Thursday, January 06, 2011

Epiphany

Lights come up and we see three kings outside a hut. Balthazar (B), Melchior (M) and Caspar (C) have traveled far, with great expectations driving them forward. This place, the home of Joseph (J) and Mary, is not what they anticipated, not what their research and the corroborating evidence of King Herod's advisors, have led them to expect. This brief moment has all the markings of epiphany--a moment that shrouds in mystery as much as it reveals, one that burdens as much as it enlightens.

B: What travesty is this?
M: Balthazar! Keep quiet!
B: I will not. We’ve been traveling forever. And this is where we’ve been coming?
C: It does seem odd . . .
B: I’m leaving.
M: You are not leaving. You’re staying.
B: Listen to me, Melchior. It’s cold. There’s no place to sleep here. It stinks. I’m not wasting such a valuable gift on peasants. I’m going to find shelter somewhere in this backwater town and start making my way home in the morning.
C: But the star led us here. The stars don’t lie.
M: Right, Caspar! The stars don’t lie, Melchior. We’ve built our fortunes on that assumption.
B: No we didn’t. Don’t tell me you believe that. We built our fortunes on wit and will; the stars help, but they don’t dictate.
C: Oh come now, both of you. Neither the stars nor our wit had anything to do with our fortunes; our wills, maybe . . .
B: What’s that supposed to mean?
C: You inherited your wealth, didn’t you? And with it your privilege and power. Only a fool could fall from the heights we were born to, and whatever we are, we aren’t fools.
B: Hmph. Well, I won’t be made a fool by this filthy child and his filthy parents either. I’m leaving.
M: Wait! We’ve invested so much in this journey. And it’s not like the star alone guided us. We researched this. Even the king’s advisors confirmed our thesis.
C: We should think this through . . .
B: Bah. You think too much!
M: And you think too little! [a baby’s cries come from the house]
C: Quiet! You’ve woken the child.
B: Great. A crying baby. The one thing missing from this historic moment.
J: [comes out of the house] What are you doing out here?
M: Sir, we’ve come to meet the child.
J: Who sent you?
M: We followed a star in the heavens.
J: What star?
M: Well, it’s hard to make out tonight, but we’ve followed it for months, and tonight it came to rest over this stable.
J: Why should I believe you?
C: Your king sends his greetings; he confirmed our research for us.
J: The king?!?
B: Your king, sir. Your response doesn’t reflect well on your fidelity.
J: I’m sorry. Of course. May I offer you anything? We don’t have much . . .
B: Do you have any beds?
M: Balthazar! Sir, we have gifts for your child.
C: And then we’ll be on our way. The king has requested an audience once we’ve paid homage to your son.
J: Paid homage?
M: Sir, the stars suggest that your son will inherit the throne.
B: Seems bloody unlikely to me, all things considered.
J: No . . . the stars are right. But not in the way you think . . .
C: What’s this?
J: I’ve had dreams that confirm your research. Our son will be king, but he won’t sit on the throne of Herod.
C: That’s not Herod’s opinion.
J: Sirs, please don’t report us to Herod. He’ll kill our son.
B: Such impudence!
M: No, he’s right. I could tell during our audience with Herod that he was not eager to receive this newborn king.
C: And yet we agreed to report back. Our office demands we honor our commitments.
M: We committed ourselves to finding the king as well, and bestowing these gifts on him.
B: Enough. It’s cold, it stinks here, and I’m tired. Will we meet the boy or no?
J: Well, he’s awake now . . .
B: Good! It’s settled then. Let’s have a look. [enters house]
J: But . . .
C: You may as well let him go in, sir. He’s not easily stopped.
M: I doubt he’ll leave his gift. Gold is precious, and Balthazar envisioned laying it at the feet of nobility.
J: If it helps, we’re of the line of King David.
C: If it helped, you’d be in Herod’s place already, wouldn’t you?
B: [returns from the house] Well, he’s definitely a king.
M: Balthazar? What did you see in there?
B: I can’t rightly say. But that boy is special. Good sir, I apologize for my outbursts.
J: Thank you sir.
B: Please accept this gold in trust for the boy. I hope that one day the streets of his kingdom will be lined with it.
J: You’re too kind, sir.
B: Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’d like to be by myself for a while. [exits]
C: Hmmm. I’d like to see the child that changed Balthazar’s opinion so abruptly. [enters house]
M: Sir, why does the family of a king live in such humble condition?
J: Our people are under the authority of Rome, and the posturing of our leaders over time has eroded our national strength. I’m not sure it’s fair to call us a people anymore . . .
C: [returns from house] Well, we can’t go back to Herod, that’s for sure.
J: Sir?
C: The boy will be killed before he enters into his kingdom. No, we’ll serve him well by leaving Herod in the dark.
J: Bless you, sir!
C: And you, sir. Please accept this frankincense on behalf of the boy. I anticipate that he’ll be more than a mere king for your people. He has the aura of a priest—and a priest requires the elements of sacrifice.
M: I must see this boy king. [enters the house]
C: Your name, sir?
J: Joseph.
C: And I am Caspar. Take care of that boy; he has a great burden to bear, I suspect.
M: [returns from house] Well, we may as well go now.
J: Sir?
M: Oh, I’ve brought some myrrh for the boy. It’s yours if you’d like it.
J: Sir, before you leave, please, can I offer you some bread? Some wine?
M: No, I couldn’t . . .
C: But Melchior, we must.
B: [returns] May I visit the boy one more time, sir?
J: Of course. May I give you some bread? Some wine?
B: You’re too kind. One moment. [enters house]
M: What does he see in him? . . .
C: What was that, Melchior?
M: Oh, nothing. We really should be going.
J: Please, sir, I insist you take some provisions for your journey.
C: We gladly accept, sir. God bless your kindness to three strangers.
B: [returns from house] OK. Let’s be on our way. Thank you, sir, for your kindness. Be assured that Herod will hear nothing more of the boy from us.
C: Honestly, whether we do or not—and we won’t—the king undoubtedly knows of you already. Spies have followed us as we’ve followed the star.
B: What?!?
C: That’s what I would have done—and you as well, Balthazar.
B: Hmm. Yes. I’m afraid you’re no longer safe here, sir, thanks to us.
C: You’ll want to disappear, at least long enough for Herod to give up hope.
B: I’d stay away till he’s dead. Kings have long memories when they’re threatened.
M: Hmmm. Well, we must be going.
J: Sir—your bread, your wine?
M: Yes, of course. Many thanks. [M exits]
J: Oh, the baby is crying again. Please excuse me—blessings on your journey. [J bows and returns to the house]
C: Well, I don’t think he sees what we saw in the boy, but Melchior has certainly changed his opinion since we’ve been here.
B: As have we all, it seems. I look forward to your thoughts on how such a king can occupy such a lowly throne as this.
C: It strikes me that it’s not so much a question of how, but of what we learn of this world, in which such a king can occupy such a throne.
B: Yes, we have much to unlearn. [B & C exit]

No comments: