based on Matthew 2:1-12
I hate camels. Hate ‘em. If I ever see – or smell – another camel in my life, it’ll be too soon. Grumpy, stubborn creatures. There’s no moving them if they’ve really got the hump. My wife would say that they take after their masters, but I have no idea what she’s talking about! Anyway, I’ve just got back from a long journey. I went with my colleagues, fellow astronomers – star-gazers – all the way to a small village called Bethlehem in Palestine, around a thousand miles away, far in the west. All because we saw a star. When you spend your life looking at the heavens like we do, you notice when something out of the ordinary appears. And this was just that. The brightest star we’d ever seen. We knew it was important. It just had to have appeared for some reason – stars like that don’t appear for no reason. We consulted our scrolls and made an incredibly exciting discovery – this star meant that a new King had been born. Not just any King, but the Great King – the divine King of heaven.
Once we’d made that discovery, there was nothing for it – we had to go, to find out for ourselves if this was true. If it was, it changes everything. We made preparations, packed our bags, hired our camels and headed on the long journey. My wife says it was just an excuse to get away on a jolly for 6 months, but it wasn’t. I would never have forgiven myself if I hadn’t gone to Bethlehem to see this King. We wanted to meet him, to worship him.
There’s not much to say about the journey. It was boring and uncomfortable, and sand got everywhere. The days were incredibly hot and the nights were ice-cold. But the whole journey, the star remained an ever present guide for us, leading us on. Eventually we reached Jerusalem, which is where we figured a newborn King would be found. But he wasn’t there. Instead, there was a grumpy old King – he would have got on with my camel – with a big chip on his shoulder, and he didn’t seem at all pleased about the news of the birth of this baby King. I think we made a mistake in going to Jerusalem, because the star hadn’t guided us there – we’d allowed our logic to overrule, and we’d gone slightly off course. Anyway, some advisers looked in their Scriptures and told us to go to Bethlehem, which is where the ruler would come. Herod, the grumpy old King seemed very concerned that we do our best to find this baby – he wanted to visit and pay his respects apparently, but I’m not sure we believed him. Anyway, we headed off and sure enough, our old friend the star reappeared when we set off from Jerusalem and we followed it the short distance to Bethlehem. We were so thrilled to see it again and to be able to follow it once more.
We arrived at the house where the baby and his parents were, and it was simply incredible – the parents, Mary and Joseph were very unsure about us at first, but seemed reassured when we told them why we’d come. Apparently we weren’t the only unusual visitors they’d had. There’d been some shepherds who’d come from the hills outside Bethlehem, who’d been heralded by angels apparently. I wouldn’t normally believe it, but there’s nothing normal about what’s happening. And when we arrived, there was this child, vulnerable but beautiful, ordinary, but there was no doubt something extraordinary about him. You could just sense it. Being in his presence took our breath away. We bowed down and worshipped him – it just seemed like the right thing to do. I can’t describe how I felt in that moment – so full of joy, no longer tired, peaceful, and I felt the most overwhelming sense of love coming from him and love for him. In that instant I forgot the hundreds of miles we’d travelled and the incredible discomfort we’d felt – it was worth it to be there, in the presence of the King.
We gave him and his mother gifts – gold, to represent his kingship, frankincense, as a symbol of his future role as a priest who would speak to God on behalf of humanity – and myrrh, to symbolise that his death would be significant somehow. Mary and Joseph, his parents looked slightly baffled that ordinary peasants like them should be given such gifts, but that’s the point – there was nothing ordinary about them.
We could have stayed there with this wonderful little family forever, but had to get back home. We had a dream warning us to keep clear of Herod on our way back, so we did. It was a long journey, but we didn’t mind. It had been worth it, to be in the presence of the King of Kings himself. I’ve found what I’ve been searching for all my life and nothing can take that away from me. As for the camel, well, my wife tells me that I should become friends with him again – after all, I wouldn’t have made the journey without him. I guess I’d better go and apologise for getting the hump with him.