Today is all about the Magi, often referred to as The Three Wise Men.
However, no one really knows how many of them there were; it’s just recorded that they brought Jesus three gifts when they visited him: gold, frankincense and myrrh.
The English teacher in me is coming out again and as a fan of TS Eliot in general, I do like his poem, Journey of the Magi. Here’s the first third of the poem:
A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.
And the camels galled, sorefooted, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
and running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty and charging high prices:
A hard time we had of it.
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.
I love how TS Eliot always manages to find the negative in everything.
I recall teaching his poems to a Year Eleven class some years ago. It was first period on a Monday morning and I read through Rhapsody on a Windy Night. I’ll never forget the look of hopelessness on their faces when I finished. I then said something like: “Yep. Life sucks. Welcome to Monday.”
Back to the Magi.
TS Eliot does such justice to how bizarre it may have been for them. Strangers in a strange land, journeying to where exactly? Did they even know?
And yet they kept coming. They didn’t give up.
Surely Eliot is right when he reflects on the physical toll and the seeming folly of these Magi (presumably from Babylon) travelling to find the Jews’ Messiah. They were about the last people you’d expect to come and visit Jesus.
Surely they would have doubted themselves and considered turning back so many times. Yet they pushed on.
I think that’s what we call faith.
Many people say that Christianity is for the weak, but Christianity is all about faith.
Faith is not for the weak.
Weak is not journeying through the cold with sore feet, lack of warmth and shelter plus fatigue; constant fatigue. All this of course with the memory of what they had before they left: comfortable houses and servants bringing food. Now instead, they were among enemies in potentially dangerous places.
That’s not weak. That’s Tough Mudder.
Christmas is a time to be strong; to make sacrifices to do the right thing. Even if there are voices in your head saying that it’s foolish.
Take a leap of faith. That’s what wise men do.
Yours in poetry,