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The Journey of the Magi

6 January 2010

A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The was deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.”
And the camels galled, sore-footed, 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 gong 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.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 arrived at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you may 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 lead all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly,
We had evidence and no doubt. I have 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.

                                                           – T.S.Eliot


Many in our world say that to be religious is to be naive. The most intelligent people, Marx, Voltaire, Lenin, Freud, are too smart for religion. Right? They had outsmarted God. I ran up against this statement recently. “Faith is intellectual bankruptcy. To ask that a belief be accepted on faith is to admit that the belief cannot be accepted on its own merits. To believe without reason is irresponsible, and to act on such beliefs is evil.”

Is faith irresponsible? Have Christians accepted things that simply have not been verified? Do the things that God does and says have no merit? Has it been proven that God does not exist? Is Christianity simply something that the rich no longer need and the educated are too smart to swallow?


The wise men were not too smart for God. They were not too rich either. They felt like they needed something, something eternal, something bigger than this world. They were technically educated, advisors to kings, and yet they understood that there is more to life than simply the things you can touch and feel. Their spiritual curiosity and faith play huge roles with their intellect. The mysteries of the world leave a lot of questions and they trusted that the Messiah would be the answer. In fact, this whole story depends on what they trusted and whom they didn’t.


Had they trusted Herod, who secretly wanted to kill Jesus, history could have been very different. When it was time to return home, the oily voice of Herod was still sticking in their minds, “When you find him bring me word so that I too may worship him.” He wanted to kill that baby because he couldn’t let go of the power. The wise men are on a spiritual journey – they’re going one direction to God. Not Herod. He’s 180 degrees and heading the other way. His life is heading the wrong way and he doesn’t care. The wise men knew not to go back to Herod. After seeing Jesus they went in a new direction. And in the end their trust was right.


We must all decide whom we shall hear and whom we shall follow. Obviously we don’t want to listen to the Herod’s of the world, but are we willing to listen to another voice that calls in the night? One that sends angels in dreams, set a star in the sky as a map, and sent a baby to save the world.

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