Memory, they say, fades as you age, but I think it is truer to say, at least for those of us who have kept our minds in working order, that what we really do is refocus; the insignificant melds into the background of our daily living, and the things that mattered most, that touched and changed our hearts, stand out in stark relief. So, as I sit (for in age there is time for sitting) I remember the Star, and the paradoxical king we found at journey’s end.
Yes, we must have been crazy, as the world measures craziness. I can understand now, why the people around us kept saying we were mad. But I have learned that there is a madness that is saner than all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them, and I have no regrets. Life is so much more than a careful balance sheet. I have heard that He, Himself, said that (when He grew to be a man, I mean) – that a man must lose his life in order to find it. That is truth of the highest, deepest order.
So we did it, following a star that blazed like no other star has ever blazed, and moving like no other star we know has ever moved. The Jews tell how, long ago, when they were exiles in the wilderness, they followed a pillar of cloud by day, and a pillar of fire by night. That star was our pillar of fire, and it lent an exotic gladness to our weary, sometimes frustrating, miles.
Then we made a mistake, a mistake that came from the fact that, while we strove to understand the star, we had not striven to understand the king that it heralded. So we went to King Herod’s palace, and spoke to that greedy, paranoid, treacherous old man, who only wanted to know about our quest so that he could intervene to destroy a potential rival. I still cannot recall him without shuddering. Such a king knew nothing of the one we sought.
But then we found him, and our world turned upside down. Here was no palace, here were no insignia of power. The sheer ordinariness of it all stunned and confused us. We did what we had come to do: we brought our gifts and we offered our homage. We went through the motions, and we wondered much. So we stayed a while and we asked our questions, and we answered theirs, for it is not every day that men arrive from a far kingdom bearing princely gifts to an ordinary village. We learnt of his supernatural conception, of angels and strange prophecies, and how even the decrees of distant Caesar were woven into God’s plan. We learned that there was no inn, no guest room for them, and how they had been offered shelter with the beasts, and there she had given birth and laid the child in a manger, whilst the skies outside were bursting with the song of angels. And we wondered even more.
We returned home another way, for we were warned in a dream of Herod’s intentions, but we did not lose touch. Rome is not the only place where information can be bought. And years later, after he had grown to manhood, died, and risen again to claim his everlasting kingdom, one of his followers came here, and I learned the rest of the story, and thanked the God of Heaven that I had lived to hear it all. It is my privilege and my joy to remember, it is my privilege and my joy to look forward to meeting Him again, this time in the glory of His own kingdom. And I marvel at the King of Paradox: that He, far outranking any earthly king, needed none of their panoply or pomp, but instead was enthroned in rough-hewn wood, from the manger to the cross. And now He reigns in a glory no petty little Herod, or Caesar with all his raw power, could imagine in their wildest dreams.