After Jesus was born in Bethlehem village, Judah territory— this was during Herod’s kingship—a band of scholars arrived in Jerusalem from the East. They asked around, “Where can we find and pay homage to the newborn King of the Jews? We observed a star in the eastern sky that signaled his birth. We’re on pilgrimage to worship him.” When word of their inquiry got to Herod, he was terrified—and not Herod alone, but most of Jerusalem as well. Herod lost no time. He gathered all the high priests and religion scholars in the city together and asked, “Where is the Messiah supposed to be born?” They told him, “Bethlehem, Judah territory. The prophet Micah wrote it plainly:
It’s you, Bethlehem, in Judah’s land,
no longer bringing up the rear.
From you will come the leader
who will shepherd-rule my people, my Israel.”
Herod then arranged a secret meeting with the scholars from the East. Pretending to be as devout as they were, he got them to tell him exactly when the birth-announcement star appeared. Then he told them the prophecy about Bethlehem, and said, “Go find this child. Leave no stone unturned. As soon as you find him, send word and I’ll join you at once in your worship.” Instructed by the king, they set off. Then the star appeared again, the same star they had seen in the eastern skies. It led them on until it hovered over the place of the child. They could hardly contain themselves: They were in the right place! They had arrived at the right time! They entered the house and saw the child in the arms of Mary, his mother. Overcome, they kneeled and worshiped him. Then they opened their luggage and presented gifts: gold, frankincense, myrrh. Matthew 2:1-11 (the Message)
I like this version of the Christmas Story from The Message translation. It tickles me to think of the wisemen opening up their luggage. While we didn’t have to ride a camal and drove in a truck over the bridge to get there, many gifts were exchanged last night because it was the Christmas extravaganza at the in laws. As the family has grown through marriage and a next generation, there are more people and more schedules to consider so several years ago, my mother in law reluctantly agreed to change the gift giving night at her house to a day earlier in the week. It is nice to spread the celebrations out over time and not have to rush from house to house all in one night. We will celebrate with my family later this week. But, with more people, there are also more gifts to provide. The women all got glass. My mother-in-law got a large leaf plate and sister- in-law, a black and red tray. Two large pieces I made in North Carolina. Husband’s nieces and cousin got smaller pieces I made at home. The nieces got red or red and green bowls with iridescent pixie stick glass. The cousin was more difficult. I ruined two pieces trying to make her something. Finally, I went back to the mold that always works for me and made her a blue bowl with dolphins on it. Most of them seemed to like their gift even if it was nothing to wear or spend. I guess one of these days, I will have to start learning to make them something different. You can only have so many bowls I suppose. The men got shirts from the sporting goods store where oldest son has a holiday job. He had to work on Thanksgiving, but his reward was being able to buy all he wanted at cost. Then, there was Julia, the four year old only great-grandchild (until July) on that side of the family. She is the one that we call the entertainment because she is the star. That’s all well and good when you want to be entertained, but last night, my mother-in-law desperately wanted a family portrait. I was chosen to take it with the instructions to make sure I learned how to use the delay setting. I practiced and though was nervous about it felt capable of getting it done. My sister-in-law told everyone what to wear and set up the seating arrangements. Everyone was in place except one. Julia. She was full of herself and every time the picture was taken she did not sit still. Once, she raised her arms in the air. Another time, she lay across her parents lap. And then, she started yawning or hiding her head. Her mother apologized, “She didn’t get a nap today.” Finally, we called it quits. I am not sure any of them will suit, but they certainly are a snapshot of real life. After the picture, we ate until we were stuffed: Brunswick Stew, ham, potato salad, tossed salad, Cuban bread, yellow cake with chocolate icing, ambrosia and cookies. It was a night full of laughter, love and goodness (with the exception of one little girl who wouldn’t cooperate for the picture). We are very blessed.