:v_voltaire takes the stage: This is unlike me. I don't often do stories like this. However, I was singing carols with my group and I was joking around with the person next to me, saying how my solo in We Three Kings of Orient Are was the depressing one, when it occurred to me how it was also the most interesting verse. While I sang "Val-thazar" I began to wonder about Balthazar. That's where this story came from. Generally, everything in it is the product of my imagination, with only a very small basis in the song. For your own edification, I have included the words to all five verses so you know from where I took the phrases used in the story. Merry Christmas, everyone! See you next millenium. :v_voltaire leaves the stage:
We three kings of Orient are;
Bearing gifts, we traverse afar
Field and fountain, moor and mountain,
Following yonder star.
O Star of wonder, star of night,
Star with royal beauty bright,
West-ward leading, still proceeding,
Guide us to the perfect light.
Melchior: Born a King on Bethlehem's plain.
Gold I bring, to crown Him again,
King forever ceasing never
Over us all to reign.
Casper: Frankincense to offer have I,
Incense owns a Deity nigh.
Pray'r and praising all men raising,
Worship Him, God most high.
Balthazar: Myrrh is mine, its bitter perfume
Breathes a life of gathering gloom;
Sorr'wing, sighing, bleeding, dying,
Sealed in the stone-cold tomb.
All: Glorious now behold Him arise,
King and God and Sacrifice,
Earth to the heav'ns replies.
We three kings…
I can feel the steady, lilting gait of my camel carrying me away from what, if I had my wish, I would never leave. I would give my kingdom to take him with me, keep him safe from those who would want to hurt him, but I know I cannot. If I did anything more for the child, it would draw attention to him. Any undue attention could cause his death by those who fear him. I would do anything to keep him safe, and so I give up the most precious thing I have: I leave him behind so he may live in protecting obscurity.
There are two other caravans with me; one for Melchior, and one for Casper. Melchior returns to his rich lands, full of precious minerals and stones. His wealth exists within the earth, easily uncovered and used. Casper returns to his fertile lands, crops growing out of the sustaining soil. His wealth comes from the ground, more plants grown than his people could harvest.
I am Balthazar. My land is not as rich as Melchior's, nor as fertile as Casper's. What wealth my kingdom has comes from the difficult, diligent work my people have done. Nothing comes easily, and it is my responsibility to allow nothing they do to go to waste. Part of the wealth goes to Rome as taxes, but I try to divert the rest of it back into my kingdom. My role as king is difficult compared to Melchior and Casper; they do not need to worry about debts, about not having enough, about people starving. Everything I have comes from work and pain.
Star of wonder…
The first we heard of the child was from an edict Herod issued. If found, the child was to be killed. I thought little of it at the time. No Messiah would choose to be born in my rough kingdom. I was set to pass on the message to my advisors when I saw the star.
Words cannot describe the glorious vision encompassed in the light streaming from the sky. Its patterns folded and wove back into itself, and I think that in that pattern of lights I saw a face, and maybe, a pair of wings? I'm not certain, but I believe the light sang clear, beautiful notes of music, as intangible as the light itself. My memory is unsure, for as soon as I had seen the star it had faded. Its bright light continued, but there was no longer anything supernatural about it. Whether it had stayed or not, I had my sign. I did not tell my advisors of Herod's edict.
Casper was the one to contact us both. His faith in the vision was surprisingly strong. Strangely enough, it was Melchior who chose to disobey Herod's command. Somehow, he found the strength within himself to go against Herod's will. I was the last one to join the journey. While Melchior had strength and Casper had faith, I had enough practicality to make the journey possible. I had people I trusted to gather the required supplies and make the proper arrangements for our journey, all the while keeping it secret. Again, my power came from the work I and my people have to do.
When we decided to see the child to be born, we gathered the gifts fit for the new god-king. They were not difficult to choose. Melchior brought gold, a precious metal found in his own kingdom. Casper brought frankincense, his fertile lands an abundant source of the strange twisted tree whose sap makes the ritualistic incense.
My choice was more difficult. My land produces little extraordinary. The only truly valuable gift I have is the small amount of myrrh we can produce. I brought it without hesitation.
