The Twelve Days: 11 - Magi bearing Frankincense

Published on 05 Jan 2018
Magi bearing frankincense, background of stained glass

Giles Mercer

We’re all trying to understand how we’ve come to be here and what we’re finding. Who would have thought that our years of astronomy would have revealed this new star? I say ‘our’ because astron­omy is teamwork. We agreed we had to follow this star, because it meant some new king or divine person had been born. From our interest in the Hebrew prophets, with help from a translator, we knew about the long-awaited Messiah. We used our reason and made an act of faith. The child draws every kind of person from all nations, from educated and wealthy men like ourselves to the il­literate and lowly, even those on the margins, like the shepherds from around here, who, we under­stand, were the first to worship this Lord.

Things feel upside-down. We had to travel for weeks each night, led by the star, resting by day. We’re not young and this journey has taken its toll. We’ve had to show courage, and that, frankly, is new for us! We’ve had cushioned lives. We had to leave our families and friends (who think we’re mad), take risks, suffer cold, and the threat of robbery. We’re not Jews, yet have felt urged for­ward and helped to follow the star and find the child. Is this the force the Jews call the Spirit?

The child’s kingdom could mean something com­pletely new. It’s not based on power, or wealth, or armies. Radical simplicity is the opposite of what we were expecting; upside-down again. The child is like any other child. He sleeps, needs feeding, has to be changed, cries. And yet there is the star. His mother must have been chosen by God and embraced this almost unimaginable task. Her hus­band, a simple man, cannot be the natural father, but I’ve never seen any man more loving to his wife and her son. They are prayerful, at peace. Do they know there might be dangers? Herod’s attitude worried us.

Our trials getting here have dissolved like snow under the sun. We’re communing with the divine; language is unnecessary. I am glad I have incense to worship the God-child. Will this child’s Kingdom be one of friendship and welcome for all, one of joy, sacrifice (we have felt something of that!), a struggle with evil, but victory in the end? Will it turn us all upside-down because it’s about love?

A thurible in the hand of one of the magi

Image credit: Marcin Mazur/Clifton Diocese

Day 12