This week and next our worship will be rooted in the account of the Magi from the Gospel of Matthew 2:1-23. “The story of the Magi ranks right up there with the Christmas and Easter stories in terms of snaring the imagination. Poets as distinct as William Butler Yeats and William Carlos Williams have wrapped words around the visit of the wise men.” (Barbara Brown Taylor, Home by Another Way. p. 27) For some this birth is a “sea change”, for others it fast becomes a threat to their own power. Within the story are moments in which we may find our own story. Here is a portion of one poet’s imagined world.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.
Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;
With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
And feet kicking the empty wine-skins.
But there was no information, and so we continued
And arriving at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you might say) satisfactory.
All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.
From The Journey of the Magi by T.S. Eliot
We know very little of this story.
Yet it is the subject of poets, song writers and painters through the ages.
In what ways does this story affect you?