We traverse afar…
We followed that star for a long time. We rested by day and traveled by night so the star's light could guide us. It never showed its supernatural light again; at least, it did not for me. Some nights I would look at Casper as he gazed at the star, and in his face I could catch a glimpse of the pure faith the star had once inspired in me. I will admit that at times I doubted what we were doing. Who were we to disobey Herod's command? What guarantee did we have that the child was who we thought he was? What guarantee did we have that we would even find the child?
I looked to the sky, looked at Casper's face, and there I saw the guarantee.
Guide us to thy perfect light…
The star did not lead us astray. We did find him. How can I describe what I saw? How can I capture a picture, a feeling, a love so deep, and bind them in cruelly crude words? Joy, love, bliss, pain, awe, all of this and more filled my heart at the sight of the child. I felt that I could live forever and at the same time, I could die in that instant, and I was happy to do either. So many promises lay within that child. In his presence, I saw what our gifts really meant.
Born a King on Bethlehem's plain. Gold I bring, to crown Him again…
Melchior bowed before the child, placing the gold on the ground before him. For someone so strong, his face was humbled and sincere. I heard him murmur, "I pledge my allegiance to the newborn king, may he rule for all time."
To Melchior, the child was the king, and the gold was sent to crown him as king of all the world. To Melchior, all power came from the rule of people. His rich lands, his strength all came from physical objects. He had no need to look to the spiritual, for everything he needed was given to him from the earth.
Frankincense to offer have I, incense owns a Deity nigh…
Casper knelt on the ground, his eyes turned downward, away from the child. It seemed like he was shielding his eyes from an intense source of light, as though he were afraid to stare at the sun for fear of going blind. I was shocked to see his shoulders shake, holding back tears. He placed the incense on the ground beside the gold. I'm not certain, but I believe I heard him whisper, "All praise the newborn son of God. May he bring heaven on Earth."
To Casper, the child was a god, and the incense was given to worship him. Casper's power came from living things, the very plants that thrived, so plentiful, on his land. From his land things grew, lived, and then died. No wonder his mind was so preoccupied with life, the afterlife, and all things spiritual!
I saw Casper's face as he turned away from the child. His eyes were wild, glassy, but no tears had been shed. In a word, what Casper personified was…bliss. He was the rapture of a man in the presence of God.
Myrrh is mine, its bitter perfume breathes a life of gathering gloom…
At last, it was my turn to face the child. Slowly, I stepped forward to where the child was lying. I held the precious perfume in my shaking hands, unsure of what to do. I stood between the other gifts and gazed down at the child. He was so small, so defenseless, and yet he was so much more than anyone else I have ever seen.
As I gazed at him, I could see his future. It was so painful, so raw. He would always be alone. How could anyone comprehend what he was? Even though there would be those who loved him unconditionally, there would be no one who could truly understand him. In the end, he would be driven away or killed by those who didn't understand him, or by those who feared him. Even before he had been born there had been an edict sent for his death.
The child opened his eyes. They were so dark, I felt I could lose myself in those depths. I reached up to my own eyes and to my astonishment felt tears on my cheeks. I stared at the moisture in amazement. With some strange, supernatural knowledge, I dipped my fingers into the perfume I held. The tears on my hand mixed with the myrrh. Reaching out, I traced my fingers over the child's forehead in an unfamiliar gesture: one stroke down, one stroke across. His future, written in history before it occurred, was marked on his face. Slowly, I bent down and gently pressed my lips against the child's soft forehead. Turning my face to his ear, my breath caught in my throat as I whispered the words, "Thank you. I'm sorry."
Glorious now behold Him arise, King and God and Sacrifice…
I don't know how, but somehow we found the strength to leave the child where he was. Days passed on our journey back. Melchior could not stop talking about the powerful new king. Casper was enthralled, constantly reminiscing about the glorious god-child.
I remained silent throughout the journey. How could I explain to them what I had seen? It was so much more than they had, for I had seen what they saw in the child, as well as seeing the truth. Wisely, I did not tell them what I saw. They would call it disrespect, or heresy, but I knew they were wrong. In my life I have learned that true strength comes from hard work and pain. That is why what I saw in him was so powerful.
Melchior saw a king. Casper saw a god. I saw a child.