January 30, 2011

God in Man made Manifest IV

This Epiphany, I’ve been offering meditations on Christopher Wordsworth’s hymn, “Songs of Thankfulness and Praise.” The Lutheran hymnal provides additional verses not found in the Episcopal hymnal. This week we look at one of them.

Sun and moon shall darkened be,
Stars shall fall, the heavens shall flee,
Christ will then like lightning shine,
All will see His glorious sign:
All will then the trumpet hear;
All will see the Judge appear;
Thou by all wilt be confessed,
God in man made manifest.

This verse looks beyond the ministry of Our Lord to the second coming when “the trumpet shall sound” (I Corinthians 15:51). How many of us have thrilled at the rendition of the verse from Handel’s Messiah. The trumpet solo invariably brings tears to my eyes.

Wordsworth, however is referring directly to Jesus’ words in Matthew 24:29-31. “Immediately after the suffering of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of heaven will be shaken. Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see “the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven” with power and great glory. And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.”

It is a rather dramatic picture and certainly calls us to think about how we live. Notice the warning our Lord gives before the vision of the end times. “Take note, I have told you beforehand. So, if they say to you, “Look! He is in the wilderness”, do not go out. If they say, “Look! He is in the inner rooms”, do not believe it. For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.” (Matthew 24:25-28) We are warned against any who claim to know the time or point to someone as the Christ. There is only one real Lord. It is a rather difficult verse to consider however, because it makes us aware that there are consequences to our actions and to our decisions.

I am reminded of a scene in the Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis. In the final book of the series, The Last Battle, each person and animal goes through the door. Some recognize Aslan with joy and others refuse to.

“The creatures came rushing on…But as they came right up to Aslan one or other of two things happened to each of them. They all looked straight in his face. I don’t think they had any choice about that. And when some looked, the expression of their faces changed terribly—it was fear and hatred…all the creatures that looked at Aslan in that way swerved to their right, his left, and disappeared into his huge black shadow…The children never saw them again…But the others looked in the face of Aslan and loved him, though some of them were frightened at the same time. And all these came in at the Door, in on Aslan’s right…“Further in and higher up,” called Roonwit…”

As the hymn says, “Thou by all wilt be confessed.” All the creatures in Narnia recognize in Aslan, their Master. At the end of all things on earth, everything will recognize the Lord, but not all will believe, even then, and will go into the outer darkness. Like the inhabitants of Narnia, the rest of us will find that there is much more joy to be found “further in and higher up!”

Next week we’ll look at a verse that reminds of us how we are to live, so that God can be made manifest in our lives.

January 23, 2011

God in Man made Manifest III

During Epiphany I invite you to muse with me on Christopher Wordsworth’s hymn “Songs of Thankfulness & Praise.” Last week we considered how our willingness to be servants to one another can bring blessing. We think we are giving plain water. In God’s grace and love, the recipient of our offering gets wine instead.

This week we are looking at verse 3 of the hymn. Wordsworth focuses on how Jesus healed the “palsied limbs and fainting soul” while “quelling all the devil’s might” thereby “bringing good from ill.”

Manifest in making whole
Palsied limbs and fainting soul;
Manifest in valiant fight,
Quelling all the devil’s might;
Manifest in gracious will,
Ever bringing good from ill;
Anthems be to Thee addressed,
God in man made manifest.

This is a pivotal verse. The child “Manifested by the star to the sages from afar” was “Manifest at Jordan’s stream [as] Prophet, Priest, and King supreme.” His ministry was to show and act out God’s love by “making whole.” Too often we (I) do not act in a way that makes whole the ‘fainting soul.’ As Christ’s followers we, too, ought to walk in love as Paul writes in the letter to the Romans (14:13-23). In this week after Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, it seems fitting to look at this chapter of the Epistle to the Romans which calls for tolerance.

“Let us therefore no longer pass judgment on one another, but resolve instead never to put a stumbling-block or hindrance in the way of another…If your brother or sister is being injured by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. Do not let what you eat cause the ruin of one for whom Christ died. So do not let your good be spoken of as evil. For the kingdom of God is not food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. The one who thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and has human approval. Let us then pursue what makes for peace and for mutual edification…The faith that you have, have as your own conviction before God…for whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.”

