On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.
This very brief passage holds a world of symbol and meaning as well as a tension filled and colorful story.
Years ago my mother brought from Jerusalem a delightful Creche scene comprised of carved wooden figures. When I was in Israel somewhat later I found I needed to and could replace a number of lost figures ( a couple of sheep, an ox and a camel as well as a shepherd ) since they were still carving the same figures.
Each year I place the figures on my mantel piece, the baby Jesus doesn't get placed in the manger until Christmas day and the wise men and their camels have to march across the whole living room, finally arriving at the Inn on the 12th day.
These 3 kings, or wise men from the East have been an important part of my yearly story for a long time. I have 3 figures and they each have a camel laden with gifts. The journey from the East has been long and ardurous, with only a star to guide them and they have come in order to pay homage, to present highly valued gifts of gold and incense from Arabia to of all things, a baby!! What on earth do they know? What could have compelled such a trip? They must be very wise and prescient. While the author of the story does not say it, we, my family and I. know that they, like us, have received something in return as well. They somehow know how important this baby will grow up to be.
Increasing the tension and drama surrounding the story, they also are aware of Herod's malicious intent to find out where this special baby is and they slip away by another route and go back to their own country.
P.S. Quick addendum: For several years Andy, my late husband, and two other St Georgians would dress up as the Wise Men on 12th night and let the children ask them what it was like to be from Arabia, what it felt like to see the Christ child and to travel so far. Bill Gardner tells me that Andy who was very good at accents, would start out trying to do a credible Persian accent but that it would inevitably slip into a Scottish brogue!!