The Wise Men’s Cook
Reporter: It took me a few more days to track down the “well dressed visitors”. They were not from the local area and by the time I found them, they had rejoined their caravan at a camp a little way outside Bethlehem. I wasn’t able to speak with the visitors to the baby personally but I with a little persuasion, a couple of members of their retinue agreed to speak with me.
First Esme, the caravan’s cook. Hello Esme. You’ve been with the caravan for the whole journey I understand?
Esme: Yes, all except when they visited a palace, King Herod’s I think, and here in Bethlehem. We had to camp outside while they went in to the palace and town.
Reporter: I understand your masters came from the East, just to see the child. What can you tell me about them and about the child?
Esme: I’ll tell you what little I can. They’re called Balthazar, Melchior and Gaspar. Melchior seems to be senior. They study the stars. Astrologers I think they call themselves, or maybe astronomers I’m not sure.
Reporter: And do you know what brought them to Bethlehem, Esme?
Esme: Mostly it’s just gossip and rumour but they apparently saw a conjunction forming in the stars. They’d predicted that the stars would coalesce over this town. They didn’t know the name of it until they got here, they just followed the stars. They thought it was some kind of portent.
Reporter: Do you know what they found when they arrived?
Esme: Again only gossip. They found a child, low born but they say he’s destined to lead the people, maybe even become a king.
One other thing, they hired a new local guide. You could try talking to him.
Reporter: Thank you for talking with me Esme.
The Innkeeper’s Wife
Reporter: After the shepherds, I followed the story further by trying to speak with the innkeeper where the couple had asked for a room. He was out buying supplies to re-stock after his census guests had left. I was able to talk to his wife.
Hello Helene, thank you for talking with me. When did you realise something out of the ordinary was going on, and what can you tell us about the young couple that stayed in your stable?
Helene: We guessed something was happening when we saw the lights in the sky outside the town. I suppose everyone had probably seen them. Lots came out to look when they heard people shouting about it.
The couple asked my husband for a room but we were already full, because of the census. I couldn’t see them pushed away, she was so heavily with child. I suggested the stable to my husband, at a reduced rate of course.
Reporter: We heard from a shepherd that the baby was born in your stable, and was named Jesus. Can you tell us his parents’ names?
Helene: They were called Mary and Joseph, from Nazareth I think. I felt sorry for her having travelled so far in her condition. He was a carpenter.
Reporter: Was there anything special or out of the ordinary about them?
Helene: I didn’t see anything at the time. Later after the unexpected visit of the shepherds I began to wonder about them.
I took them some fresh water the next morning. It was just an excuse really; I wanted to see the baby. He’s a lovely little chap. There seemed to be an aura of calm and peace about him.
Reporter: You’ve told us about the shepherds, were there any other visitors?
Helene: Lots of people came asking about the couple and their child. They were coming for days after Mary, Joseph and Jesus had left. It was getting annoying.
Was there anyone you particularly noticed amongst the visitors?
Helene: Most were ordinary folks, like you and me. A few oddballs but there was one small group I particularly remember.
Three foreign gentlemen enquired about the young family. Very well dressed, in expensive clothes. They had camels with them. You don’t often see that in Bethlehem. They just watered their camels and bought a few supplies before leaving. I told them that after the young couple left, they’d rented a house somewhere nearby, but I wasn’t sure where.
Reporter: Thank you Helene.
Reporter: As the crowds begin to thin, making their way home after Caesar’s census, I followed up a story of lights over a field outside of Bethlehem. Far from being an isolated incident as was first assumed, it led on to a series of connected events. I have tried to piece them together, by interviewing people involved that I have been able to trace.
The description of lights in the sky first led me to a group of shepherds a little way outside the town of Bethlehem, sheltering with their flock for the night.
Hello Jose, thank you for agreeing to tell our readers what you saw. What was it that alerted you that something out of the ordinary was happening?
Jose: It was a brightening of the sky, well before dawn. At first just a bright point of light. Then it grew and took on a human shape. Well almost human except he had wings.
Reporter: Wings! That seems unusual.
Jose: It surprised us but we saw it as clearly as I saw you. We all saw it. It was scary
Reporter: Go on, what happened next?
Jose: The angel said not to be afraid, that he had brought a message from God. He told us that a child, a saviour for us and for everyone had been born, and that we should go to him.
Reporter: Did he say where to find the child.
Jose: Only that we would find the child in a stable. He wasn’t very good with his directions but said we’d find him ok. Then a few moments later, a swarm, if that’s the right word, appeared behind the first angel. They were singing praises to God. Then they all disappeared, just sort of faded away.
Reporter: So did you go to try to find the child?
Jose: After we discussed it yes. We checked on our sheep then went into town. Bethlehem is small, it didn’t take too much asking around to find the stable. It was at the side of an inn.
Reporter: Did you go in? What did you find?
Jose: We found a young couple, with a baby boy, in a manger just like the angel said. He was asleep and his mum looked really tired and we couldn’t leave the sheep for long, so we didn’t stay long. There was something about him. He looked like any other baby but there was a feeling. Calmness, peace. A feeling I won’t forget. He’s called Jesus.
Reporter: And his parents, who are they?
Jose: I never heard. Maybe one of the others knows.
Reporter: Thank you Jose.
: The Sunday Next Before Advent.
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Eternal God of love, father of Jesus Christ. You sent Your Son into this world that You created, to live amongst us as servant and king. We remember Jesus’ own words “My kingdom is not of this world.” so let us acknowledge Him as king of the world to come to which he has ascended. We pray to You in his name for the world, the church and for ourselves.
Father of all people wherever they may be, let Jesus’ reign bring peace and understanding to the world as we seek to become like Him; servants, peacemakers and healers with compassion and integrity.
Give relief to the continuing crisis in Yemen. May humanitarian aid be given by countries that can afford to, to the 20 million people, more than half of them children, needing food, medicines and shelter.
May leaders and politicians who try to secure peace and enable reconciliation between opposing factions be blessed with wisdom.
Father strengthen and heal those injured in the attack on the al-Rawda mosque in Egypt and comfort the bereaved. Guide the leaders and those in power to seek justice, not revenge.
Strengthen those trying to protect the vulnerable, showing compassion to people whose lives have been affected by injury or bereavement. Support and comfort anyone suffering loss or distress of any kind.
Father of life, you created us and knows each of us better than we know ourselves. In Your tender compassion give to those ill or injured in body or mind your healing as best befits each one, whether the cause of distress be physical or hidden in the mind.
Father of love, as we approach the season of Advent, shield us from the temptation to be drawn into the commercialism of the season. Let us see through the advertisers claims of the “perfect” gift, which may be as simple as giving someone a little time, to make a big difference.
Eternal God of life and love, in the darkness of winter, and in the darkness of our broken world, may your light shine through Jesus to give us courage and hope. Light up our hearts as we praise you and our minds as we hear your word. Give strength to those who seek to bring your light into the dark places of our world.
Merciful Father Accept this prayer for the sake of Your Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ.