three French hens…one for each gift given to the Christ child…
GIFTS FIT FOR A KING
“It’s the thought that counts…His.”
…and so the three kings traveled, far across the desert, in search of a king…no, THE King. Following the star in the east they made their way to Jerusalem. Not fooled by evil King Herod’s desire to “meet” the newborn King, they continued onward, following the star to the small city of Bethlehem.
Their names are written in legend: Melchior, Caspar, and Balthasar; the gifts they brought with them – etched by inspired pen. What is not told, however, until now, is their encounter at the inn of Bethlehem, which led them to the manger.
Naturally they visited the inn first, just as Mary and Joseph had done. When told there was no vacancy, the trio assumed somewhere amongst the rooms was a mother giving birth to a King.
They knocked on each of the doors, immediately offering an assortment of “sorrys,” “our apologies,” and “have you heard of the new birth?” but none of the residents were any help. They came to the last door of the inn, knocking twice.
A single occupant opened the door, dressed in what looked to be a bath robe. “Yes?” He said with a voice much deeper than his thin stature would indicate.
“We are looking for the newborn king.” Melchior said, his enthusiasm dwindled as he spoke the same sentence he had recited for the past hour.
“We have come offering gifts.” Caspar added, with the same lack of gusto.
“Is He here? May we see Him?” Balthasar said, peeking over the resident’s shoulder.
“I’m sorry He is not here.” The robed-man replied, fighting back a smile as though he were in on some inside joke.
“Do you know where He is?” Caspar asked, just as he had to no avail so many times before.
The trio was already turning away from the door, sure of the negative reply, when the robed man stopped them. “As a matter of fact, yes.”
“Could you tell us?!” They all said at once.
The man thought to himself for a moment before looking the trio over. “Your shoes.” He finally said.
“What of them?” Balthasar asked.
“You should remove them. As you’re soon to approach holy ground.”
“Then He is born!” Melchior said, widening his eyes.
“Indeed. He was born in a simple manger not far from here.”
“Please, take us to him.” Caspar asked.
The robed-man held up a hand, cutting him off. “You wish to approach not just a king, not just the Savior of the world, but a newborn, sleeping baby. Please show gentleness when approaching.”
“Of course, of course.” Balthasar said.
“We’ve brought gifts, in fact.” Melchior held up the large sack they had been sharing.
“To honor He who is born.” Melchior said, unable to contain his anxiety.
“What gifts do you bring a Person such as this?” The man asked.
Melchior reached into the bag, fiddled around, and finally pulled out a cup, formed from solid-gold. “I bring gold.” He said, proudly. The other two, however, scoffed.
“Gold?” Caspar said. “What would a little baby need with gold?” He shook his head at his partner’s foolishness, and reached himself into the bag, pulling out a small glass bottle. A liquid of purplish hue sloshed therein. “I bring him a spice: frankincense.”
“Frank—frankincense?!” Balthasar snorted. “All this time you’ve been bragging about your great gift, and you bring perfume?! What will a boy need with perfume!”
“Well what did you bring?!” Caspar asked, his pride wounded.
Balthasar dug into the bag, and pulled out a small cloth sack, tied with a ribbon to hold in its contents. “I bring him Myrrh.” Unlike the others, Balthasar felt self-conscious about his gift, feeling it to be the most inferior of them all. True to his suspicions, the other two broke out into laughter. The robed-man, meanwhile, continued silently observing.
“You’re joking!” Melchior said.
“You didn’t bring Him that?” Caspar chortled, leaning on Melchior to keep himself upright.
“This was all I could find.” Balthasar said, defensively.
“Honestly, Balthasar,” Melchior said, shaking his head. “Don’t you ever think?”
“That stuff is used for embalming the dead.” Caspar said.
“He was just born;” said Melchior, tag-teaming against him. “not just died.”
“You will disrespect Him with a gift such as that.” Caspar said with finality.
“No.” The robed man interjected. The trio turned to him, as he began to glow with a heavenly radiance. “Your gifts are wonderful.” He looked to the golden cup. “Gold: The symbol of royalty; ideal for a King.” The angel looked at the perfume bottle. “Frankincense: used in sacrifices. Fitting, since the new arrival is to be a Priest as well as a King.”
The two looked proudly at their gifts, and then turned their gaze scornfully to Balthasar. “And what of my gift?” He said, dejected.
“Oh Balthasar.” The angel said, comfortingly. “While Gold symbolizes His royalty, he will have no need of it. His Kingdom is not of this world. And the incense, while perfect for a priest of Moses’ Law, will be rendered obsolete after He completes His work in doing away with that Law.”
“But what use could He have for an embalming spice?” Caspar shot out.
“What a wasted gift.” Melchior reiterated.
“No.” The angel said, a faint look of sadness creeping across his face. “Actually, it is the perfect gift.”