To say the least, those three so-called kings had unsettling news. A star signifying the birth of a new king? Here, in Judea?
I had heard of the three travelers who came into my kingdom in search of some new king so I brought them to my court; I wanted to hear their news first-hand. They seemed to believe that this star that has been seen in the sky portends the birth of a Messiah, a new king of the Jews. But here me: there will be no new King of the Jews, The only king of the Jews is me, Herod the Great, anointed by Rome to rule over this holy land, the ancient kingdom of our ancestors: Saul, David, and Solomon. But now I am king here, the ruler who rebuilt the sacred Second Temple. I am the one who expanded the Temple Mount. I restored the Cave of Machpelah. All the religious authorities, the Pharisees and the Sadducees, answer to no one but me. This is my kingdom and no star or addled, gift-bearing wanderers can claim otherwise.
These three so-called magi came into my presence believing they were led here by this strange star. They say some ancient prophecy has been fulfilled. When I heard of this, I called together the Temple priests and told them to search the scriptures for some evidence of a new king. They told me that it is written that out of Bethlehem shall come a new governor who will rule over Israel. So I spoke again to these three wandering fools and sent them on to Bethlehem, instructing them to search diligently for the babe who would become king, and when they have found him, to return to me with news of the his location so that I, too, may go and worship him. And they promised to do so. The fools!
Believe me: when they help me find this new king, I will go and worship him in my own way: with my sharpest sword! Bethlehem will be bathed in blood!
“My heart is filled with joy.”
“We have witnessed a great miracle; a promise fulfilled. The world is born anew. And in humble little Bethlehem, in a stable of all places, surrounded by shepherds and beasts! God is great indeed !”
The three friends fell silent, each lost in his own thoughts. It was Melchior, the oldest of the three, who broke the silence.
“I had a dream last night.” The others waited. “We must not return to Jerusalem to tell Herod of this miracle. He means to do the babe harm.”
“Strange; I had the same dream,” said Gaspar.
“And so did I,” said Balthazar. “What should we do?”
“We will depart from here tonight. Quietly. We’ll take the road to Jericho, cross the Jordan, and make for Madaba. Herod will not follow us there.”
“We’ll return to own countries and tell this wondrous story.”
“I wonder if anyone will believe us.”
The three fell silent again. Then Melchior said, “But what about the baby?”
“We will warn his parents. They must leave this place at once. We will tell them to flee south, into Egypt where they will be safe.”
“What will happen to him there?”
“I don’t know. But I do know this: he will grow in love and one day, he will be a great king.”
“And just how do you know this?”
Melchior smiled. “Look up! Don’t you see? It is written in the stars.”
Jamie Kirkpatrick is a writer and photographer who lives in Chestertown. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Washington College Alumni Magazine, and American Cowboy Magazine. Two collections of his essays (“Musing Right Along” and “I’ll Be Right Back”) are available on Amazon. Jamie’s website is www.musingjamie.net.