Tales of the Magi

“So, you have made it home safely,” said the king.

“Yes, Sire. It was a longer journey than we expected, but a journey I would not have missed for my very life,” said one of the king’s counselors.

“Nor I,” said another. “The things we saw! If anything can be called heavenly, that was what we received from our travels west.”

“Truly? You must tell me, then. Did Herod treat you well?”

“Well … I wouldn’t say he mistreated us,” said another wise man.

“What’s this? Surely he must have been pleased that you had come to celebrate the Jews’ blessed event.”

“Sire, as soon as we asked him about the birth of the promised King, Herod seemed confused, even agitated. He called for his own wise men and made them search their sacred writings.”

“Are you telling me the King of Judea knew not of the royal birth?”

“He did not seem to,” said the oldest of the magi, seated to one side of the king. The king allowed this ancient counselor to rest, as his wisdom and friendship were of more value to the king than any of the others. “I could not explain it, but he seemed taken by surprise.”

“Did his counselors not find the answer he sought?”

“They found an answer,” the old one said, “but I do not think it pleased King Herod.” He leaned forward and rested his hands and chin on the head of his short walking staff. “The wise men told us their writings prophesied the promised King would be born in Bethlehem, a small village none of us, even with our knowledge, had ever heard of. And Herod took us aside privately and told us to return to him with a report, saying he wanted to go worship the child himself.”

“So Herod encouraged you in your quest!”

“Not the type of encouragement I am used to,” said the old one. “I have counseled many kings. Herod did not strike me as one who desired counsel, but vengeance.”

“Vengeance? For what?”

“None of us could say, Sire,” said the magus who had spoken first. “But we all felt the same.”

“Did you ever see the child you sought, then?”

“We did,” said one of the younger men. “It was … it was … I don’t know how to describe it except to say that I was standing in the presence of heaven.”

“Like being in Paradise, was it?”

“Not like it, Sire. And not what we’ve been taught about Paradise, but … .” He looked away to the west, as if searching for the star once more.

The old man spoke up. “The Jews speak of Heaven as the dwelling place of the One True God, the Lord of creation who made all things but who himself has no beginning or end.”

“Yes, I’ve heard something of that,” said the king. “And seeing the child made you think of that?”

“Being in the presence of the child made me understand it, young Sire.”

“And so now you understand … .”

“I understand the presence of the Lord more than I understand being in your presence this very moment, Sire.” The old man stood. “I stood in the presence of the Lord of Heaven, the One True God, the Creator of all there is and was and ever will be. I stood in the presence of God himself when I stood in the presence of that child.”

“You are shaking!”

“As did we all, I am not ashamed to say,” said the youngest one.

“We did not stand long,” said another. “First I was on my knees, then my face lay on the ground. When I looked to one side, I saw the others the same.”

“This is very curious,” said the king. “What did King Herod say when you told him all this.”

“We did not,” said the first wise man.

“But he told you to return to him so that he could also worship this child. Why would you not honor his request after he helped you on your way?”

“An angel spoke,” said the elder. “An angel of the Lord spoke and warned us not to return to Jerusalem. Herod meant only evil.”

“But what am I to say if he sends envoys here to me?”

“Herod is not worth your consideration, sire,” the young counselor said. Again he looked west, but this time deep sorrow draped his face, not longing.

“We received word on the caravan route from a courier passing us on his way to Damascus,” said the first magus. “Herod killed them all.”

“He killed the child of the prophecy? And his parents?”

“No, they were no longer in Bethlehem. But he killed every boy born in that village since the time we first saw the star that led us to the child.”

“How foolish we were to tell him all we’d seen!” said the youngest.

“Remember, this too was prophesied by the Jews,” the old man said quietly, now seated again in his chair. “Bethlehem would mourn.”

“So your trip ends in tragedy. I am sorry.”

“We are not,” said the first counselor, as the others spoke their agreement.

“No?”

“We have stood in the presence of heaven, and that is enough.” The old man stood again. “Yet I am not satisfied with mere memories. With the king’s permission, I would like a room set aside where I can pray to the One True God.”

“As would I,” said the first wise man.

“And I,” said the others in their turn.

“I see that you are all changed by this encounter,” said the king, his voice barely a whisper. He shook himself and smiled. “You shall have your room. Perhaps you can include a prayer for me, that I might come to understand what you received in that village.”

The old one stood and laid his hand on his king’s shoulder, smiling  as he passed out of the room. “I have already begun, Sire.”

***

[The idea for this post built off of Michelle Van Loon’s excellent insights on the Magi last week.]

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33 Responses to Tales of the Magi

  1. Wonderful dialogue here, Tim. So glad you pursued this idea and expanded it.

    Indeed we need to pray for our family and acquaintances that have a very sketchy understanding of Who the Babe was and how He changed history and brought new life to His followers

  2. Yet another excellent post, Tim! Thank you!

  3. janehinrichs says:

    Very very nice TIm! Love it. Are you working on your book yet?

  4. Jeannie says:

    Thank you for sharing this, Tim — I loved it!

    • Tim says:

      I’ve been enjoying your short stories too, Jeannie. And you should check out the link to Michelle’s post on magi too, I think you’d like it,

      • Jeannie says:

        I’ve just checked it out — I really love her idea that the magi’s “desire to worship was greater than their desire to be safe, to be comfortable, to know all of the answers.”

  5. michellevl says:

    Beautiful, Tim!

    “I stood in the presence of the Lord of Heaven, the One True God, the Creator of all there is and was and ever will be. I stood in the presence of God himself when I stood in the presence of that child.”

  6. Bronwyn Lea says:

    I love this! So thought provoking.

  7. Erica M. says:

    I honestly got a little teary-eyed at this. It must have been amazing for these men, who already had some kind of knowledge of a Messiah despite following an entirely different religion in a far off land, to set eyes on this little baby and to know, with the knowledge that can only come from God, that they were seeing the Savior of the world.

    • We watched The Nativity Story last night as a family. That movie gave me a small sense of that amazement, but I agree with you that this post did a far better job. I really like the emphasis on passing on the message. …something I’m not so good at.

    • Tim says:

      I figure when they worshipped him, it’s an indication they knew they were in God’s presence, don’t you think? What a privilege they were blessed with.

  8. Aimee Byrd says:

    This is so good, Tim! Great perspective, and I agree that it is thought provoking. Thanks for sharing and keep em coming!

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  11. Liz M. says:

    Love it!

    Okay, I saw in the comments you are writing, and have written, books. Are you interested in getting them published? Because that is what I do; besides being a writer, I help people find an agent to publish their books. I help edit, write summaries, and send query letters and walk them through the long rejection process that leads to the eventual acceptance! (The average published author receives 52 rejections before an acceptance, so it can be a long process.)

    I only work with people I know personally (too many clients = no time for writing), but you count 🙂 So if you’re ever interested in talking to me about the process and hearing more, even just to get free tips, just send me an email: hlizmallory at gmail dot com. Just thought I’d offer!

  12. Lesley says:

    I loved reading this last week, Tim. Finally getting a chance to stop by and say THANK YOU for such beautiful words. Lots of well wishes to you and your family in the new year. We’ll have to get together soon!

    • Tim says:

      I’m so glad you liked it, Lesley. Getting together would be great (still looking forward to Jonathan making his way out to Woodland for lunch sometime soon). A blessed New Year to you all!

      Rim

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