A lady from church I call Cousin Mary because her maiden name is close to ours and we just might be related, came by yesterday morning and dropped off a present for us. She was on her way to run errands so she couldn’t come in (Christmas decoration was in the, uh, developmental stage at our house at the point. When you’re involved in music in general and church music in particular, the decorating don’t get done until after the ladies sing the final note.) so we stood and talked a while at the porch.
I believe she commented first on the three “carolers” made from 2×4’s and clothed in sweaters and knit caps with painted faces, holding sheet music with their wire arms that adorn our front stoop. These wonderfully whimsical decorations were a gift from Becky’s sister Sue. While I admit I did not care for them at first (I called them the “Ugly Sticks,”) they grew on me and I now think they’re the bee’s knees. As Alexander Pope wrote in “essay on Man, Epistle II” (the one that begins, famously, “Know, then, thyself, presume not God to scan; The proper study of mankind is man,”) “We first endure, then pity, then embrace.” Oh yes.
One of us made the comment that they were shabbily dressed, which is part of their charm, and I think Mary compared them to the Three Kings in the Christmas story. She thought maybe they were not well dressed since they probably took off after the star without packing their Sunday best. I allowed as how I really didn’t know, but possibly the kings (magi or astrologers from Persia) were royalty, had high status and most likely had servants and traveled in a sizeable entourage for company and safety. I think they had servants, and those servants would have packed the supplies for a long journey, the gifts for the new King, and changes of clothes, especially their royal finery for the actual visit.
We stood by the porch and imagined the scene in Nazareth that day. The small dusty Galilean village, perhaps dozing in the sun at midday. Suddenly there is excitement! Someone has been spotted coming into town! Not just any someone–it’s a whole caravan of someones, and from their visages and clothing, it’s clear that they are wealthy rulers from the East. The children run to see, first, and then are joined by the women. The men look up from their trades and businesses. They do not run to see, but they curiously watch the passing procession. It winds its way through the narrow streets to the house of Joseph bar-David where he lives with his young wife and young son.
The men on camels dismount. Their leaders consult quietly: yes, this is the place. The star tells them they are in the right place. The servants bustle about, unpacking the gifts they have brought from so far away. Some servants unpack robes and jewlery of such worth that no one has seen anything like it. Its value could buy ten Nazareths, people, livestock, buildings, real estate and goods, all. The leaders take off their travel robes, dusty from the miles, and then allow the servants to dress them in their finery. They truly glitter like kings and they crowd of townspeople are stricken into silence at their appearance. Why are they here and what do they want?
This question is answered as the three men, with stately walk and focused countenance, turn toward Joseph’s humble house. The magihave to duck to enter the low door–it is evident from their slight awkwardness that they have little practice with bowing or ducking–carrying their chests and bottles and casks with their treasures. And there, in the dim light of the front room,the assembled crowd watches them fall to their knees and offer up what they have brought to the young baby held in his mother’s arms. And the kings, who have come so far, with faces so often serious and worried, smile.
O come let us all adore Him, Christ the Lord.