Paul is talking about differences of practice within the early church, esp. the eating of certain foods. The same principle applies, I think, to all our actions toward one another. The Epistle could just as easily have said, “If your brother or sister is being injured by what you SAY, how you ACT, your comments of RIDICULE, etc., you are no longer walking in love.”

It can be difficult to “pursue what makes for peace and for mutual edification.” Often I find it easier to go along with judgmental talk (gossip) than to stop and consider how hurtful it is, and not just hurtful to the one being talked about. It is also a crime against my own “righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” Worse than that, it creates a ‘fainting soul.’ Unloving words and actions paralyze my soul as much as they hurt the other person.

Jesus told us to “love one another, as I have loved you.” Writing this blog posting has me asking myself some tough questions. It seems that Paul may just have a few answers.

Why do I find it necessary to judge others about their way of dressing, working, living, talking, etc.?
Paul says we should, “no longer pass judgment on one another, but resolve instead never to put a stumbling-block or hindrance in the way of another.” (Romans 14:13) That’s not easy and maybe I have to look at the reason why I am being judgmental or gossiping or otherwise acting in an unloving way to someone. Is it to be one of the in-crowd? Am I jealous or threatened or hurt or frightened by the one I judge? Have I picked up the attitude from those around me or from the news or culture in general?

What can I do to take a stand against the attitudes of negativity and judgment that seem to permeate our culture?
“Welcome those who are weak in faith, but not for the purpose of quarrelling over opinions…for God has welcomed them. Who are you to pass judgment…?” urges Paul. (Romans 14:1-3) It is hard to remember that the person I disagree with or find irritating is just as much a Child of God as I am. However, trying to see the face of Christ in those we find difficult might just change our attitude.

Would it really make a difference if I didn’t participate in making snide remarks about someone?
Because each of us is a Child of God, we have our own gifts and paths to walk. Paul notes, “Let all be fully convinced in their own minds. Those who observe the day, observe it in honor of the Lord. Also those who eat, eat in honor of the Lord, since they give thanks to God; while those who abstain, abstain in honor of the Lord and give thanks to God.” (Romans 14:5-6) If we expand that verse a little further, “Those who (fill in the blank) in a way I don’t agree with, do it to honor God…and give thanks to God” we really could be more understanding and it would make a difference in our interactions.

How can I be aware of the slippery slope of agreeing with those around me who are ‘discussing’, or as the youth used to say ‘dis-ing’ someone?
Gossip or other forms of subtle (or not so subtle) disrespect tear the fabric of community. This is the opposite of our Lord who was “Manifest in making whole,” not in tearing down. Paul has stern words for those of us who bring contention into the community. “Why do you pass judgment on your brother or sister? Or you, why do you despise your brother or sister? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. For it is written, ‘As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall give praise to God.’ So then, each of us will be accountable to God.” (Romans 14:10-12) It is easy to judge, not so easy to be tolerant of someone who is getting on your nerves. This verse reminds me that it's God who ultimately will have the last word about my actions and everyone elses. The way I act and interact is the only thing I have control over.
Am I willing to be the ‘odd’ one in the group because I don’t participate?
Standing up to be a positive influence amid negativity of workplace, politics, family, etc. takes courage. It isn’t easy, either. Our reward is in Paul’s reminder, “”For the kingdom of God is not food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. The one who thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and has human approval.” (Romans 14:17-18) We serve Christ when we act to quell all the devil’s might…ever bringing good from ill” not when we are contentious and judgmental.

My ongoing plan is to remember “We do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, so that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living.” (Romans 14:7-9) I hope you will join me in working toward more than tolerance of those you differ with. We can make a difference by seeking to ‘walk in love’ with everyone, even, and maybe esp., those we disagree with.

Next week, we’ll look at verse 4, one not found in the Episcopal hymnal, but used in the Lutheran tradition. It is wonderful to discover that there are more stanzas to an old familiar hymn. Being open to new things is a form of love and tolerance, too.

January 16, 2011

God in Man made Manifest II

During this season of Epiphany I’m offering meditations based on the Rev. Christopher Wordsworth’s hymn “Songs of Thankfulness and Praise”. Wordsworth (1807-1885) was related to William, John & Charles Wordsworth, all famous themselves. He wrote many other scholarly works and hymns, but this is one of my favorites.

Last week we considered how maintaining a positive attitude can help ‘manifest’ Christ to our section of the world. This week, the second stanza of the hymn focuses on Christ’s own early ministry-his baptism and the changing water to wine at the wedding in Cana.

