it. Dushatra shouts from his reading room that he has found it. The others mark their reading places and rush to him.
“Did you find something, Dushatra?” Do they dare allow themselves to hope? Without comment he reads it to them. “‘The light will come to the whole world and all kingdoms of the world will come see it!’”
“That settles it!” Michel declares. “We, too, must go to Israel, to Palestine, to see and honor this light who will rule the world!”
Without hesitation, Yasib agrees. “It would be the prudent thing to do. Our King Phraattes will want to stay on good terms with this child king, this god.”
“My king will also,” Kumar exclaims. He hasn’t lived in Indus for a long time, but he feels confident that his King Gondophares will want to be represented also. “I must leave at once. I will obtain gifts and letters from my king and meet you at Ctesiphon.”
“Should we approach Augustus Caesar about this?” Michel asks. “I’m sure this Jewish God-King will be powerful enough to conquer Rome someday.”
“That’s up to King Phraattes.”
“So it is settled. We meet in Ctesiphon in a month.” Yasib smiles.
- Ctesiphon, Parthia
“Your Majesty, Dushatra, Yasib, and Michel wish an audience with you,” the sentry announces.
“Really? I never expected to see them again. Didn’t I warn them never to come back unless they had an explanation of the star? How long ago was that? So they’re back.
“Three of them are, Your Majesty.”
“Lost one of them, huh? Good thinking. Do they expect to impress me this time? No one else has. Oh, well, nothing much else is going on today. May as well have an execution. Send them in.”
Dushatra, Yasib and Michel walk toward their king with heads bowed, then bow completely to the floor at the throne. They are permitted to rise and talk freely with the king. They have brought scrolls with them. One by one they go over their findings in the Jewish writings.
Not fully convinced, King Phraattes insists on reading the proof passages himself. He is amazed. Amazed that they seem to contain the only logical answer. But even more amazed to learn that a god might have been born in his own lifetime.
“I’ve never seen a god before. I would like to see this god and pay homage to him,” the king says. “But it is not possible.
“There is serious unrest in the palace. They don’t think I know about it, but I do. I have reliable spies. I will stay and protect my throne, and perhaps I can go visit this god later when I stabilize things here.”
Sensing uncommon loyalty, the king announces, “Since you are the ones who made the discovery, you will go as my ambassadors.”
“Your Majesty,” Dushatra hurries to explain, “Kumar has returned to Indus to tell King Gondophares about this. We agreed to wait for him.”
“Well, the four of you could represent the two empires. That is good. We should do things in allegiance with Indus now and then. However, we will not pass this information on to Rome. I do not want to be the bearer of bad news.”
“Yes, Your Majesty.”
A month later Kumar returns from Indus. By then the other magi have arranged for the gifts they will take to the king who apparently is also a god. They have made arrangements for a caravan to carry supplies and provide protection across the long desert. It will take five months traveling north, over, and down to make the trip to the land of Israel, the land of Palestine.
- BC 4
- Jerusalem, Province of Judea, Palestine
The journey is long and hard. But the magi know they are doing the right thing. As they near Palestine, which is what Israel is called now, they wonder how the people there must be reacting. Festivals? A new palace being built? A new temple?
The magi are puzzled when they cross the border. Life as usual. No excitement. King Herod continues to reign. If he knows about the child-king, he has refused to officially recognize him.
The foreign caravan of camels makes its way through their land. The Jews stare inquisitively at the regal magi and their entourage. The magi do not tell anyone why they are here. They sense something is wrong. They are certain, however, their presence is reported to King Herod.
They arrive in Jerusalem. As representatives of two great oriental kingdoms, they must seek an audience with King Herod.
After several attempts, they manage to arrange a meeting. King Herod will give them ten marks of the sun dial. That is all. But they must wait a week for the meeting. They are told to be grateful for that much time with such an important world leader.
Finally, the week is over, and the entourage returns to the palace. Their meeting is confusing.
“What God-King are you talking about, sirs? There is only one king, and that is me. There is no one for you to pay tribute to but me. Have you brought me something special?” He laughs nervously, and his aides laugh with him. The magi do not.
