A Christmas Story
As I was walking out of Persepolis, pleased with the new carpet I had bought, which was hanging over my shoulder, I quickly discovered that carpets are heavy to carry for long distances. It would be a long, tiring trip back home carrying my new prized possession. Then I saw a caravan passing by. Hoping I might be able to pay them for the use of one of their camels to carry my rug, I called out to them. I quickly learned they were not ordinary merchants. These were wealthy travelers well stocked for a long journey.
"Where are you going?" I asked.
"We are following a star." He replied.
Knowing that caravans navigate the desert using the stars, I thought nothing of it.
"It appears you are going west. Might I rent space on one of your camels for my carpet?"
"All are welcome on our journey." He replied
"How much will it cost me?" I inquired.
"That I do not know. You may join us for free, but I cannot say how much it may cost you down the road if you continue. Perhaps everything." He answered.
"I do not understand."
"The ancient texts spoke of a king who will rule over all kings, and love and care for his people. And there are signs in the night sky that lead us to believe that he has finally arrived. We are traveling to pay homage to this king. Certainly such a king is worth serving, but what that will require from each person I do not know. Still, you are welcome to join us in seeking him."
As we walked I thought about his words and finally replied:
"I would like to know such a king. I will follow."
And so my long journey began...
I decided to sell the rug in the next town, for it would only be a burden on this trip. And the money would be better spent on food and supplies. It was a wise decision. Our journey took longer than I ever imagined and was not without hardships. As the months passed I began to question my decision, but it was too late to turn back. So I committed myself to the journey regardless of the outcome.
As we left a city named Jericho we began a grueling uphill journey that circled around a craggy hill with many olive trees. Then suddenly we could see the city, Jerusalem, across a valley. It was beautiful. And rising above the city was an enormous structure we would later learn was called the temple mount.
Finally we arrived in Jerusalem. I have never seen such a city. It was surrounded by thick walls. We passed through a gate and were met with a noisy, smelly spiderweb of streets running uphill and down packed with many old limestone buildings, yellow and brown from the sun. There was a market street with all kinds of wares and craftsmen. It was the place of common people like me. But the upper part of the city was a place of wealth. It contained uncountable marble buildings all laid out in a grid. Many of amazing size. There was an amphitheater, many monuments, palaces, citadels, and more. Some buildings were of obvious Roman influence. And then towering over it all arose the temple mount. Larger than most towns, it’s high walls towered above us. And rising above its wall was the temple building itself. All white with gold embellishment. They told us it was called Herod’s Temple and it held the Arc Of The Covenant, a chest that contained stone tablet on which the God of the Israelites wrote 10 commandments.
After some time spent in amazement of the city, we began to ask about this new king of kings. News of our inquiry somehow reach King Herod and he commanded an audience with us. I would be untruthful if I said I wasn’t terrified at the thought of meeting a king who could build all this and rule over it. But we did. I said nothing and let the Magi speak.
King Herod showed great interest in our search and said “I have consulted with my chief priests and scribes and they informed me that 700 years ago the prophet Micah wrote that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem of Judea. Go and search diligently for the young child; and when you have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also.”
There was great discussion that night following our meeting with King Herod. Why hadn’t the religious leaders sought out the new king themselves? Didn’t they believe the prophecy? Where they protecting the child? The Magi all agreed that most kings were jealous of their rule and that Harod’s intentions toward a new king might not be as he stated.
So we started packing to head to Bethlehem.
We arose early and began our walk to Bethlehem. It was only a few hours journey. Bethlehem was nothing like Jerusalem. It was small town of mainly farmers and shepherds. The houses were mostly stone building with two levels. The animals lived in the lower level and the people lived in the upper rooms above the animals. It hardly seemed a fitting birth place for a king. But we were determined to find out.
As we neared the city I greeted the first man I saw walking down the road, an innkeeper, and I told him of our quest.
He said “There was a bright star over Bethlehem for a time. It was well over a year ago though. Perhaps two even. We all wondered about it but then it went away as soon as it came. There were some crazy stories the shepherds kept telling about angels visiting them and a baby king, but I think it was probably just too much wine. We get a lot of visitors on their way to Jerusalem, but I doubt you’ll find a king living here. If you need rooms come see me.”
We obviously needed to find these shepherds. We headed out into the fields looking for sheep and it wasn’t long before we found some along with a young shepherd boy. Again we told him we were seeking the new ruler of the Jews.
