I must admit at first it threw me, competing with a portent. (What fools would treasure light instead of might?) Such naïveté: Scholars trekking here smitten with a star or some convergence of the cosmos. Yet another fire to put out.
I sent them on their way, their caravan rife with herbs I could have used myself. Camels balking and desert horses restless in the night. Meanwhile that star hummed like a lute, vibrating on a frequency I coveted but couldn’t always hear. I slammed the door, closed the shutters. No way would it make a shadow out of me. My wife said,
“No worries. They’ll be back. Anyway, what child can match your currency, your death squads? The bricks of that new temple? And Rome behind you? Get real.”
I pulled her close, forgetting which wife she was (nine? ten?) and glad to have her. Weeks later, when those wanderers failed to return, I glanced into my looking glass. The eyes staring back at me were nothing but blank gold coins.
Let there be light! A flash, a bolt, a brilliant blaze that puts the kibosh on chaos. Let light shine on width, breadth, depth, a dazzle to illuminate all matter everywhere. Let it glint gloriously off ocean wave, sea swell, a brooklet’s little ripples.
Let fish rejoice in it fantastically, the fur of fox, cat, cougar, coyote be haloed. Let light’s hot pulse pull prairie grass, kinnikinnik up, up to verdant growth, turn grain from green to gold. In every garden everywhere let peonies, nasturtiums and
preposterous begonias unfold. Let every butterfly, bat, bird bathe in radiance. Let it pour mornings into breakfast bowls, fill empty cups to overflowing. At evening let light’s long plumes linger: violet and vivid on every atom of creation.
When darkness closes in, shrouding the valley floor, let sky be spangled still, lit with the glow of meteors, the murky milky way, the white hot stars. O Light of life, Light of the wobbling world: your splendor does not tarnish,
will not be overcome by random avalanche, smart missile, guns, flood, smoke of forest fire. Your warmth will melt the iron grip of fear. A stone-cold guarded grave can never hold you.
I know of a congregation that, for many years, provided a “living nativity pageant” in its community. The church is in the center of town and has an expansive front lawn. On a certain December Sunday afternoon each year, it would fill that lawn with live sheep and goats and donkeys, costumed shepherds and wise men, a gaggle of angels, an innkeeper, a manger, and, of course, the holy family.
It’s an intrinsic part of Matthew’s story of the wise men that even Gentiles come to bow down before the king of the Jews—but these aren’t the sort of next-door Gentiles who came to Judea to help out with the wheat harvest.