He slaps his hand on the arm of his throne and announced, “Time’s up. It’s been a pleasure.”
“But the city, Your Majesty. Which city is the child in?”
“I tell you what,” the king responds as his guards escort the magi to the door leading out of his throne room. “Wait a few days, and I’ll send you a message.”
The door closes. Once outside, the four talk. “Do you think this new-born God King is Herod’s son?” Dushatra asks.
“Do you think King Herod is keeping it a secret so his son can pounce on unsuspecting kingdoms when he comes to power?” Kumar asks.
“He’s old like me,” Yasib explains. “He’s scared. Scared of losing the power of his youth. I recognized it in his eyes. I’ve seen it before in old men.”
The four magi remount their camels and head slowly through the streets. People stare suspiciously at the oriental strangers dressed regally and even their camels adorned with more gold than any of them have ever seen.
Some run from them as they approach. The magi stare back, wondering what has gone so terribly awry. Why aren’t the people rejoicing? He is their God King. Surely they, too, saw the star. What did their priests say it meant? Surely they know. They have to know. What are they hiding? Or hiding from?
Four dignitaries and four days.
Something is not right. Everyone remains silent. Where are the ceremonies and celebrations? The pomp and parades? It’s all wrong. Everything’s quiet. Too quiet.
But God is in charge. If the people cannot reassure the foreign ambassadors they’re on the right track, God will have to do it himself.
God gets out his flare. God is about to relight his star.
A knock on the door of their inn.
“His majesty King Herod has agreed to see you one more time—for ten marks of the sun.” The soldier announces.
“He has sent one of his own chariots. You’ll be seeing him in his private quarters. This is a great privilege.”
The soldier waits outside their door until the men are ready to be presented once again to the king. But in his private quarters?
The four magi arrive and are escorted by another soldier to a back door, and then through an unobtrusive inner door.
“Come in, gentlemen. Sorry to have kept you waiting,” King Herod says warmly. “But I had to check you out, of course. I am prepared now to tell you where our new child-king is.”
“Your Majesty, we are most grateful,” replies Yasib.
“He’s in Bethlehem, in the province of Judea. That’s the same province Jerusalem is in, and not too far away.”
“You’re saying, then, that he really exists and we’ve found him,” Michel asks for reassurance.
He is wary. Something is terribly wrong. No one is paying attention to the whole event.
The conversation that follows as they are served wine and dates becomes guarded.
“Thank you, sir. We’ll be on our way now,” Yasib announces.
“By the way,” King Herod interjects, “I haven’t had time to pay him a visit yet myself—what with all my responsibilities. Stop by here on your way back. I’d like to see how he’s getting along. I do need to make time to go see him, you know. Probably in a couple of months.”
“Yes, Your Majesty,” Dushatra reassures. “We will do that. Thank you.”
The king’s chariot returns them to their inn. Despite the fact that it is nearly evening, the magi waste no time in ordering their personal guards on standby, their camels saddled and their belongings gathered up. They must leave Jerusalem before the king changes his mind. They do not completely trust him.
As they go through the gates of Jerusalem, they hear behind them the creaking of hinges. The gates are being closed for the night. They are not worried. Their guards are the best in Parthia, and Bethlehem is not far away.
On the road again. After five months of travel, a few more hours will seem as nothing. Each magus becomes engulfed in his own thoughts and stares into an empty evening sky, wondering what is going on.
Somehow they know this obscure baby in an obscure town is destined to be more powerful than King Herod the Great, or Rome, or all the kingdoms of the world.
They stare ahead along the darkened road between the holy city and the little town of Bethlehem. Wondering.
Why are they the only ones looking for the new-born God-King? Don’t these people know what’s going on right under their noses? Don’t they care? He’s their god. Can’t they see? Are they that blind?
Suddenly empty stares turn to astonishment. A great light! Zooming out of an ethereal distance.
“The light! The star is back!” Dushatra shouts.
“We were right. It is, indeed, his star. He is going to be king. King of the world!” Michel adds.
