John of Hildeshein: The Story of the The Three Kings, retold by Margaret B. Freeman
Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1955, 1978
Off By Nine Miles
You have to be careful in choosing a text
When trying to figure what God will do next;
The wise men, it seems, had Isaiah in mind,
For in chapter 60, the prophet assigned
Jerusalem as the location for light
To shine, with the glory of Yahweh so bright
The wealth of the nations around it would come!
With frankincense, camels, and gold they'd become
Disciples! From darkness, God's glory'd redound
To those who'd kept faith, and would now be renowned!
But wise can be wrong—they were off by nine miles!
The text that they needed was just not God’s style,
For Micah had said that a town, oh so small,
Would bring forth the one to be shepherd of all!
Poor Herod (the rich) also knew not this text,
And sent for the scribes of the people, perplexed
Because of the ruler his visitors sought;
Not wise, nor the powerful, ever had thought
A prophet from out in the country could know
A place such as Bethlehem ever could show
The world a new ruler who'd ever increase
The good of the world with his treasure of peace.
Scott L. Barton
(Based on Walter Brueggemann’s imagining, in The Christian Century [December 19, 2001] and in Inscribing the Text [Fortress, 2004], that the wise men were off by nine miles after picking the wrong text.)
Arise, shine; for your light has come,
and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.
For darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples;
but the Lord will arise upon you,
and his glory will appear over you.
Nations shall come to your light,
and kings to the brightness of your dawn.
Lift up your eyes and look around;
they all gather together, they come to you;
your sons shall come from far away,
and your daughters shall be carried on their nurses’ arms.
Then you shall see and be radiant;
your heart shall thrill and rejoice,
because the abundance of the sea shall be brought to you,
the wealth of the nations shall come to you.
A multitude of camels shall cover you,
the young camels of Midian and Ephah;
all those from Sheba shall come.
They shall bring gold and frankincense,
and shall proclaim the praise of the Lord.
But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah,
who are one of the little clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
one who is to rule in Israel,
whose origin is from of old, from ancient days.
Therefore he shall give them up until the time
when she who is in labor has brought forth;
then the rest of his kindred shall return
to the people of Israel.
And he shall stand and feed his flock in the strength of the Lord,
in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.
And they shall live secure, for now he shall be great
to the ends of the earth;
and he shall be the one of peace.
In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet: ‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.’” Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.”
When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. 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.