I was part of a group of people, referred to in history as ‘The Magi’, who believed we were given the role of watching the heavens and recognising what it signified on earth. We had manuscripts recording how a group of ‘The Magi’ travelled to what is known today as Nepal when the Buddha was born 500 years before Jesus.
Most generations watched the heavens and charted what they saw but each knew the possibility existed that we may be shown something that required us to act.
I mean you have it in the back of your head that something startling may happen but you never think it will happen to you. Then this night I noticed this star. I was conversant with accounts that claimed when such a star appeared it was a sign that a person of significance to the world had been born. Initially, I said nothing worried about what it would mean. I knew that if this were such a star that our tradition required that we should track it and where it stopped it would reveal the newborn child. We were then to play a role by giving to the child what would strengthen it in its role.
But previous accounts recorded that some of these journeys took months and over a year. I didn’t mind being a stargazer but this would require of my time and my life for however long it took to trace it would take as long to return.
Others noticed the star. I guess it wasn’t going to go until we paid it attention. We met and I as the elder of the Magi agreed that we would trace the star. The younger members were full of excitement. Don't get me wrong I was too but I knew it would mean separation from Adrina. Perhaps it would have been easier if we had a child to have kept her occupied but the stars had not ordained it. True we were closer because of it but I would happily allow a child to be between us.
She was such a joyful woman that despite what it meant she was happy that I just go and be part of whatever this star was declaring.
Our whole community prepared for our leaving and I felt so proud as 12 of us set off with their eagerness behind us.
We met many people along the way and they behaved in either two ways, welcoming us as their guests or snubbing us as foreigners. It was then we let the camels weave their magic. You see our camels could dance and when they started even the most threatened came to see. The laughter would melt their apprehension and when the dancing stopped they invited us to eat with them. We would stay a day or two before wandering on.
The star seemed impatient and it was as if we stayed too long in one place it shone so brightly that we had to cover our eyes. We quickly learned that this meant it was time to move on.
It became clear that we were headed to Jerusalem a city prior to I had only heard and read. The city of David the most renowned King of the Israelites.
As we travelled closer to it we became aware by what we saw and what the people told us that the land was occupied by a Roman army though they permitted the Jews to retain a king, his name was Herod. We were warned that he was unpredictable but perhaps tired from travelling and keen to locate this ‘newborn king’ our minds focussed on Herod’s palace. It was once we met him that I realised we had gone for the obvious rather than doing what we had done until then be guided by the star.
Herod although hospitable was perturbed by us and our quest to locate this child. I knew it was best for us to get out of there as quick as we could return to our quest. It seemed time was now escaping us.
We were led out of Jerusalem towards a small town Bethlehem they called it. The place was bustling with people who were amused both by us and the camels but there would be no time for dancing camels we needed to reach the place of this child. Becoming frustrated that we were so close but unclear of which residence would have a child I sent the younger to knock on doors and ask has a child been born? One of them reported back that an Innkeeper had claimed a pregnant woman was in an animal shed beside his property. The star was beginning to fade so we went with this report.
My mind was thinking of all the places for a King to be born yet I had been told that I should not judge by human appearances for the universe was far beyond that.
And there he was sleeping on his father’s chest while his mother slept.
His poor father was quite taken by us parading through the animal shed but he kept still as the child was upon his chest. We didn't want him to be awakened nor the mother. Our job was to track the star and see him. We left the gifts that we had brought and we also left it to his father to explain to his mother and him when he understood how the gifts arrived.
We were keen to get moving as we had a bad feeling about Herod. We began our track home knowing that we had completed what we set out to do. We did not wish to bring by our presence any harm to the child.
On our way home we shared our story with those who would listen we said, “One day you will hear about a great man who was born in Bethlehem and that wise man from the East came to worship him as a baby.”
After months of travelling, I was glad to see the familiar markings of our land and as word spread that we had returned our people came to greet us. Adrina appeared and with her was a baby. Puzzled I asked, “Whose child is this?” She mouthed to me “Ours”.
An explanation of where the above story came
Since the summer school in August, a number of us have continued to meet once a month on zoom. Today one of us was trying out Bibliodrama with the rest of us acting as her practice group.
Bibliodrama is a technique whereby you take a set text and the group leader brings the characters in the text alive by asking the participants to take on the character.
The text was centred on Melchior traditionally known as the oldest of the wise men who visited the baby Jesus in Bethlehem.
We started with where he lived as we were asked, “Melchoir what made you undertake this journey?”
I get the best from such an exercise when I hand it over to my imagination, that is from where the story came. Credit to the others who ideas fused into the story, Jane, Murray and William and Ahmad who were present. Thanks to Heather for leading us. The text on which the Bibliodrama was based follows:
The Magi Visit the Messiah
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”
When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:
“‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.’
Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”
After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.
Matthew 2 v 1–12 New International Version