Saturday, January 7, 2012

Epiphany Sermon/Story

Dream of a Different Way
by Cindy Shepherd
Matthew and I love dreams.  I, too, believe that God sometimes uses our dreams to comfort and to guide us.  This story is my attempt to imagine what the wise men dreamed which changed their plans after they saw and worshipped the Christ Child.

“Having had a dream . . .  they returned by a different way.”

    As he settled into bed after seeing the little king, Casper’s mind reviewed their journey.  He was glad he had suggested they come.  All three of the wise men had seen the star.  All three had consulted their ancient book of heavenly wisdom.  They had all agreed on the importance of the new king.  But it was Casper who initiated the trip.  It was Casper who had said, “Let’s go!”
    His enthusiasm for the journey sprang from several motives:  He wanted to take an active part in history-in-the-making.  He craved adventure and enjoyed the fellowship of his friends, Balthazar and Melchoir.  But, perhaps most important of all, Casper was anxious to get away from home.
    To tell the truth, he had just had another disappointment from his parents.  You see, Casper was at the stage in life when he felt ready to take a wife.  He was about forty.  Perhaps he had been ready for a few years.  The trouble was that in the entire province, not one suitable woman could be found.
    As he looked back, he realized that his parents had been finding faults and making excuses for years.  His mother’s voice rang in his ears:
    “This one has no social standing.”
    “That girl’s dowry isn’t large enough.”
    “She’s too mousy.”
    “She’s too loud.”
    Now, whenever Casper so much as noticed a woman, he heard the voice:  “Casper, She won’t do! . . . “  It had happened again today, as the innkeeper’s lovely daughter held the door of the stable open for him.  She was of marriageable age - strong, with beautiful eyes - and (his mother’s voice)   “Casper!  A foreigner?!   You’ve got to be kidding, honey!”
    Casper shook the voice out of his head and closed his eyes to sleep.  And to dream.
    In his dream, Capser found himself once again in the stable.  Again, there was the beautiful baby, lying in a manger of hay.  In his dream, the innkeeper’s daughter stood beside the quiet baby and she beckoned to Casper.  He wnet to her, put his arm around her and, together, they gazed down at - Yes!  It was THEIR sleeping infant.  Casper’s heart was warm and filled with love. 
    And then he heard a voice - but NOT his mother’s voice - say, “Casper, don’t go back to Herod tomorrow.  Stay here in Bethlehem and see what will be.”
    And when Caper awoke the next morning, he remembered the dream.

Melchior, like Casper, had been glad to make the long trip to Bethlehem.  He enjoyed the privilege of worshipping the newborn king.  It was especially gratifying to be able to offer the gift of a treasure box of gold.  The parents clearly needed the help.  It made him feel good to do things like that - to use the wealth his high-status job earned him to do good. 
    When he knew he was doing good while he was doing well, Melchior’s conscience didn’t hurt him quite so badly.   But he noticed that, lately, the moments when his staus gave him pleasure were getting few and farther between.  He simply could not settle in and enjoy his position.  Because he knew he didn’t deserve the prestige, the money . . . the job.
    Melchior had a shameful secret, one he couldn’t bring himself to share, even with the other wisemen:  His family had two sons and only enough money to send ONE to astrologer school.  So the boys agreed that whoever scored highest on the S.A.T. - the Stargazer’s Aptitude Test - would get the truition.  Melchior’s secret was that, when they took the test, he had cheated.  He cheated his brother out of the chance to go to astrologer academy.  Not Melchior was a hot shot wiseman, and his brother was a pots and pans dealer back in Syria.  Melchior felt awful.  He was a lout.  He was a fraud.  He was a dirty rotten cheater.
    He had to quit thinking like that!  Or he’d never get to sleep, and he and his friends had a long trip ahead of them.  He told himself, “I’ve got to think of something positive.  I’ll think of giving the gold to the baby.”
    He closed his eyes to sleep.  And to dream.
    The stable door opened and Melchior staggered inside.  There, across the straw strewn floor, was the rustic holy family.  Mary.  Joseph.  The Child.  Melchior advanced toward them, carrying his huge box of treasure.  It was SO HEAVY!
    The box seemed to have grown from the size of a shoe box to that of a coffin.  Melchior could hardly carry it!  What was going on?  As he approached the child, it dawned on him.  This box had no gold in it.  It was filled with test papers, and cast iron pots and pans, and his poor brother.  It was an entire box filled with Melchior’s shame and guilt.  What an awful thing to give a baby!  He needed to put it down.  But he couldn’t.
    Closer and closer his unwilling feet carried him to the manger, until the baby reached out a tiny, pudgy hand and took the hideous box from Melchior’s exhausted arms.  It seemed no more than a rattle to him.  The baby shook it, laughed and threw it to the corner of the stable.  All the burden was gone.!
    Then Melchior heard a voice, “Don’t go back to Herod.  Go to your brother and make this thing right between you.”
    And when he awoke, Melchior remembered his dream.