“He will rule in peace,” Yasib says. “He is a god. He will live forever.”
“The impossible star has once more proven it,” Kumar announces.
They stop their camels and stare with new understanding.
Their excitement slips into awe. They continue on their journey in silence. Deep, deep silence.
Light. Enlightenment. A thought comes to Dushatra. Could this baby be the great Buddha reincarnated? But if he merged with the essence of the universe, why would he return to earth? That’s backward. That’s punishment. God now a baby… God now a baby… Why would a god allow himself to be punished?
They watch the star. So light. So bright.
So captivating. They feel enslaved to it, but they do not care. They want to be. Strangely, they want to be.
- Bethlehem, Province of Judea
They arrive at Bethlehem about midnight. One of their personal guards shouts up to the guard in the tower.
“Open up! We’re here from the Orient. We are ambassadors of the kings of Parthia and Indus. We’ve come to pay tribute to your new-born king.”
“What king? We don’t have any kings here!”
“The descendant of David.” Michel calls up.
“Well, you’ve got the right city. King David was born here. And someday we’ll have a great king born in this very town. But it hasn’t happened yet.”
“Don’t you see the star? That’s his star,” Dushatra calls up.
“What star?” the guard responds.
“Man, can’t you see what’s happening tonight?”
“Oh, all that light? It’s probably a reflection of camp fires up in the hills.”
“But don’t you see the tail of the light?” Kumar asks.
“Yeah, but even if it is a star, it would be like the end of a rainbow. You don’t ever really come to it. Are you astrologers or something?”
“Please! We have letters from the king of Parthia and the king of Indus. May we come in?” Michel shouts back to him.
The guard comes down from his post and walks through the smaller door in the larger gate in and out of Bethlehem. He looks at the letters.
“I don’t read very well, but they look good to me. Where’d you find those beautiful camels?” He shifts from one foot to the other looking at the grand way the men are dressed.
“Very well. You may come in. But you’ll have to enter through the smaller door. No one comes in through the large gate at night.”
“That is agreeable,” Yasib replies.
Gradually the four magi, their personal guards and all their pack animals work their way through the gate, sometimes called the eye of a needle. Some things they have to take off the pack animals so they will fit. Eventually, they are all inside.
“Now what?” Kumar asks.
“The star,” Yasib replies. “Its beam seems to be pinpointing something.”
“Stars don’t do that! But we all see it!” Dushatra exclaims.
“Then let us proceed!” Michel announces.
The caravan works its way as quietly as possible through the darkened streets of Bethlehem.
Michel signals everyone to stop.
They know why. They have actually found it. The tail of the star. It is shimmering above a roof top.
The house is small and on an extra narrow street. Even in the dark, the magi can tell it is not a well-to-do part of town.
“Samgar,” Dushatra says quietly to the guard closest to him “Stay out here. If this is the right place, we will send for you.”
“Well, this is it, gentlemen,” Yasib says softly. “The King of kings. The Priest of priests. The one predicted centuries ago. The god.”
No one in the neighborhood seems awake.
Neither is anyone else in their country. All dream of being awake, but they are not. They dream they will understand and see it all. But they are blind.
“Gentlemen,” Michel says with a rather shaky voice. “Shall we?” he asks proudly.
The four slowly approach the gate. How does one greet a god? A knock. Nothing happens. They’re forced to knock louder. One of the guards comes over to help. They wait.
Shortly, the gate creeks and is opened. A young man with disheveled hair stands in the gateway in his night tunic, holding a small oil lamp.
Yasib gets right to the point. “We have come to honor the new-born king, the god-man. We have traveled from Parthia and Indus. We saw his star on the night he was born.”
“You saw his star?” Joseph replies. “You know about the star? You know he’ll be the king some day? You know it all?” As he speaks, he takes note of their clothing. They are obviously rich Orientals; therefore, surely they were not sent by King Herod as spies.
“Yes, sir. King of all kings is what your Daniel said,” Michel states proudly.
