Have you ever faced a situation where you had been rehearsing what you would say, only to find that when the time came, your speech fell flat on the floor? This is what I imagine (as I participate in this scene from my rocking chair) happened to the wise men when they finally came face to face with the child who was born King of the Jews.
Electric with anticipation, one of the magi raised a fist to the low door and knocked. Joseph, husband of Mary, answered the door, his strong frame backlit by an oil lamp that lit up the single-room abode from the carved niche in the wall in which it rested. The light from the lamp shone dimly on the visitors, but it was enough for both Joseph and Mary to realize instantly that these were no ordinary night guests. They stepped back in awe and allowed the men entrance.
One by one they came in, looking around as they did so. As their eyes adjusted to the dim room – for they had been staring into the brilliant light of the supernatural star ever since leaving Jerusalem – the men gazed at the boy. A pregnant moment passed in silence, then one of the men stirred himself, cleared his throat and spoke up. “We have come to worship the child,” he said, giving a nod toward Jesus.
In unison the men knelt down and lowered their faces to the ground before the child, who squealed and waved his arms in amusement at the sight of the illustrious visitors. Clumped on the floor as they were, the folds of their robes and capes concealed what they held in their hands. But once they rose and took a step back, Mary and Joseph could see three decorative boxes made of smooth wood and shining metal left on the ground. Seeing the quizzical look on the parents’ faces, the same man who had spoken before gestured toward the boxes and said, “These are gifts for the King, to honor him.”
As I studied Mary and Joseph’s faces, I saw bewilderment and astonishment as the couple tried to take it all in, processing the obvious details while tucking the vast meaning of it all into their hearts to ponder later, and later.
Turning to the wise men in my mind’s eye, I was surprised to see their suddenly animated expressions. Their eyes gleamed beneath delighted eyebrows. One of the men continually struggled to wipe a grin off his face as it kept breaking through his serious façade. Another didn’t even try to conceal his pleasure, his entire body moving as if to music as he reveled in meeting this little One whom God had ordained for greatness.
The whole visit took no more than 20 minutes. Not wishing to dishonor the child-king by showing him their backs, the wise men backed out of the doorway with low bows. As they prepared to mount their camels, giving instructions in a foreign tongue to their guides and servants, the crowd of peasants that had been following them saw their chance to see this boy who would someday be King. In solemn procession, they filed past the doorway and peered in. Some bowed in unpretentious humility. Others bowed as well, but hesitantly, their minds filled with doubt as though questioning, What will this child-king mean for me?
This is Part 4 of a series that began on 1/8/2015. It is a description of my meditations on the events of Epiphany and does not necessarily represent actual events. Tomorrow will conclude this series.