The boy said “King Herod is the ruler of the Jews. And Caesar Agustus rules over him from Rome. I know of no new ruler.”
“You are a smart boy.” One of the Magi replied. “But we have followed the star of a new ruler who will shepherd the people of Israel.”
“Then you want to talk to old Addai. He saw the angels and the child.” The boy stated plainly.
“Where can we find him?” I excitedly asked.
“The hills on the other side of town.”
So we headed through town and stopped at the innkeeper’s for food. I wanted to press on, but the Magi insisted we stop and eat.
“He’s got sheep to tend. He isn’t going anywhere.” They said. “We are not as young as you and need rest and refreshment.”
So they ate and rested, and I squirmed. Finally after confirming the boy’s directions with the innkeeper we headed out into the fields. After a long search we found Addai and his flock near an olive tree.
The Magi began with introductions and stating the purpose of our search. Then they offered the shepherd some food and drink. We all sat near the olive tree and watched the shepherd eat. I ate also. I was suddenly starving. The Magi asked him about the star.
“It was a night I’ll never forget. I tell you that. Like yesterday in my mind. Four of us were on this very hill with our flock watching for jackals. And suddenly a man appeared. And light shone all around him like it was day time. I am not ashamed to say I was scared. We all were. And we shook with fear. But he said:
‘Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.’
Addai took a bite of food and then continued. “Then just as suddenly we were surrounded by countless people shining and praising God. They were all saying, or singing, it’s hard to explain:
‘Glory to God in the highest, and on Earth peace among those with whom He is pleased!’
“Then they were gone. I said to the others ‘We’ve just seen angels.’ So we put the sheep in a cave and three of us ran to town to find this baby. It wasn’t hard. There was a star shining light down on the town. And there was a light in the lower rooms of one house. Inside with the animals was a man and woman, and a baby who was laying in a manger. So we told them about the angels and what they had said. And everyone there was amazed. I ran back so our brother, who we left with the sheep, could come see this new born Savior also.”
We all sat in amazement also. Finally after a long pause the Magi asked the shepherd if the child was still in town and how they could find him. The shepherd suddenly gasped, and then smiled, and then burst out laughing.
“I guess you can just follow the star.” he said and pointed up at the sky. And there above the town was the star again.
We followed the star back to town and to the house that the star was shining down on. We knocked on the door of the house. A young woman came to the door and smiled. We told her of our quest and our journey. She asked us to come in and there he was. A small boy playing on the floor. He looked up at us. And suddenly we realized that we had found him. We all fell on our knees and began to worship him. This was surely the one the prophets and heavens referred to. Then the Magi, opening their treasures, offered him gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh. My heart was full.
That night we returned to the inn and I slept like I had never slept before. I felt like I had found something lost, something I didn’t even know was missing. But I felt complete and at peace.
We returned to visit the child and his family for several more days. And we learned the remarkable story of Mary and Joseph’s marriage, of how Mary had become pregnant without knowing a man, of how an angel had spoken to Joseph in a dream, of how they had come to Bethlehem, and of the child’s birth. And although they seemed like ordinary people there was something very different about the boy Jesus.
Then one morning I woke and found the Magi talking intently. They almost seemed in a panic.
“Has something happened to the boy?” I asked.
“No. He is fine for now. But we all had the same dream. No it was more than a dream. It was a vision. And we were warned that King Herod wanted to kill the child. And not to return to Herod.”
Shaken, we decided to return home by another route. Herod must not learn what we have found. So we began to prepare for our long journey home. I asked one of the Magi “Will the child be safe here?”
He replied “After all I have seen. I am assured that the God of the Israelites will keep this one safe from Herod.”
The day we left a shepherd boy caught up to us and told us that Joseph had also had a vision, and that the family was fleeing to Egypt. I was relieved.
I simply wanted to buy a carpet and get it home. Then my life changed. My heart has changed also. I do not know how any of this is possible. The God of Israel must be a God of the impossible. I also do not know if the boy Jesus will someday be a King of Kings. But I believe it as much as I believe there are stars in the sky. I have seen his star.
And now we continue our long journey home.
[This is a fictitious account of a fictitious character’s journey set during the events of Jesus’ birth and childhood. The factual story of Jesus’ birth and the Magi’s journey and can be can be found in Luke chapter 2 and Matthew chapter 2 in the New Testament of the Bible. I encourage you to read it.]