Balthazar had no trouble falling asleep.  Especially when he’d completed an objective.  Today, they found the little king of Israel.  The star led them all the way.  Watching stars came easily to Balthazar.  He never had to work too hard, or study very much.  And he made a lot of money.  Even when you spent as much as he had recently on camels and myrrh, it was still a good living.  Which was why, years ago, Balthazar decided to become an astrologer in the first place.  It had surprised a few people.  Everyone seemed to think he would become a musician.  His aunt told him, “A voice like yours is a gift!  You should sing! sing! sing!”  But rather than study music, Balthazar had opted for the security of a professional career.  Had he made the right choice?  It seemed to have woked out, but Balthazar didn’t know.
    He yawned and drifted off to sleep.  And to dream.
    The stable door opened and Balthazar slipped inside.  What was that awful sound?  WAAAAAAHHHH !  It was the baby.  Crying.  WaaaaAAAAAH!
    Balthazar looked around.  There was no one else there.  No mother.  No father.  No servant.  Nobody.  So Balthazar scooped the red-faced infant into his arms and began to walk and to sing:
    “Hush little baaby, don’t say a work. . . “  the crying slowed.
    “Papa’s gonna buy you a mockingbird . . . “  The  baby relaxed.
    “If that mockingbird don’t sing. . . “  The newborn king’s eyelids drooped and closed.
    He was sleeping in Balthazar’s arms, when Balthazar heard, “Don’t go back to Herod.  You belong in a place I will show you.”
    When he woke up, Balthazar remembered the dream.

As the three wise men packed their camels the next morning, they were strangely quiet.
Each one seemed to be in a spell cast by his cream.  As the innkeeper’s daughter passed them in the stable yard, Casper was the first to break the silence. “Friends,” he announced, “I hope you won’t mind going on without me.  The two of you can go back to Herod, can’t you?  I believe I have some business here in Bethlehem.”
    Balthazar readily agreed that Casper should stay.
Then Melchior, looking anxious, chimed in, “This is awkward because, you see, I too was hoping to be relieved from our responsibility to Herod on the trip back.  I need to return directly to my home and straighten out some business with my brother.  It is rather urgent, and I need to leave immediately.”
    Balthazar was unfazed.  “There is still no problem!  I don’t mind traveling alone!”
    The three bid one another ”God speed” and went their separate ways.  Balthazar alone traveled the road back to Herod’s Jerusalem palace.  But, before he got there, Balthazar saw an arrow shaped signpost by the side of the road:
    “Red Sea School of Music - 10 M >”
    Balthazar pulled on the reins and stopped his camel. A snippet of the dream came to his lips.  “If that mockingbird don’t sing . . .”  He sighed “Herod will simply have to understand.”
    And he turned his camel and headed down a different road.
“And having a dream - they returned by a different way.”

Having met and worshiped the Christ, what do you dream?
This New Year, will your dreams lead you in a different way?