How far did you travel to find him? That’s what I want to know. Because if you haven’t found him yet, you haven’t travelled far enough.
We had been looking for him for years, though we didn’t realise it at the time. Every clear night, we studied the stars, making our observations, writing our notes. It was what we did. We knew that wisdom lay that way, and we thirsted for that wisdom. It was only after the event that we recognised that thirst that had dominated our years of study. Sometimes you only see things looking back.
So when the star came, it was the fulfilment of years of preparation, the grand finale of all our work. How can I describe that star? It was glorious. We have seen so many stars over so many years. We knew them by name. We observed their patterns and their habits. We watched the way that the stars reflected life on earth. We saw new stars arise with great leaders and fade away again. We learned to read the skies so better to understand the world. This new star was different. It was so bright, it could have been alive. Only a great leader could cause such a heavenly body – and we came to realise that a great king must have been born.
And after a lifetime of academic work, studying the stars night by night, it was right and good that this new star should reset our lives. We left our observatory, Caspar, Melchior and I. The rest of the team thought we were mad. Why should we want to leave the security of our tower to go wandering to far away places. But we knew we had to go. This was the culmination of our life’s work, the brightest star in our firmament, and we had to prove our theory about the new king. That’s what we said, but it was more than that – it was that deep desire for something we didn’t understand.
Sure, it was a long journey with lots of adventures – it is the nature of travelling. We left safety behind. We went beyond the boundaries of our knowledge and experience. We were duped by con men, led astray by false leads, seduced by promises of soft beds and hot meals. But in the end, we kept going, following the star.
Eventually, we came to the city. That’s where we expected to find the new king. Looking back it is easy to see how wrong our assumptions were. We think we know what we are looking for, only to find it is another thing entirely.
We were brought to the throne room of a great king who listened to our tale. He was most interested in our quest, most interested, and consulted his own sages and advisors and sent us on our way, urging us to call in on our return journey to report. Most insistent, he was. We were flattered by his attention. Most of the people we met along the way had dismissed us as cranks, and it was just so good to feel heard.
Go to Bethlehem, the king’s wise men advised, and so we did, with the star still shining above us in the sky. It was no great shakes, a small town, nothing to admire, nothing to amaze, nothing that spoke of majesty. Our expectations were completely flattened. But we asked around to see if there had been birth round about the time we had first seen the star. A birth? Yes, they said, there was a birth. They wouldn’t forget a birth with so many stories. They made us sweet drinks and told us tales late into the night of shepherds and angels and lights in the sky. And the star stood still.
Having got this far, the least we could do was call in. It was a humble home, where the carpenter was working. A young girl-woman dandled a small child on her knee and played with him as he practised early steps. An ordinary family, an ordinary child, not what we had expected when we had first seen the star. But we were sure, more sure that we had been of anything else, that this was the king we sought. We had doubts, sure, and we discussed them way into another night, but in the end our certainly was shaped not by proof, but by what I can only call faith.
We had discovered our king as if finding land on a distant shore that had never been lost in the first place. But it was our discovery because we had made the journey to get there, travelling over deserts and mountains, and traversing our inner landscapes, the hazards of our own souls. In finding our kin, we had found ourselves. We were different from the men who had set out. The way we saw the world had changed. We found him not just a small child playing in a humble room, but turned to find him lodged in our hearts and taken residence in our souls.
That’s when we presented our gifts:
- Gold – we gave him all our wealth and would have given more;
- Frankincense – we gave him love and worship, all that we are;
- Myrrh – we gave him all our time, until our time comes and the shells of our bodies are laid aside in the anointing of myrrh or offered up to the birds of the air.
You could have read the gifts another way, of course – it was all about Him. But it was also about us and the journey we had made.
We could not go the same way back – that road was closed to us. We were returning as those who had travelled, as those who had encountered, as those who had knelt before a child. And we were different, changed, made new. They call us wise men because of the years of our studies and the long lists of our qualifications, but is was there, on the floor before the bairn, that wisdom came.
That’s how far we travelled. And I am telling you, because our journey is also your journey. Which is why I ask you now, and again, how far did you travel to find him?