But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.
- Micah 5:2
History became Legend and Legend became Myth. J.R.R. Tolkien
As I had that night, I often slipped away from the pack of Petra street boys, orphans, I ran with. I sensed there was more. More than my meager share of the next stolen cluster of dates. I didn’t know how, but I imagined my thoughts would show me another way. It was the spring of the fourth year of the reign of King Aretas IV of the Nabatean kingdom.
I was hiding in a persimmon tree in the public gardens when the sound of billowing of fabric and an accented voice broke my peace. “What is your name, son?”. Below me stood a slightly bent older man in a black hooded gown of such fine fabric that filled with the night breeze. “Six, sir.” “Six…your name?” “Yessir; that’s what the night watchmen call me.” The mysterious figure said, “My name is Melchior, I am a shaman, a magus. Do you know what that is?” “Yes sir.”
“Why are you here tonight?”, the seer asked. “The Long-star. See it, sir? -- the one with the tail…” I said. “This is the third night it has shown, each night a little higher.” “So it has!”, Melchior said. Looking at me with a smile, as he put out his hand to invite me from the tree. “Young man, I believe you too are an astronomer, a seeker--a very hungry one. Come with me and I shall nourish your gift.” “Do you know what it means, sir…the long star…tonight?”, I wondered as we walked into the night.
For the next four years I was a student of languages, the stars, herbs and medicine, anatomy, Greek and Roman religions. I was tutored in the ways of Zorastra, the oral Torah and the religions of Islam; always seeking to know when God would be revealed on earth and what portents would alert us to his coming.
In the winter of my fourth year with Melchior, two magi Melchior had often mentioned arrived in our courtyard excitedly announcing the movement of two “traveling stars” in the east. “Melchior, we believe this is it...” Caspar, a shaman from India and Balthazar, a handsome young, night-black mystic-man from Ethiopia had assembled a caravan for the journey to Bethlehem. Before morning, we had joined them.
It was a cold journey, but we passed the long travel days affirming our collective belief that this was the messiah child we had been seeking in our life-long studies.
The room in Bethlehem was more hospitable than the stable where the birth had taken place, but still humble, although it was striking how much light and warmth two oil lamps and a charcoal fire provided.
The mother lifted the child and unwrapped him to feed him. The newborn skin on the child’s feet was sloughing off. Balthasar stroked the baby’s feet with a dab of myrrh from the amphora he had brought as a gift. Balthasar looked at Caspar, who was lighting a piece of the healing frankincense and whispered, “How grateful are we who have travelled such distances to anoint the feet of the Messiah.” The child stilled, then grasped the long black finger of the holy man and held it, staring deeply into the Ethiop’s eyes. I handed Melchior the chest of gold he had brought for the tiny king; Melchior handed it to the father, knowing it would purchase sanctuary for the family in threatening times.
As they backed from the room, the magi quietly chanted the sacred Persian song to honor God among us.
Melchior asked me how I felt. “I think a little sad, beneath unspeakable Joy.” I thought for a moment. “ Do you know what it means, sir…tonight?” Melchior, the seer wept.
Musical Reflection Emmanuel - Lucia Micarelli and Chris Botti
Lord Jesus, In your loving hands, hold our tiny fingers, even if our own grip falters; as we traverse great distances to embrace Emmanuel. God among us. Amen.