We asked all the questions under the sun and under the moon. We searched the patterned skies, found the finger of fate tangled in skeins of birds, and read in the sea and our own souls what lies in the troubled deep. We riddled the whole world, and discovered that we were only men. And we wept when there were no more questions left to ask.
Then, after so many stars, came one like lightning on the borders of the sky. Our hearts, too old and too wise for joy, leapt up. And it was worth throwing away all the rest for the hope we dared not have.
We saddled our camels and left our worlds behind.
We ran to and fro, looking for gifts, but they had all been given. Wood was tamed to man’s need, wine reddened to his desire; fantastic tapestries fluttered in the courts of our kings, jewels glittered in the gaze of our mute and gorgeous gods.
But we had never unlearned these three, their strange and specific burden. Kingship, and holiness, and death.
They were the last treasures on earth left to give.
But how could any receive them?
The sky is empty at noon, empty as our questions, empty as our tombs, and our gold weighs like ashes in our hands. The desert, drifting from our hearts, is mirrored in our eyes.
We are darkness, thirsting for light.
Perhaps our lonely wisdom and faltering flesh shall be more than wind and shadow.
Perhaps there is one who can ransom us from our dreams.
We have seen a star in the east, and we have come to worship–or to die.
I have been variously fascinated by every aspect of the Christmas story, but in recent years it is the magi who have captured my imagination. Every year adds to my sense of the urgency of their quest. These sages, repositories of all the wisdom of man, symbols of everything that we, with all our learning-for-its-own sake, can do, crossing half the world in hopes that their lives, and their gifts, are not in vain.
Sometimes it seems like the only question any of us can ask, us with our smiles and our lonely hearts and so many failures and all our shared and secret joys, all of us groaning in this mortal flesh for meaning.
Have you seen him?
Have you seen God?