Friday, January 11, 2013

Ehlmud and the wise kings

Once there was a little boy called Ehlmud. He was the servant of a powerful king in the East called Melchior. Not only was the king rich, he was wise, and a great scholar. He was so wise that the people of his time had a special name for him: Magus. In all the world there were only two other kings as wise and powerful as he and those who knew of them called them the Magi.

One day Melchior said to Ehlmud:

'Soon I must go on a long journey. For many years there have been prophesies that a great king is coming into the world sent by the One True God to bring light and hope to all men. I am sure that the time is near. And so I must go and talk with the other Magi about when this will be and where this will happen. If the prophets were right, a bright star will be the final sign we must look for.'

As it happened, late that very afternoon King Melchior had an unexpected visitor: King Caspar, one of the other wise kings. He also believed it was time for the great king that the prophets had spoken about for hundreds of years to be born.

'That you should come to speak with me about this on the very day I was planning to come to you can mean only one thing: the time for the Great King to come must be even sooner than I thought,' said King Melchior.
'It is very wise of you to think that,' said King Caspar. As they were speaking, another unexpected guest arrived. It was the third Magus, King Balthazar. He had come for the very same reason as King Caspar.

'That all three of us should come together like this without any planning must mean that the Great King will arrive any minute,' said King Melchior.
'How wise you are to say that,' said King Balthazar.

While the Magi were talking wisely among themselves, little Ehlmud was standing by the window. It was dark by now and the sky was clear. Suddenly it seemed to grow bright. Ehlmud looked out and saw that the light was coming from the sky. One of the stars had began to shine more brightly than all the others. Remembering what his master had said about such a star, he called to him:

'Your majesty, look! A star so bright that it almost makes the night like the day!'

The three kings rushed to the window.

'The last sign! There it is! There is no doubt now that the Great King has come! We must go and worship him!' cried Caspar.
'But where shall we go?' asked Balthazar.
'The star points to Israel,' said Melchior, 'so that is where we shall go. When we get to Jerusalem, I am sure that their scribes and priests will be able to tell us the exact spot.' 
'How wise you are,' said Caspar and Balthazar.
'And you, little Ehlmud,' said Melchior. 'It was you who first saw the star. So you shall come with us and worship also the King that God has sent us all.' 

Little Ehlmud was exited to be going. But as the days and weeks wore on, his excitement lessened  Sitting on a camel all day wasn't much fun. And sleeping on the ground at night wasn't as comfortable as his warm little bed in the palace. But at last they reached the great city of Jerusalem. It had high walls and great towers and a massive temple to the Lord God that was bigger than most of the towns they had passed through on the way. All the city was amazed to hear of the arrival of the Magi. In fact, they were a little scared. What could it possibly mean to have these three wise men arrive together in their city, suddenly and unannounced?

King Herod seemed especially troubled.

'A King, born in my kingdom,' he said. He frowned darkly, but he quickly hid his anger. He called for the all the clever men of his kingdom and asked them if they knew anything about a king and where he might be found.

'Well,' they said. 'Our prophets have always spoken of a Messiah, a great king sent by God. Perhaps this is whom the Magi mean.'
'And where is he to be born?' Herod nearly shouted. 
'In Bethlehem, in Judea,' they told him. 

So Herod gave the Magi directions. And as they were leaving he said to them: 

'When you have found this king, I would be grateful if you would stop by again on you way home and tell me where he is. I would like to go and worship him too.'

He smiled pleasantly as he said it. But Ehlmud looked back as they were going and saw that Herod's face was twisted with anger and hate. It scared him.

'Your majesty,' he whispered to Melchior. 'I do not trust that man.' Melchior smiled.
'Sometimes I think it is you who are wise, little Ehlmud,' he said. 'But do not fear. What can a man do to harm the one sent by God?' 

As they left Jerusalem, suddenly the bright star was in the sky again, showing them the way. The followed it to a small town, and in the town to a small house. Knocking, they were shown into a tiny courtyard, and there, sleeping, was a child, his mother and father kneeling at his side. At once the three kings knelt also before the child and took rich gifts from their treasure chests: gold, frankincense, and myrrh – gifts that one would give a king.

'I do not understand,' Ehlmud said to his master. 'Why are we in this poor little house. Where is the Great King, sent by the one true God? Why do you kneel before a child lying on straw?'

'We are where God has led us,' said Melchior. 'And God's ways are not the ways of men. If God has chosen to send the Great King into the world into a poor and humble home, it is not for us to question that.'

Poor Ehlmud still didn't understand. Suddenly inside him something changed. Looking at the baby his heart seemed to fill with love. Without being able to explain it, he felt he was near not just a great person, or a great king, but in the presence of God himself. Slowly he sank to his knees next to Melchior and silently began to worship the child. 

But it was late and he was tired and as he knelt with the three wise men by the side of the child king he fell asleep, his head leaning on the arm of his master. Suddenly, he awoke with a cry.

'What is it Ehlmud,' said Melchior.
'Oh, your majesty, I had such a frightening dream. I saw the child lying before us, only now he shone with heavenly light, and he wore royal robes and a crown. Suddenly, King Herod was here. He pushed his way through us to the child-king. He raised his arm and I saw in it a huge sword. He wanted to kill the king! But before he could strike, I awoke.' 

The three kings heard Ehlmud's story in silence. Then Melchior spoke:

'Your dream is a message from God. He is warning us that Herod is a danger to the child and wants to kill him. Herod lied to us when he said he wanted to worship the great king. We must not go back to Jerusalem.'
'How wise you are,' said Caspar and Balthazar. 
'No,' he said. 'It is Ehlmud who is wise. It was he who saw the star. It was he who warned us not to trust Herod. And it was he who had the dream which told us the truth about Herod.' 

And so they returned home by a different road. Wise little Ehlmud grew into an even wiser man. Melchior, seeing his wisdom, adopted him as his son and Ehlmud many years later became a wise king himself, a Magus known far and wide for his wealth power and geat learning. But he always thought of the great king he had seen as a child and thanked the One True God in his prayers every night for sending him into the world to bring light and hope to all to all people throughout the world. 

 ©  Fr Levi 2013 (all rights reserved)

I had to talk with the 'smallies' in school today about the Epiphany and I thought a story might be a better way to go than a deep theological discussion. Ironically, when the big kids heard I had a story in my pocket they wanted to hear it too ... so I ended up telling the story in every classroom! Still, they seemed to enjoy it ... I hope you did too!

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