THE VISIT OF THE WISE MEN
 THEN the child grew and grew, as other little
children grow; and for a good while nothing
happened except just the ordinary things.
But one day, there came to the door some
very extraordinary visitors.
Nobody knows how old the child was when
they came. Indeed, St. Luke, who was much
interested in the beautiful stories of our Lord's
childhood, knew nothing about them. So far
as he had learned, Joseph and Mary went back
to Nazareth after the presentation in the temple,
carrying the child with them. But St.
Matthew had heard about the Wise Men. One
would think, to read the story in St. Matthew's
Gospel, that our Lord was as much as two
years old when the Wise Men came. In that
case, it was at Bethlehem that he learned to
walk and to talk, and began to say his prayers,
and to learn by heart some of the holy words
of the Bible.
 Meanwhile, away in the east, nobody knows
where, men were watching the sky. They
lived out of doors in those countries much
more than we do, and the clouds and the stars
were of great interest to them. Every night
they looked to see the constellations rise and
set; and when a comet blazed across the heavens,
they were filled with wonder. They did
not know that the stars were other worlds.
They thought that they were shining jewels
set in the blue roof of the sky. They imagined
that they formed mysterious sentences, which
one might read did he but know that celestial
language, and thus learn the story of the earth,
both past and future. Especially, they connected
the great stars with the great kings;
and one of their number, a magician named
Balaam, had one day, in a vision, cried, "I see
a star and a king!" meaning a king of the
These men were called Wise Men. They
were very well acquainted with the sky, and
knew the stars by name. And one night as
they gazed, according to their custom, at the
 lights overhead, behold, there was a new star
which none of them had seen before. There
it shone, brighter than any of the others, low
down in the western sky. And the men said,
"There is the star, and in that direction,
towards the west, is the land of the Jews. There
is a king born! Let us go and see him."
So they started on their long journey. Some
say that they were as great as they were wise;
that they were kings; that there were three
of them,—an old man named Caspar, and a
middle-aged man named Melchior, and a young
man named Balthaser; that they rode on
camels and had a train of servants with them.
Indeed, we may imagine whatever we please;
for nobody knows anything about it.
On they came, then, over the hard wild ways
which lead from the east to the west, till at
last they reached Jerusalem; and there they
stopped to ask their way. "Where is he,"
they said, "that is born King of the Jews?
for we have seen his star in the east, and are
come to worship him." But the people knew
of only one king of the Jews, and his name
 was Herod; and he had been born so long ago
that even now he was approaching the end of
his bad life. That was not the king for whom
they were looking. No: there was a new king,
a little child. So they went about asking people
in the streets, and the news spread,—the
news of the appearance of these strange visitors
and of the strange question which they
asked. People said one to another, "Have
you seen those three dark-faced pilgrims out of
the far east? Have you heard what they are
saying?" And men began to be afraid. They
said, "Now there will be war. The two kings
will fight for the crown."
Presently, King Herod heard what was happening
in the city, and he too was troubled.
The thought came into his heart that this new
king might perhaps be the King of Glory.
He knew that the people were waiting for a
king, and that promises of his coming were
written in the Bible. Herod was not a reader
of the Bible, and he had no idea that the
King of Glory was to come from heaven.
All that he had in his mind was a vague
know-  ledge that a great king was expected, and a
clear conviction that when the king came
there would be no more use for Herod; and
he immediately determined that he would find
the new king, if he could, and kill him in his
So he called the ministers together, and
when they came he said, "Where is it that
that king, of whom the Bible speaks, will be
born, when he comes?" And the ministers
looked into the Bible, and there it was, written
down in black and white long, long before,
that the King of Glory should be born in
Bethlehem. "And thou Bethlehem, in the
land of Juda, art not the least among the
princes of Juda; for out of thee shall come a
Governor, that shall rule my people Israel."
Then Herod called the Wise Men privately,
and they came to meet him in his palace, and
he asked them many questions. He seemed
particularly anxious to find out just how long
ago it was when the star appeared. And the
Wise Men, who were better acquainted with
stars than they were with kings, answered
 him in all simplicity. And the king said,
"You are to go to Bethlehem. Go, and search
diligently for the young child; and when ye
have found him, bring me word again, that
I may come and worship him also." That is
what he said,—the bad king, who meant to
Away they went, then, out of the king's
palace, and made their way towards Bethlehem.
And as they went, behold, they saw the
strange star, shining again in the night sky,
as they had seen it in their own land. And
they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. The
star seemed to go before them, leading them,
and at last to stand still over the little village.
And under the star was a house; and in the
house, the King!
The house did not look much like a palace.
Joseph was a carpenter, having nothing to
live on but his daily wages. He could afford
only the humblest lodgings. Neither did the
child look much like a king. There he stood
leaning against his mother's knee, looking at
the strange visitors with great eyes of
won-  der, and probably more interested in the Wise
Men's camels than he was in the Wise Men
themselves. But the Wise Men kneeled before
him and worshiped him. And when
they had opened their treasures,—the
queer-looking boxes and bundles which they had
brought with them,—they presented unto
him gifts, gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.
These gifts were of no use to the child.
Frankincense and myrrh are kinds of fragrant
gum which are found on trees and shrubs in
the East, somewhat like the sticky substance
which we find on pines. They were used to
make incense. (Frankincense means simply
pure incense.) That is, when put on burning
coals they made a thick smoke with a sweet
smell. Such was the incense which Zacharias
was placing on the golden altar when he saw
the angel. Thus frankincense and myrrh were
used in the worship of God. Accordingly, the
Wise Men's gifts were meant only to express
the thoughts of their hearts. As they knelt
before the child and spread them out at his
feet, they said by these symbols what we say
 in the Te Deum when we sing, "Thou art
the King of Glory, O Christ." And since the
Wise Men were not Jews but Gentiles, Joseph
and Mary may well have recited one to another,
after they went, the great words of the
Old Testament, "The Gentiles shall come to
thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy
rising. . . .
They shall bring gold and incense;
and they shall show forth the praises
of the Lord."
That night, before the next day dawned,
the Wise Men had a dream; and, in the same
night, Joseph had a dream also. In the Wise
Men's dream God told them about Herod, and
warned them not to return to him, but to go
back to their own country another way. In
Joseph's dream, the angel of the Lord appeared
and said, "Arise, and take the young
child and his mother, and flee into Egypt,
and be thou there until I bring thee word:
for Herod will seek the young child to destroy
him." So the Wise Men rose up, and, avoiding
Jerusalem, went to their homes far in the
east. And Joseph also waked and aroused
 Mary, and they made a hasty preparation for
a long journey, and before it was light were
a good distance on the road which led from
Bethlehem toward the south.
And when the day came, Herod, too, opened
his eyes, and he remembered the Wise Men
and their errand. "This morning," he said
to himself, "I shall know about the King."
But the morning passed, and the afternoon
also, and no word came from the Wise Men,
and at last Herod saw that he would hear
nothing more from them, and he was very
angry. But he knew that Bethlehem was the
place where the King should be born; and
he knew, according to the time which he had
diligently inquired of the Wise Men, that the
King could not be more than two years old;
so he sent men who killed all the little children
in that village, all who were under two.
And there was lamentation and weeping and
great mourning in Bethlehem among the
poor mothers and fathers. But meanwhile
the King was on his way, all safe and sound,
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