Manifest at Jordan’s stream,
Prophet, Priest, and King supreme;
And at Cana, wedding guest,
In Thy Godhead manifest;
Manifest in power divine,
Changing water into wine;
Anthems be to Thee addressed,
God in man made manifest.

Last Sunday, in many churches, we heard the Gospel reading of the Baptism of our Lord. “In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.’” (Mark 1:9-11) This is one of the events that is recorded in all 4 Gospels (Luke 3:21-22, Matthew 3:13-17, John 1:29-34).

We all long to hear someone say “You are my Beloved.” Many of us doubt our right to that title, though. The Epistle to the Galatians offers a great promise, “…in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ…for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:26-27) Each one of us can hear God say to us “You are my Beloved Child!”

Did Jesus sit around after His baptism? No, he began his ministry, first by withdrawing to the wilderness, then by calling his first disciples. The hymn refers to the first, and one of the most famous of Christ’s miracles: changing water into wine at the wedding. It is a reading many will hear in church this week of Epiphany II. This icon shows all the players in the scene.

“On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, ‘They have no wine.’ And Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.’ His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’ Now standing there were six stone water-jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to them, ‘Fill the jars with water.’ And they filled them up to the brim. He said to them, ‘Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.’ So they took it. When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom and said to him, ‘Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.’ Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.” (John 2:1-11)

Have you ever noticed that often a different phrase will leap out of the scriptures each time you read them? The line that surprised me with this reading is the parenthetical note “… the servants who had drawn the water knew.” It was the servants who received Mary’s order, “Do whatever he tells you,” as well as Jesus’ command, “Fill the jars with water.” Can you imagine them shaking their heads over the mother-son discussion and frowning when Jesus “said to them, ‘Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.’”? The servants knew that they had just filled six big stone containers with 120 gallons of water and certainly had no expectation of anything except water coming out of them when they filled their pitchers. Imagine the shocked looks when they filled the serving jugs and realized it was not water!

I wonder if there are some places in my life where God is “Manifest in power divine, changing water into wine.” Like the servants I do my daily round of chores-home, work, family, etc. Sometimes, though, God is manifest in those tasks and what I expected to be water, satisfying but uninspiring, turns out to be wine. At times I'm aware of this happening-when the right words flow onto a page and tell a story. Most of the time, though, it's only in looking at the results that I become aware that water turned to wine.

Christopher Wordsworth took ordinary words and offered them as a hymn which still inspires our worship almost 200 years later. The water of baptism makes ordinary folk into Children of God, as Galatians affirms. Our willingness to be obedient servants can transform the ordinary water of daily life into wine of holy service.

Are there times in your life when you thought you offered just water, but it turned out to be rich, satisfying wine? Are you as surprised as the steward who told the bridegroom, “You have kept the good wine until now!”?

I pray you find ways to offer water changed to wine in your life this week. Perhaps it is just a kind word or a smile for someone. Maybe it is something much more. Listen to the One who calls you Beloved, for then your water will be transformed into holy wine. Most of us have hearts that are aching this week for the families grieving and healing in Tucson. It is in these times that the holy wine of obedient, self-giving service and prayer are most valuable and necessary. See you next week when verse three talks about healing and 'quelling all the devil's might'!

January 9, 2011

God in Man made Manifest I

Welcome to Epiphany. In the liturgical church calendar, this is the time between January 6 (Feast of the Epiphany) and Ash Wednesday. This year Ash Wednesday is rather late, falling on March 6, so we have a nice long Epiphany season. Of course, the Feast of Epiphany on January 6 is the day we remember the visit of the Magi to Jesus.

During Epiphany the lessons relate to how Jesus was revealed as the Son of God through his works and life. I’ll be exploring how Jesus is manifest today and especially how to ‘manifest’ Christ in our lives using one of my favorite Epiphany hymns (#135 in the Episcopal 1980 Hymnal).

The first stanza of “Songs of Thankfulness and Praise” a hymn used in the Episcopal, Lutheran and other denominations, says Jesus was ‘manifested by the star to the sages from afar’. My favorite line, however, is the reoccurring line throughout the hymn: 'God in man made manifest.' That is what Epiphany, indeed the entire church year, is about-coming to know the One who as Paul says, “…Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:6-8)

So let’s look at the first verse of Christopher Wordsworth’s poem/hymn.
Songs of thankfulness and praise,
Jesus, Lord, to Thee we raise,
Manifested by the star
To the sages from afar;
Branch of royal David’s stem
In Thy birth at Bethlehem;
Anthems be to Thee addressed,
God in man made manifest.

