18. Flying to Christmas

I must admit that I wasn't very disappointed that Santa Claus rejected my offer to help him, nor was I sorry to leave the North Pole. Of the many kinds of matter that I have been exposed to on this planet, snow is my least favorite. It confuses me the way it can change shape and melts. It comes and goes, and when it falls from the sky, I can hardly fly. Of all the things I have come to accept about matter, I like its stability best; then there is snow to confound that!

Flying south through a snowstorm, I headed to Bethlehem for the birth day of God as human. Before I met Jesus I thought God's incarnation-project was thoroughly ludicrous. Yet, Jesus makes God appear more friendly and personal, which was shocking at first, but I am getting use to it. Actually, Jesus has also helped me to accept the concept of humanity. These strange beings are shaped like creatures but have the hearts and minds of God. Only God could come up with something as clever and amazing as combining Himself with the characteristics of an animal.

That concept, when He made Adam and Eve in His image and likeness was fantastic enough, but to place His very own genes in a human woman, for God to become born of humankind, is light-years beyond amazing. No words can describe such condescension. Could the sun be concentrated into a pinhead? Could Empress Catherine scrub bathrooms? It is no wonder at all that the Jews have thought Jesus was a blasphemy. I would agree with them if I hadn't known God to be just this creative.

I'll wager that being at the scene of Christ's birth will be as thrilling as sitting on a shooting star. I must make sure that I arrive on time.

Traveling down the spiral of time and around the planet simultaneously takes skill that I still haven't mastered. In fact, these currents are a little too choppy for me, whoa! Look! there is a flock of angels.

"Who are you? And where are you going?" I sent telepathically as they came in range.

The lead angel said, "We are going to attend the conception of the Virgin Mary, wanna join us?"

I replied, "Frankly that sounds a little awkward. Don't you think Joachim and Anna want some privacy? I am not going, but thanks for asking; bye!"

After the angels zipped past me, I managed to hop on a current of air and surfed it across half the Atlantic Ocean, and from 2013 AD Nova Scotia to Gaul in 110 AD. I was having so much fun that I nearly forgot about my mission and my deadlines and flew in circles and then through my circles until the sky became very dark and ominous.

You already know how much I love the darkness. This particular night was pitch black. I settled down to get back on track and adjusted my sonar to locate the manger in Bethlehem 0 AD. I was actually having a little trouble, wondering how I would find the right barn when I looked up to notice an extraordinarily bright, but lonely star. As I was gazing on its brightness I noticed that the star was careening straight towards me!

Angels don't get scared. We have nothing to be afraid of; we aren't afraid of poverty or accidents, we can't get sick or be killed. Life is pretty safe for us. The only thing that matters for us is whether we are angels of God, or those fallen demon angels that are always making trouble.

As I said, angels don't get scared, so as that star came closer, my feelings startled me even more than the ball itself. I couldn't tell if it was going to enter into me or just point the way to Bethlehem. As I look back, I suppose confusion was the source of my fear. This startling situation reawakened me to my mission. I realized that my fun flying had been something of a respite, but also a distraction. I tried to calm down by flying slower, hoping that perhaps my imaginings were in vain and that the star would pass me.

Just as I was preparing myself to succumb to destruction by starlight, suddenly, behind the star there appeared my old friend Gabriel.

"Gabriel, what are you doing! You nearly frightened my wings off!" I exclaimed. "What are you doing with that star?"

"This is not a star, it is more than that. Come with me, I will take you to Bethlehem and show you what this light can do. Besides, I need your help."

With that Gabriel careened ahead of me, and I took off to keep up with him and his super-light.

Our flight was just long enough to give me time to recover from fear. It was a bonus to not have to navigate.

"Look," said Gabriel, "See those men over there," pointing to four very well dressed distinguished looking bearded men deeply immersed in conversation. "Join them and get them to follow this light. Tell them that a great king of the Jews will be born; tell them that you saw his star in the sky."

Being relatively new to earth and humans, I hadn't yet learned how to work with them. As you know I am no guardian angel. Being thrust into this moment was both an honor and a threat. I was accustomed to communicating telepathically with other angels, but angels are receptive, humans seems so oblivious.

I wafted myself near the group of men and looked up at Gabriel for approval and directions.

