Oh when will these camels be ready? (Looks up, speaks to audience) Oh greetings friend traveler. Pardon me, but you look strangely familiar. Perhaps I'm mistaken. (Pause)Yes, I'm on my way home now. Where? Oh, it's a land east of here; at least a weeks journey. Where I am returning to, is of no importance. Where I am returning from, now there is a story.
We had just entered the little village of Bethlehem. Could our calculations be off? Could all the writings be wrong? We were seeking a king. We saw no signs of royalty or even of wealth. This couldn't possibly be the place. We had followed that star. We were sure that it was leading us to a new king. We had gifts.
Dejected, we decided that we would spend the night here, then head toward home the next day. We found a small inn where we might have a meal and bed down for the night. As we began to enter, we heard a commotion behind us. Now as a scholar, I've always been curious, so I went outside to see what this was all about. There in the street were four or five shepherds speaking in a dialect I couldn't understand. They seemed excited about something, but because of the language barrier, I was at a loss to learn what it was. I turned to enter the inn, when a word stood out from their conversation. "Messiah."
That was the word the writings had used for this king we sought. I ran into the street, into the midst of the shepherds. I must have looked like a mad man to them as I tried to get them to understand what I wanted to know. Finally one of them was able to understand my limited Greek. If I understood him correctly, some sort of messenger spirit had appeared in the hills announcing the birth of this "Messiah." I persuaded him to wait there, while I ran inside to get Caspar and Balthasar. "Come" I shouted, "He IS here."
We gathered our gifts and followed this young shepherd who was quite proud to lead us to the birthplace of his king. He led us to an empty stable. "No, you've misunderstood me" I told him. "Where is the birthplace of your king your Messiah?" He insisted that this was the place of his birth. "Is this a joke?" I demanded. "A king was born here?" Well the boy explained that the mother had been forced to give birth in this stable because all of the rooms in town were full. Exploding with impatience by now, I shouted, "Well where is he now?"
The poor boy explained that a room had become available, so they had gone to stay there. We followed the boy to a small house near the stable. I was confused. How could this be a king? But my calculations, and the writings...
Despite my unease, I entered. There in the room, was a common man in simple homespun clothing. He raised his hands in greeting. They were working hands, those of a stone cutter, or perhaps a carpenter. He looked nearly as confused as I felt. Next to him was a young girl, certainly younger than my youngest daughter. She held a baby, wrapped in cloth, with his face shielded from our view.
"Is this?" I fumbled for words.
The girl smiled, and as she uncovered his face said, "His name is Jesus."
Oh! At the sound of that name I fell on my face and wept uncontrollably. I wept and I laughed, and I worshipped Him! I heard music from voices the like I'd never heard singing Glory to God in the highest! I don't know how long I remained there, but eventually, I opened my eyes. I looked up. The girl, his mother was still smiling. The man still looked confused. I rose to my knees, and reached out and touched the baby's face. He opened His eyes, and looked at me. Oh those eyes. They looked right through me, into the depths of my very soul.
Then, as I gazed back into his eyes, suddenly I no longer saw a baby, but a king; a mighty and majestic king, the ruler of all, beyond what the eye could see. King over a dark-hearted and ruthless people. And I could see my self as he saw me. I could see myself in all my darkness. And I could see I could see that I was in prison. And you! You were there as well, my friend. We were awaiting execution for the crime of treason against the king. And then I could see the king. He came down from his throne to live among his people. Remarkable. He gave up his royal privilege to live as a common man. Then the king came to our prison cell and demanded our release. Such mercy I'd never known. But he didn't just free us. He took the torture and the execution in our place! He voluntarily bore the punishment so that so that we wouldn't have to. And in my vision, I cried out protesting that I wasn't worthy for a king to die in my place! My spirit grieved so. But suddenly the king was alive and his glory was blinding, and I had to avert my eyes. When I chanced to look again, I saw the baby. My gaze was still held by his eyes. Oh those eyes, filled with love.
We left our gifts, which now seemed meager. Gold, expensive spices and incense; I would give all I have just to be able to touch Him once again. We are the ones who have been given a gift.
I've been changed I tell you. In my old age, I am a changed man. I will never
be the same again.
Copyright © 1999, 2000 by Robert J. Lee
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