Welcome to Redeeming Culture! What follows is a dramatized account of the Magi’s trip to Bethlehem to meet Jesus after His birth. While the story is dramatized (the Bible gives no record of their number or names, for example), I’ve attempted to show how the Wise Men of Matthew 2 were early culture redeemers, and how great God is to call sinful heathens from afar to be some of His first worshipers.
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“Good evening, Balthasar. Anything interesting up there?”
“That ‘comet’ you saw last night is gone,” he smirked. “I still say-”
“Hey, no, I saw it. Ask Melchior, it was there, plain as day. Or night, come to think of it.”
“Sure, Caspar. I think you started in on the drinking a bit early. After all, it is the fifth comet you’ve ‘discovered’ in the past three weeks that’s apparently visible only to you.” Balthasar smirked again, then looked back at the sky, noting a movement on his parchment.
“Look, when you correctly predict two confluences in a row, you can make fun of me, but until then-” Caspar paused. Balthasar chuckled. But before he could make a joke about lucky guesses, his friend gasped.
Seeing the look on his face, Balthasar turned to look out the window…and the bright light in the sky nearly took his breath away. “It’s…beautiful. I’m sorry I doubted you.”
“This is way brighter than I saw last night. We have to get Melchior up here before it disappears.” Before he finished his sentence, he was already wheeling about to race down the stairs, his robes billowing out behind him.
Balthasar simply gazed at the light. What was it? Too close to be a star, too bright. And it wasn’t falling like a meteor did. It just hung there, beckoning almost audibly.
Soon Caspar burst through the door, pulling a reluctant Melchior behind him. “I was trying to eat dinner,” he complained. “Couldn’t this wait until after I finished-”
Then he saw it, too. The star was so bright that its light could be seen on the rooftops of the city below. You couldn’t miss it. “What is it?”
“Stars suddenly appearing… Must be a portent of something.”
“Here,” Balthasar said, pushing a volume over toward the other men. The night was waning, a new sun casting its warm glow on the buildings before them as they frantically flipped through page after page, searching the parchments for any information about the amazing sight that still hung, unmoving, outside their window.
“A new star portending the birth of a king?” Melchior read. “That makes sense.”
“There are legends about it in cultures all over.” Balthasar noted. “How will we find this king?
“And what do we do once we do?”
“Gifts, of course. We go and pay our respects. If he is welcomed by the heavens themselves, he is truly mighty.”
“I could gather some toys together…”
“You don’t give a king toys! Melchior, you give a king… I don’t know, precious metals, valuable commodities… Things that show your respect for him.”
Melchior rolled his eyes. “Whatever. We still have no idea where he might be, even if we had gifts.”
“I do,” Caspar grinned, looking up. “Nebuchadnezzar.”
“You think the baby’s in Babylon?”
“No, no no. So, I got to thinking… The star feels like it’s beckoning, right? Like you want to follow it.”
Balthasar and Melchior glanced at one another, unwilling to admit it for fear of sounding foolish.
Caspar simply continued his explanation. “So I thought, where could it be leading us to. And you know-” he pulled a map to the top of the stack, with some difficulty. He drew a line from their building in the direction of the star.
“Jerusalem?” Balthasar guessed.
Caspar shook his head. “I thought the same thing, but not quite. Look.” He continued the line, and it did not pass through Jerusalem. Rather, it ran quite a distance off course for Jerusalem.
“Hm. OK. But what does this have to do with Nebuchadnezzar?” Melchior asked.
“Well, it’s definitely Israel. And I remember reading about his capture of the Israelite people. Some of them stayed, and their books are still part of our libraries.”
“You think they might have some Israelite prophecies?”
“I know they do. Their holy book has entire chapters of prophecy.”
“Caspar, we’ve been reading this book for days. There isn’t anything about a star.”
“But this Messiah figure…”
Melchior shook his head. “There’s nothing about a star in those prophecies. This is a dead end. Maybe it’s a Roman…”
“Wait,” Balthasar said. “Over here. In Numbers.”
“I thought that was just genealogies-”
“Well, I thought so too, but look. Balaam.”
I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near:
a star shall come out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel; it shall crush the forehead of Moab and break down all the sons of Sheth.
“It’s not much.”
“I’m with you, Caspar,” Balthasar nodded. He closed his water skin and walked around the well, stretching his cramping legs. “But the camels are worse.”
“You two whine too much.”
Melchior, there you are. Thought we lost you.”
“I was curious about the path of this star. It’s been moving with us, but I was wondering how it would move if I went off the path.”
“It looks like we’re getting close. Probably about time to stop consulting the stars for a while.”
“Why’s that?” Caspar asked.
“The Jews don’t like divination and witchcraft. They see it as demonic,” Balthasar explained. “And we’re going to need their help to find the new king.”
“Who’s the king of Israel right now?”
“Well, it’s under Roman rule. They maintain a local ruler- Herod, I think.” Melchior squinted against the sun at the horizon.
Balthasar spoke up. “How much do you think Herod knows about the baby? Maybe we should go to him.”
Melchior chuckled quietly. “It’s his holy book. He should know everything about it. Maybe it’s even his own son.”
“I doubt that,” Balthasar said. “The prophecy mentions that he’ll be a surprising choice as Messiah. I wouldn’t find anything surprising about the king’s son being the one.”
“Do you think he’ll be upset that strangers want to pay homage to his successor?”
“We’ll find out soon,” Balthasar noted. “Royal guard, coming this way.”
“What brings wise men from the east to the court of Herod the Great?”
Balthasar stepped forward. “Hail, great Herod. We come in search of a royal child. Where is he who has been born king of the Jews?”
A look of confusion flashed across Herod’s face. “King?”
Balthasar and Melchior glanced at one another. “We… saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”
Herod turned to his advisers. After some consultation, a priest stepped forward. “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet: ‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.'”
Herod turned and smiled at the three men. “When did you see this star?”
“‘That I too may come and worship him?’ Doesn’t that seem…odd to you?”
“Balthasar, he’s the king. What else could he mean by that?” Caspar asked.
“I know, but…”
Melchior interrupted him. “I had the dream, too. We can’t go back to Herod.”
Caspar and Balthasar looked surprised. “What? In my dream, I was back in the observatory, and an angel came down and introduced himself to me. His name was Gabriel, and he told me that the baby would be in great danger if we went back to Herod, and that we should take a different route home. Was that your dream?”
Caspar nodded, but Balthasar said, “Most of it.”
They locked eyes. “I didn’t know whether to believe the rest,” Melchior said. “It seems a bit…far fetched.”
“I’d have said the same about a dream shared by three people.”
“But if this is truly more than just a king…” Caspar clutched his tiny little package of myrrh. “How can we go before him with such meager gifts? The Son of God deserves so much more…”
Melchior’s head fell. “Maybe we shouldn’t go at all. We are committing witchcraft, you know. At least according to the Jews.”
“Didn’t you guys listen to Gabriel?” Balthasar asked, looking at them both. When they didn’t respond he went on. “He’s not looking for perfect worshipers. He’s come to save people, not condemn them. Yes, we’re sinful, and we have woefully small gifts to give him. But it seems like-” he glanced down. “It seems like we were meant to be here.”
“Like he just wants people to see him.”
“And trust him.”
Melchior shook his head. “This is silly. He’s just a baby. He can’t want any of those things. Not yet.”
Balthasar grinned. “He’s a baby now. He won’t always be.”
And as three, they looked up to the sky. As they approached Bethlehem, the star began to more clearly mark their destination, hanging overhead majestically, illuminating the streets amid the falling dusk.
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Merry Christmas from Redeeming Culture.