"Good, now simply say what you want them to think. They will pick it up telepathically. Watch this:"

"Look at that star Balthazar! I have never seen a star so low and so bright, what could it mean?"

Balthazar, a learned astrologer, well trained and experienced was perplexed.

Melchior the elder, a theologian and philosopher said, "What an amazing coincidence. At the last quarter moon I found myself in the presence of the Hebrew scripture. It appears from my reading that a king of the Jews will be born; let us go to Jerusalem to find Him and pay homage to him."

"Let's take him gifts." chimed in Gaspar.

"What should we give to this Jewish king?" added Faisal.

"I have some gold!" Gaspar offered.

"Perfect. What else? Melchior," Balthazar added, "what can you bring?"

"I have a small jar of myrrh. It is very precious, made by my grandfather. I will bring that to the king." Melchior felt proud that he had something of great value to offer.

"Yes, the oil of anointing. Good, bring it."

"Now for me, what can I bring? I know! Frankincense! Gold, frankincense and myrrh, it has a nice ring to it, doesn't it?"

"And you Faisal, what will you offer?"

Faisal looked sullen. "I can't go, my wives would have fits, and there are the twenty children to discipline. You go on without me. I will pray for your safe journey."

Enthused by the thought of a long journey to meet a newborn king, Balthazar was anxious to get started. "Okay, let's get ready. There is no time to waste, we don't know how long the star will wait for us. Faisal, you can be of great help. Here is a bell, if the star moves, follow it. We will go to say good bye to our families and pack for the journey. Keep ringing the bell as loud as you can. When we return, we will find you. Then you may go home to your wives and small army."

As the wise men were dispersing, I looked up at Gabriel and smiled. "That was very impressive Gabe, now what exactly did you need me to do?"

19. Three Wise Fools and Me

Gabriel confessed. "I'm sorry, I got carried away. I do have a job for you, a very important one. I need you to take this star to the manger for me. You will lead the magi while I go on ahead. Don't go too fast, especially while Faisal is following you and the men are packing."

"Gabriel, uh...where is this manger?" I replied.

"Go to 31.704274° N, and 35.207330° E , you can't miss it." With that Gabriel tossed me the star-like object and flew off as if leaving me with the children. I didn't even have a chance to say good bye or to complain.

I hovered there awkwardly holding the star and scouring the horizon in vain for Gabriel. Then I looked down at Faisal staring up at my star. Of all the craziness I have experienced on this planet, this moment could win the award for the most absurd.

I wondered how Gabriel found these Persians and managed to convince them to go on such a long and dangerous journey, and why?

Why would they want to pay homage to an infant so far away? What good could a baby do for them? He isn't ever going to reign over them. These Persians are barbarians who have nothing in common with Jews. How in the world did Gabriel convince them to leave home and family and friends to subject themselves to another kingdom?

I wondered what they will think when they find out that I am taking them to a barn. I wonder if they will still turn over their gifts. Then it occurred to me that possibly these men make a habit of going around the world worshipping every poor sop they think will be a king some day. How could anyone call these Wise Men? They are more like fools. Then I came to my senses.

Perhaps I was the fool. Haven't I learned by now to let God do whatever deranged thing He wants to do, and wait to watch it become absolutely brilliant.

I woke up from my daydream to look down and see Faisal still staring up at my star with his mouth wide open. I thought I should try to get him out of his trance so I moved ever so slowly southwest. Sure enough, he moved with me! Then I decided to have a little fun and went east for a mile and then west, then back toward where we began. hahaha. This could be entertaining, except that listening to his loud bell ringing began to grate on me. So I stopped teasing him.

Finally Balthazar showed up. Faisal quickly handed over the bell, and bid him fare well explaining that the wives would worry about him being gone so long.

Soon after, Gaspar, then Melchior found Balthazar ringing the bell. Typically, on long journeys such as this one, I had seen servants form a traveling entourage, but with not this group. These three men were on their own, bringing nothing but their camels and a few satchels.

Being as anxious to arrive as they were, I calculated the shortest route and headed straight there. Having to go so slow was maddening. But it explained why The Lord allowed me to have my fling the other day. This slow and steady march to Bethlehem was unusually quiet. Balthazar, Gaspar and Melchior, simply headed wherever the star and I lead them.

