Maybe it’s because I’ve directed too many Christmas pageants, but when I hear the story of the Magi visiting the baby Jesus, I don’t think of three kings at all. No visions of regal visitors decked out in their finest riding atop camels guided by a star for me. Just memories of little boys, decked out in colourful shiny robes that threaten to trip them up, giggling and roughhousing, with their cardboard crowns askew. Of all the little boy kings that I’ve tried to corral one of them stands out from all the rest. Perhaps I remember him so well because he was so little that we couldn’t have him knell at the manger for fear that he would disappear into the hay and our audience would only see two Wise Guys paying homage. Or maybe it was the speed with which he dashed in and out of the gang of shepherds who threatened to trip him up with their crooks. But I really think it was the ingenious way he solved the problem of his lost gold, that makes little, for the purposes of this sermon let’s call him Jay, stand out from all the other little boy kings.
Little Jay’s mother, like all the mothers of all the kings, was responsible for creating a facsimile of the gift her wise son would bestow on the baby Jesus. Unlike some of the feeble efforts that I’ve seen over the years, Jay’s gift of gold was a cut above the rest. Inside an elaborately carved box that his Dad had picked up on his travels to the Middle East, Jay’s mother had placed upon a bed of statin a carefully created block of wood wrapped in golden gift paper. It positively sparkled. It must have impressed Jay, because he was forever opening up his box to show his fellow cast-members his treasure. During the dress rehearsal, Jay’s performance was perfect. Jay positively perfected the art of gazing up at the makeshift star that hung above the altar just east of our makeshift manger. When he arrived at the place where the newborn baby Jesus, who just happened to be a little girl that year, Jay strode right up to her mother Mary and opened the box containing his treasure and proudly announced his gift of gold for the new born king. They, whoever they are, say that if the rehearsal doesn’t go well then the performance will be wonderful. So, I was more than a little worried when our dress rehearsal went off so splendidly because that could mean only one thing, and I wasn’t looking forward to a performance where things went wrong. Sure enough, unbeknownst to me, on the morning of his big performance, somewhere between his home and church, Jay lost his golden treasure. All he had was an empty box when he showed up at his father’s pew wailing because all was lost. Jay had no gold to give to the baby Jesus.
This story reminds me of a story that Joan Chittister tells that I’ve told you before but like all good stories it is worth telling over and over again. It’s the story of a Sufi master who was found scratching through the sand in the middle of the road. “What are you doing?” some pilgrims asked the Sufi as they passed. The old Sufi looked up and said, “I’m looking for my treasure. I’ve lost it.” the old man said. So the pilgrims, good people all dropped to their knees to help. They sifted sand. They dug under stones. They sweat under the waxing midday sun. Until, finally, hungry, soaking wet and exhausted, one of the travellers asked of the Sufi, “Sufi, are you sure you lost your treasure here?” And the old man said, “Oh, no. No, I didn’t loose my treasure here, I lost it over there on the other side of those mountains.” Continue reading