Wordsworth turns looks at the first Gentiles to know of the birth of Messiah. They followed the star to the 'Branch of royal David’s stem.' We are invited to join them in ‘songs of thankfulness and praise.’

Two thousand years later it can be easy to forget that these non-Jewish visitors were an astonishing thing. The Holy One of Israel was God ONLY of the descendents of Abraham according to the teaching of priests and scribes. Gentiles were outside the faithful and even those who wanted to worship in the Temple could go no further than the Court of the Gentiles. In fact (and this is something I only just learned) there were signs in Greek and Latin warning Gentiles, even Roman citizens, to not go any further on penalty of death. (see photo) This outer court was where the merchants and money-changers operated, too. The scene of Jesus cleansing the Temple took place in this area.

The visit of the Magi to the Incarnate Lord was unexpected and would have been anathema to the priestly class. However, they were the forerunners of all the non-Jewish believers through the generations, including you and me.

As inheritors of the faith of the ‘sages from afar’, what is our response to the Word made Flesh (John 1:14)? One answer is found in the rest of the passage in Paul’s letter to the Philippians. “If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 2:1-5)

Paul encourages us as followers of ‘God in man made manifest’ to take the mind of Christ and to think of others first. As servants of God, we are to become servants of each other as we “work out [our] salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:2:12-13) Unlike the ancient Gentiles, prohibited from entering the Temple, we can trust God to be with us daily precisely because Jesus was ‘God in man made manifest.’ Because of that we can joyfully do what the hymn advises offer ‘songs of thankfulness and praise.’

Remember the prayer from Thomas Merton I quoted last week? Merton notes “I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me…” Both Paul and Merton agree, it is God who works in and through us daily to act as servants of one another. In that way we can begin to manifest—show Christ to the world we are in.

It's a challenge to be servants to each other, no doubt about it. Maintaining a thankful attitude is one way to start serving those around us. I am always amazed at how much difference a simple smile can make for someone having a rough day. Jotting down what you are thankful for at the end of the day (some call it a thankfulness diary) can be an aid to remembering that there are wonderful things happening every day, even if the car stalled and the computer crashed! So with 'songs of thankfulness and praise', let's enter this Epiphany season.

January 2, 2011

Saying Yes to God with the Magi

This is the last of the series stated in Advent. We've been looking at those who said 'Yes' when God called them to some life changing adventure. Today we are looking at the Wise Men.

Epiphany is celebrated on Jan. 6 as the arrival of the Magi-the Wise Men. It is also the 12th day of Christmas for those who hold the old tradition of counting the ’12 days’ as the first days of the Christmas season, not as a countdown to Christmas day. A couple of years ago my blog topic after Christmas was the meaning of the 12 days.

Back to the Wise Men. They are traditionally Magi from Persia who studied the writings of the Hebrew prophets, esp. Daniel. During the time when the leadership of Israel was exiled to Babylon, Daniel came into favor in the court. You can read all about that in the book of Daniel in the Old Testament. Magi were priests of the cult of Zoroaster which involved studying the stars and interpreting their message. This eventually led to astrology as we know it and magic.

The story of the Wise Men is only found in Matthew 2:1-12. Having traveled over 700 miles, the men arrive in Judea. Without knowing it they are fulfilling the word in Isaiah 60:1-3: “Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you. For darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the LORD will arise upon you, and his glory will appear over you. Nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.” For a brief, fatal moment they forget the words of the prophets and the leading of the star. Many commentators have wondered why these intelligent men decided to go to the capital and ignore the star they had followed so far. Some postulate it was cloudy and they lost their way. Perhaps it seemed logical to seek a king in Jerusalem and they forgot to check with God and follow the star. In my book Mary, My Love, the stop in Jerusalem was precipitated by an argument,* but maybe it was simply that Jerusalem was on the road they were following and the Magi were just passing through.

At any rate, according to Matthew, they enter Jerusalem “asking, ‘Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.’” As we saw last week, this doesn’t sit well with Herod who “was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born.” Herod learns that prophecy identifies Bethlehem. “you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.” You can imagine that this news doesn’t make the king happy. He pretends interest however, and tells the Magi, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.”