Remembering that humans must eat and sleep, they stopped from time to time and I stopped too. For the first few days, they took turns sleeping while their camels walked and another held the lead. I taught them that I would stop for 6 hours every night. That was maddening too. How I wanted to take a break as well and fly my somersaults, but I didn't know where to put my star, and didn't want to create a frightening light show. Soon, the three kings learned that the star would let them sleep. How I wish I could have swooped them up and flown them to Bethlehem.

One day I overheard them talking, "Balthazar," said Melchior "how does your astrology tell you that the star is taking us to an infant king?"

"It doesn't!" replied Balthazar indignantly. "Stars don't tell you who is born, but from the hour when man is born what will befall him."

"I thought this was your idea. How did we come to this?"

Gaspar chimed in. "Be still, my friends. Haven't you noticed, that this is not a star anyway? Stars don't shine during the day, and we can see it clearly, day and night. When we move, it moves and when we stop, it stops. My friends, Ahura Masda, our god of truth and light spoke to me in a dream; he is guiding us and we will soon see our reward."

Silence followed for quite some time as the men walked and rode their camels and as I, carrying the star, moved ever so slowly across plains and over the mountains. I felt so sorry for the men and animals. It was such a difficult journey and their food was sparse. I wondered what kind of determination would drive these men to continue their struggle. Then I looked at my star. It glowed even brighter in the daylight than in the night, with such a warm and alluring light, that I imagined it calling them to follow and to endure.

After what seemed to me to be centuries later, we arrived in Jerusalem where I spotted Gabriel.

He saw us and with great cheer in his voice said, "Welcome! You made it! Congratulations, I wasn't sure you would. How was the journey?"

It really is too bad that one can't slug an angel. Well, you can try but it won't do any good. It would go right through him. The first thing I did though was to toss the star to him.

He caught it easily and said, "Let's go, I have a reward for you!"

"What!!!" I replied. "We aren't even in Bethlehem yet! This is Jerusalem."

"Yes, yes I know that." answered Gabriel who blew on the star and extinguished it! "Let's leave these men for a while. I have assigned another angel to take them to King Herod, to rouse him up against the infant Jesus. Don't worry, it's all part of the plan."

Angels don't cry either. But I never wanted more to be able to do so. After that long, grueling and dusty journey, to suddenly be called away....in order to jeopardize the life of my soon to be born Lord-God was the most flabbergasting thing I could imagine.

Angels know this. Hierarchy establishes order, and obedience is the first rule of hierarchy. I know that. I also know that if I am patient and trust God, every confusing thing will become clear. So with all my emotional strength I took a few flying flings through the air and returned to Gabriel who waited for me. Before leaving, I looked down at my men fondly. This was the first time I had ever come close to being a guardian angel. I would miss them.

"Stop fretting, you'll be back. Come on, let's go. There's no time to waste! Christ is about to be born and I have one more assignment for you! In a brief moment of disobedience, I returned to my men and wafted my way through them, hoping to bless them with the wisdom they would surely need when they meet Herod.

"Gabriel, please tell me why I had to bring these men all the way from Persia to Jerusalem. It was such a grueling journey for all of us. I think I deserve to know."

Gabriel responded compassionately, "You are right, I will tell you. The Jews, are a bull headed rebellious people who rarely believe their own prophets. Why God cherishes them so I will never understand, but He clearly does. For the same reason that they killed their prophets and from time to time went off worshipping idols, God knows they would never believe the Christ Child, their Messiah, is born in a manger.

For this momentous occasion God is bringing people from outside of the tribes of His beloved Israel to testify to the birth of the Messiah. From His very birth Christ is calling Gentiles to worship the one true God.This is the reason my angelic friend. Now that doesn't seem so foolish does it? God made His point clear and universal by bringing in the unfamiliar, ignorant barbarians to be wiser than His own chosen people. He will always confound the wise, because He is infinitely smarter than they. Just as the sun comes from the east to illuminate the world, so God brought the wise men from the east to bring Holy Wisdom to His people, Israel. Those who have ears will hear, and those who have eyes will see."

See! God did it again!!!!! He made me, the most cynical angel this side of the great divide, feel foolish. I wonder what the reward is that Gabriel said he has for me.

Taken from Homilies on Matthew, by Saint John Chrysostom. Erdemens Press.