That is all Joseph needs. It is obvious these four strangers know. He opens the door wider and steps aside so they may enter. He feels awkward. The visitors are dressed in the finest garments he has ever seen or dreamed of.
“I will get him and his mother,” Joseph whispers. “Please wait in here.”
As acquainted as the four magi are to regality, pomp and ceremony, a lump rises to their throats, and their hearts beat faster. They unite with the pulse of the universe. What will the god-child be like?
They wait. They hear low voices in an adjoining room. Then shuffling. Moments later a pretty young lady walks out with a toddler in her arms. They are both squinting from the light.
Mary stops, not sure what to do. It is obvious by their dress and demeanor these four men are important. She has never been around such dignified men like these before. Not up close.
The four dignitaries immediately bow their heads to the cobblestone, as if bowing before a god.
Mary is embarrassed. They remain prostrate. Anxiously Mary looks over at Joseph. He clears his throat, and as regally as he can, he says, “You may rise.”
The visitors rise and Joseph provides rough cushions for them to sit. They refuse to be seated until Mary and Joseph sit. Mary tries to feel more at ease but they compound her nervousness. For they, too, appear nervous.
“We saw your star,” Michel explains.
“Our star? Jesus’ star? You saw it? No one else seemed to notice. It didn’t last long, you know,” Joseph answers.
“Yes, we know,” Kumar adds. “We instantly knew there was significance somewhere. We searched every way we knew how. We searched the heavens, we searched our archives, we traveled to well-established libraries and we finally found the answer.”
Dushatra nods toward Jesus. “This little child will someday rule the entire world as the King of Peace? He will have the power of a god?”
“No, there is one God,” Joseph explains. “He will have the power of the one and only God, Jehovah.”
Mary realizes no one besides her family, the shepherds who came that night and a couple of people at the temple in Jerusalem have acknowledged who and what Jesus is.
Now foreigners understand. Foreigners. Do they even believe in God? It’s all wrong. Where are her own countrymen, Mary wonders for the hundredth time.
“Does he walk yet?” asks Yasib.
“Of course,” Mary laughs, glad for the change of pace. “He’s been walking for six months now. Would you like to watch him? Jesus, go see Daddy.” Mary puts him down on the floor.
The Son of God holds on to his mother’s hand a moment to catch his balance, then toddles over to Joseph. “Good boy, Jesus!”
It occurs to one of the magus that this couple has not noticed the star is back.
“Look up,” Michel says. “Look. Your star is back.”
“Star, Daddy! Star.” Toddler Jesus points to the sky with little stubby fingers.
“Where did you learn that word, Jesus?” Mary asks. Mary doesn’t remember Joseph or herself teaching Jesus that word.
His big eyes open even wider. A single tooth is displayed. Jesus repeats, “Star. Song. Star. Song.”
“The angels announced it to some shepherds that night,” Mary explains. “I think Jesus is referring to their announcement. I think he knows.”
“Do you think he’d walk over to us a moment?” Kumar asks, his voice quaking as never before.
Joseph turns toward the magi with new understanding. “Jesus, would you like to go see the nice men who came to see you?”
Jesus smiles and tugs at Joseph’s arms to let him down. His feet again touch the ground. Little Jesus toddles over to the great wise men from the Orient.
They grin. They’re grinning at God. They take hold of God’s hand and place it in their own. One of them is kissing God. God giggles.
Mary, still nervous, goes over and picks up her holy offspring and takes Jesus back with her to her seat.
The four men regain their composure. “We have brought gifts as tokens of esteem from our countries,” Dushatra announces. “Please give us a moment.”
He excuses himself, bows, and walks backward the best he can to the gate and out into the street. A few moments later he leads some of their guards into the crowded little room. They are carrying ornate chests.
“First,” he explains, “may I introduce Kumar? He comes representing his country, Indus, and his king, King Gondophares”
Kumar bows in respect before the mother and child.
“Please allow me the honor and privilege of presenting the child with this chest of frankincense,” Kumar says. “Just as you burn incense in your temple to your god, and we burn incense in our temples to our gods, we offer it now to this child. On the day he declares to the world that he is a god, burn this incense to him and tell him it was from us.”