The Magi head to Bethlehem, only a few miles south of Jerusalem. “There, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure-chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.” It is from the three gifts that we get our tradition of three Wise Men. You’ll notice there is not any mention of the number of Magi in the citation. After their brief visit, the men, “warned in a dream not to return to Herod…left for their own country by another road.” Joseph takes his family and flees to Egypt “and remained there until the death of Herod.”

The Magi said 'yes' to God. Their study of the Hebrew scriptures and of astrology helped them identify the signs that matched the prophecies. Together with Joseph they join the long line of those Michael Card calls Pilgrims to the City of God. We too are part of that long line of travelers. Like the Magi,
“…sometimes we run by the power of His might,
On our own at the best we can plod…
But we are not just homeless prodigals here
Because we have someplace to go
What we hopefully look for is just beyond sight
We are pilgrims to the city of God.”

Card is referencing Hebrews 11:13 that says, “All of [the pioneers of faith] died in faith without having received the promises, but from a distance they saw and greeted them. They confessed that they were strangers and foreigners on the earth…”

Amid the Christmas and New Year’s bustle and parties and resolutions, I can forget that it is all transitory and that “God has prepared [for us] a city” so that we will not always be pilgrims. The Magi return to Babylon. Joseph and his family eventually return from Egypt. Our journey of faith will end someday in “the City of the Great King,” as Card sings. Along the way, we are called to act more and more in the “power of His might.” As 2011 dawns, what can I do to “follow the One who holds out a cross and a crown”?

In my January newsletter (http://www.cynthiadavisauthor.com/), I quote Thomas Merton who offers some guidance on how we can do our best:

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

Like the Magi, we have to step out on the road. With them, we may make mistakes and ask the wrong questions of the wrong people, but in the end, God will triumph. Even though "we travel a dark road that has but one Light" we will find our way because that Light is the "true light that enlightens everyone." (John 1:9) If you are still working on your 'Advent box', you might want to add a birthday candle or other symbol to remind you of that Light we are to follow.

Next week, I’ll start a new series that will take us to Lent. I hope you’ll stop back.

*(excerpt from Mary, My Love, by Cynthia Davis (c) 2010)

Balthazar bowed low to me. “Thank you, Joseph for your welcome. We followed the sign from God to your door. See the star is setting.” I looked in the direction the man pointed. Low and brilliant in the dark sky hung a star unnoticed before. “Now we have seen the child for ourselves and can return to our home in peace.”

After another low bow, the man joined Melchior by the gate. Caspar lingered at my side. He seemed to be deciding whether or not to speak.

At last he nodded decisively. “We may have brought danger with us.” The young man lowered his head almost in shame. Guiltily he glanced toward his comrades.

I waited, wondering what the man meant.

“When we reached the border of Judea clouds hid the star from us. We argued.” He rubbed his brow in distress. “I insisted that the one we sought would be a prince and must be found in Jerusalem in the royal palace.”

I felt my heart lurch.

Slowly he confessed, “Despite their wise counsel to wait for the clouds to clear and follow the star, I insisted on proceeding to the capital. ‘Where else would a prince of the house of David be born?’ My foolish words will haunt me forever.” Looking toward his waiting companions, the young man seemed to draw courage. “We reached Herod’s palace. ‘Where is he that is born King of the Jews?’ My question sent courtiers scurrying, I must admit. We were ushered into the king’s throne room. In that moment I knew how wrong I had been. We were in the presence of sheer evil. Herod questioned us closely.”

The man paused to remove his turban and run fingers through thick curls. Then he stood turning the head covering in his hands.

Caspar’s eyes begged for understanding when he raised them to mine. “After a while the king pretended to be interested in our talk of a promised redeemer. He sent for several of the priests and scribes. One old man had an immediate answer to the question ‘Where will Messiah be born?’ He quoted one of your prophets and named Bethlehem. Herod turned to us then, ‘Behold your answer, Magi. Seek for this child and bring me word that I may worship him.’ He does not plan homage but harm.”

Some inarticulate sound came from my throat.

“We will not return to Herod,” the young Magi assured me, “but that may not do anything more than delay the king slightly.”

“Yes.” The strangled word barely sounded like my voice. “Thank you.”

“May the One God who is Light protect you and your family.”

Caspar bowed low to me. The last I saw of the Magi was three shadows moving up the street behind Elam. I stared for a long time at the glowing star low on the horizon.