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Memories of Epiphany

My body was already weak with exhaustion and grief when they placed His body in my arms, nevertheless, I cradled Him, supporting His head, just as I had 33 years earlier. My baby, my son, my heart. I washed His bruised and beaten body tenderly. His head, which had laid on my chest, asleep or for comfort, so many times. His hands, now bigger than mine, I used to hold and marvel at as He nursed. His chest, which I used to watch rise and fall as He slept, peacefully dreaming. His feet, I used to kiss them when they were tiny and wrinkled, toes curled; I kissed them again now, for the last time. 

Salome, the mother of James and my John, placed her hand on my shoulder and offered me the jar of spiced oil for anointing. I uncorked the bottle and the warm, woody scent immediately filled my nose, and my memory…

Jesus was resting happily in his bassinet as Joseph and I set the table for third meal. Suddenly we heard a commotion outside. Joseph went to the door and looked so surprised I came up behind him to see what was going on. Three men, in strange clothing I had never seen before were dismounting camels right outside the house! 

Joseph straightened up and squared his shoulders as he stepped outside. “Shalom,” he said in greeting, “can I help you?” The tone of his voice was polite but implied that the men must certainly be lost. 

 “Shalom, we believe you can help us, if we have in fact interpreted our sign correctly.” Said the first man as he pointed to the sky. Joseph and I both looked up and saw a star, almost blindingly bright, stationed right above the house. “We come seeking the King of the Jews. We wish him no harm, but rather come to honor and adore him.”

At that very moment Jesus seemed to realize He was alone in the house and let out a cry. I went inside, scooped Him up, and began bouncing Him gently, “I’m here, I’m here,” I whispered. I sat with Him cradled in my arms in the corner of the room closest to the door so I could still hear what was going on outside. It wasn’t long before Joseph led the men into the house. He came to stand behind us, protectively. 

The men introduced themselves and explained that they were learned in the movements of the heavens and had spent many years gathering and interpreting prophecies from all over the world. They had been astonished when the star that now stood still above our tiny house had first appeared in the sky. Its arrival led them first to the prophecies of our people and then to set out on a journey in the hopes of finding the king those prophecies foretold. I heard Joseph recite under his breath, “Rise up in splendor, Jerusalem! Your light has come, the glory of the Lord shines upon you…Nations shall walk by your light, and kings by your shining radiance. Raise your eyes and look about; they all gather and come to you..” “Isaiah!” I remembered to myself. 

To my amazement, each man came forward in turn, placed a gift at my feet and laid prostrate on the dirt floor before our little infant, who gazed at them with incredible intensity. Gold and Frankincense, gifts for a king, for God. When it was his turn the third man approached us on his knees and said, “And for my gift I bring Myrrh, for anointing a priest, and for marking a holy sacrifice.” He uncorked the bottle and the scent filled my nose. It was warm, and woody, and sad. Can a scent be sad? The man watched me closely, his eyes were kind and wise. “Ah,” he said knowingly, “you smell it too? In my country we also use myrrh for anointing the dead. It is a sacred and somber scent.” He too laid down prostrate, worshiping Jesus, my baby, my son, my heart.

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