The Journey Of The Magi
by T.S. Eliot
‘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.
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 arriving at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you might 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 led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly
We had evidence and no doubt. I had 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.
(Journey of the Magi, James Tissot, 1894)
This is a suggestion for focusing on “finding” Christ in Christmas. You can call it a worship experience or a devotional or a quiet time or whatever fits. It’s not meant for just reading and being done with it. It is a personal activity. So if you choose to use it, I suggest you get somewhere by yourself and set aside some time that you will not be interrupted or hurried. Don’t feel that you have to stay locked into the structure that’s here; if the Spirit moves you into other thoughts, feelings, and actions, then go with that! Take whatever time you need for each “station.” The purpose of this activity is to turn away from all the busyness of the holiday season and make a personal contact with Christ.
Station 1. Close your eyes, relax your body, clear everything out of your mind. Set your heart on meeting God. Be still, be quiet…
Station 2. Pray. Talk with God about your desires and needs to “find” Christ now. Don’t use very many words. Continue in prayer while you play “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring.”
Station 3. Read Scripture – Luke 2:8-16.
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.
Station 4. Imagine. Put yourself in the shepherds’ story. Imagine being one of them. Picture yourself seeing, hearing, and doing everything they did. Move toward the manger and see the baby…
Station 5. Personalize. Use the following questions to help you pray, to reach out to Christ, to listen to the Spirit, to open your heart.
Who am I looking for? The angel said he is
“Savior” – Deliverer, Rescuer, Redeemer
“Christ” – Messiah, God’s Chosen, King
“Lord” – Yahweh, I AM, Creator, God of Heaven and Earth
Where do I need to go to “find” Christ? The shepherds couldn’t stay where they were; they had to go to Bethlehem. (Maybe not a physical location, but where your heart is set.)
What do I need to leave to “find” Christ? The shepherds left their sheep in the fields.
Move toward him…
Station 6. Read Scripture – Matthew 2:1-2, 9-11.
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”
… After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
Station 7. Listen and worship. Play “How Many Kings”