Jesus reaches out and touches the pretty inlaid mother-of-pearl lid. Joseph takes it and sets it on a sturdy table nearby.
“Next, may I introduce Michel, the Babylonian who kept telling us we needed to read the writings of the Jews.”
“Your Highness. Your honor.” Michel stumbles over the words as he addresses the child-king. “Your Majesty. Young sir,” he continues. “Please allow me to present you with this chest of the finest myrrh in the world. Save it for his coronation day. The day when he will be anointed priest and king, not only of your small country but of the entire world. Remind him that Indus and Parthia came and honored him. We pray he will give special honor to our two countries as a result.”
Jesus plays for a moment with the amethyst knob on the lid of the chest. Joseph takes it, too, and sets it on the table near the other gift.
“Last, there are Yasib and myself, Dushatra. We are both from Parthia, though Yasib is actually Median.”
Old Yasib steps forward. Two guards step around him to present another grand chest, though smaller than the others.
“There is enough gold in this chest to make the grandest crown in the world. There will also be enough gold for a scepter. As your own prophets predicted, the scepter will never leave him. He will have a kingdom of peace that will reach the entire world. And he will reign forever. For, even though he was born, he will never die. He is a god and cannot die. And he will create a holy kingdom that will never die.”
Joseph motions to the guards where to place the small chest on the cobble stones. Little Jesus crawls down from his mother’s lap, goes over to the chest and playfully sits on it. But it is cold and he jumps up and giggles.
“We must leave now,” Dushatra announces. “We have fulfilled the mission. We have found the celestial secret of the star. Are there any inns in town?”
“Actually, one. We were planning to stay in it the night he was born, but it was full and bulging. I hear it is nice, but probably not as nice as what you are used to.”
They agree it will be fine. Joseph tells them how to make their way there.
Once more the four magi bow with heads touching the cobble stone. Then they rise half way and back out of the courtyard one at a time to the narrow gate.
As they leave, Joseph says, “God bless you.”
God bless you? No one has ever said God bless you to the magi before. A personal god who actually cares about them? It is strange. It is nice. They kind of like it. God bless you.
They arrive at the inn, manage to obtain the attention of the proprietor, and are granted entry. Their guards bed down the camels and settle in to sleep next to them in the livery. The four magi eat, then retire.
After the lamps are out, they realize the star is now gone.
“Why do you think no one paid attention to the star light but us?” Kumar asks.
“Have they quit learning?” Dushatra adds.
“All along, these people have had their own documents to read to find him.” Yasib tries to find a comfortable spot. “But it is as though the whole country is blind. As though that’s not the king they wanted.”
“But he was sent by God.” Michel sums up what they all know.
The four fall asleep. They all four dream. The same dream…
Laughter. A face appears out of blackness. It is King Herod’s face, King Herod’s hideous laughter.
Soldiers come. The laughter is replaced with crying. Strange crying. Screams. Pitiful screams of babies.
Now a divine voice is heard.
DO NOT RETURN TO JERUSALEM.
In their sleep, they stir restlessly.
LEAVE THIS COUNTRY THE OPPOSITE WAY FROM WHICH YOU CAME. STAY AWAY FROM JERUSALEM.
All four wake up. Simultaneously.
“We must leave immediately!” Dushatra declares loudly.
Back out in the street. The night barely lingers before a new dawn. A dawn of terror. The foreigners make their way down narrow streets. They’ve given orders for their guards to remain as quiet as possible. They arrive once more at the gate of the city.
They do not try to explain. They give several silver coins to the guard, and quietly make their way back out through the eye of the needle, the door within the larger gate.
Instead of taking the northern route back out of the country, they turn south toward the desert. They must protect the child-king. They must not be discovered anywhere near him. Back out on the road, they whip their camels into a gallop. They must distance themselves from the child-king before dawn.
And so the foreign believers leave the holy land. Forever.
Good riddance, magi, or whatever you unbelievers call yourselves. You’re not wanted here. This is our religion. Don’t go changing everything. You’ve got the wrong person.