No Magi, but a mob. Shots in place of a star. Tear gas instead of frankincense.
But Herod—he’s never hard to find.
As he feels his reign ending, he lashes out.
Refuses to see reason.
Reason’s nothing against power, power mixed with fear, power threatened by those he calls weak.
Back then, did his royal advisors try to step in? Leak the news to the midwives and mothers?
If so, did he consider backing down, even for a minute? Did some strain of compassion strike him like a beam of starlight?
For that matter, the Magi—did they feel the opposite? A brief, dim flash of confidence in Herod’s intentions? An institutionalist’s urge to honor hierarchy?
Does it matter?
We’re told Herod’s fear is shared by “all Jerusalem.”
Tax collectors who’ve gotten rich off his cruelty, maybe? Temple officials enjoying an alliance with Rome?
The Magi are registered Persian Communist Party members, I’ve heard.
When Herod gave that fatal order, what did “all Jerusalem” think? A tragic but necessary move to protect the realm’s stability?
What was that dream that changed the Magi’s path? A unambiguously divine voice giving clear instructions?
Or a gut feeling, a sick stomach, an inkling of imminent injustice? Did they look at each other and silently agree? Or did the baby’s fate depend on a bitter argument?
Did they hear what happened after?
Did any executioners resign? How many did they kill first?
After Herod died, how long was it until parents took their sons out in public?
How long till any criticism lost its urgency?
Till any praise lost its prudishness?
We know this: It wasn’t forgotten.
We know this: Death did its best to choke out life, and even in its failure wreaked mortal havoc.
We know this: A few stargazers—not just the Magi, but Mary and Joseph and maybe, just maybe, others whose names are lost—chose aright.
Photo by Flickr user Tyler Merbler.
Josh Parks graduated from Calvin in 2018 with a BA in English literature and violin performance, and he completed an MA program in medieval studies at Western Michigan University in 2020. He is currently a student at Princeton Theological Seminary, which means his plans to be in school forever are working out well. When not writing, he can be found playing violin, drinking coffee, making excruciating puns, and trying to learn Old French.