They entered the house and saw the child in the arms of Mary,
his mother. Overcome, they kneeled and worshiped him.
Then they opened their luggage and presented gifts:
gold, frankincense, myrrh.
A Star Speaks
Last night I had a dream—at least I think it was a dream. An angel stood before me and told me not to trust Herod, but to leave without passing back through Jerusalem.
In days past, my nation, Babylon, took captive many people from many places. Most of the people we conquered were content to be alive and, over time, assimilated to our culture. I don’t suppose anyone liked slavery or living in foreign lands. But our king in those days, Nebuchadnezzar, would have our captives evaluated. He believed it was a waste to put great minds in the fields or strong bodies in the counting house. People were not as likely to revolt if they were capable in their occupations.
You’re probably wondering who I am and what I’m doing here in Bethlehem. Some call my sect stargazers; some think we’re magicians. In reality, we’re students—students of the wisdom we’ve gleaned from the cultures we have conquered.
When I finished my apprenticeship about five years back, I took on the writings from a peculiar people, the Hebrews.
The strange thing about these Jews is that they would never assimilate. They never became Babylonians—not even Babylonian captives. They were Jews and only Jews. They kept their customs and their ways. They dressed alike and stayed together. There were some, of course, who intermarried and some who left the worship of their God. Some even mixed their religions with others in our massive melting pot of culture. But most Hebrews held tight to their traditions and to their God.
One notable Hebrew captive was a young man named Belteshazzar. His Hebrew name was Daniel. I call him “the dreamer.” He and a few of his fellow Jews rose to places of great influence in Nebuchadnezzar’s court. He was a seer. He could read dreams and was able to see into the future. He often spoke of a coming messiah revealed in the Hebrew writings. This deliverer would come to release captive Israel. He spoke of a king for the Jews who would come when the time was right.
One night about two years ago, a new star appeared in the heavens. We called it a star, but it was unlike any we’d studied before. Most of the other stars circled the night sky, but this star was always right overhead. We observed it for a few weeks, and there it stood every clear night, shining bright and strong.
We began calculations to determine what it might be and what it might mean, and everything pointed to Israel.
We brought this information to our nation’s leadership. They wanted nothing to do with a king born in the land now occupied by the Romans. Our day had past, and Rome was a force far beyond our grasp.
My fellow astronomers and I began to look to others to support a journey to see what this star meant. As we told of the ancient stories of a king born in Jerusalem and sent from the Hebrew God, many listened. There were many who still held to the religion of the Hebrews.
They donated supplies for our journey and gifts for this king—most notably gold, frankincense, and myrrh. It took a few months more to gather enough support to make the nine-hundred-mile journey. By the time we were ready to travel, we had not only accumulated much to offer this new king, but we’d gathered quite a following.
We decided to take the route used by Israel when they made the trek back to their land. 450 years ago, Ezra led many Hebrews back to Jerusalem to rebuild the city and their temple. Rather than heading straight across the desert toward the star, we traveled northeast along the Euphrates and then south along the Jordan River.
We arrived in Jerusalem three days ago and met with Herod and his counselors. They directed us to Bethlehem. He offered us a handsome reward if we returned and guided him to this young king. I see now that he was plotting to destroy the child and this threat to his own reign.
Yesterday, after almost two years of planning and travel, we met with this child king. I was beginning to fear that the whole thing was a huge mistake, but nothing could have been further from the truth.
It was late afternoon by the time we reached Bethlehem. We asked around, yet no one knew of a boy king. We stopped and considered the star once more as evening approached. It seemed to be guiding us. I can’t explain how we knew, but we followed this guide right to the house where Jesus was staying.
We knocked on the door. The man who greeted us seemed unsure what to make of our foreign garb and the entourage that followed after us. I was not sure what to say either. My heart raced.
“Is this the home of the King?” I asked, unable to contain my excitement.
When I said it, I saw the tension leave his face.
“You must mean the child, Jesus. Wait here,” he replied.
I could see that the home was far too small to welcome our company, so we waited without while the man of the house left us. Moments later, he returned with a couple and their young child.
“This is Joseph of Nazareth and his wife, Mary, and her child, Jesus.”
Mary’s eyes grew when she saw our troupe, and she drew Jesus behind Joseph.
“What business do you have with us?” Joseph said.
I then fell to one knee as I looked upon the child. He looked like any other Hebrew boy, but there was something different in the air. I sensed a calm flowing out of the house. The curious boy peeked around Joseph’s legs and stared at us, his little head cocked. I’m sure we looked strange to these Jews, with our camels and colorful robes.
“We have come to pay homage to the One born King of the Jews. Is this the child? Is this the One the prophets foretold, the One called Emanuel?” I said.
“Yes,” Mary said. “His name is Jesus, and His miraculous birth was foretold by our prophets for hundreds of years.”
“We have come to worship this Messiah of the Jews with gifts from our nation.”
Then we presented our many gifts. The gold we carried made a fitting offering for a king and the frankincense a worthy homage to a holy man. The myrrh was a curiosity to me, because it was so melancholy. Yes, it was a precious and costly gift, but it spoke of death, which did not seem a fitting gift for child or king.
Our gifts accepted, the young couple took us into town to find a place for our party to stay the night. The inn was full but offered to let us rest in their stable. Before they left us for the night, Mary told me this was the place of the child’s birth.
How could it be that One so important, foreseen for centuries, could be born in such lowly surroundings and to such common people? Their house was tiny, and there were no attendants or servants to care for Him. This child of peace and grace should be in Jerusalem, in the great palace there.
It was as I slept in the hay that I had the dream. A man—an angel perhaps—stood before me and warned me not to return to Herod, but to go home another way. We returned to the house the next morning and told the couple of my dream. Some wanted to stay in Bethlehem and serve the young king, but his parents insisted we go, for our safety and theirs.
There is something within me that does not want to leave. This place has a hold on me. The child has captured my imagination. I don’t want to leave, but how can I stay?
What will become of this young king?
To read the original story, see Matthew 2:1-12.
Copyright - Benjamin Nelson - 2015
The story above is a chapter from my book Encounters With Jesus, which is a compilation of forty such stories. It takes you from Christ's conception to His resurrection through the eyes of dozens who were touched by His ministry.