Story: I Want More Light

January 8, 2023

Isaiah 60:1-6
Matthew 2:1-12

“More light,” grumbled the camel. “I want more light.”

Camels are not naturally night animals. If I lived in the desert I would be a night animal, but camels can tolerate the desert sun in ways that I can’t. They like the day, and their favorite way to spend the day is with eating.

After all the Christmas celebrating we’ve done, that might feel a little familiar.

This camel was grumpy because, first of all, he was a burdened beast. On his arched back he carried a saddle sometimes, and a load of goods on others. There was one set of bags he really dreaded. It was heavy and sometimes it clinked in a really annoying way. He preferred carrying one of these stargazers to that one.

“It’s as heavy as lead,” he’d say.

“I think it’s gold,” said another camel.

“It’s as heavy as lead,” he’d repeat, which is basically true, after all.

He didn’t complain quite as much about the other two loads, which were both lighter and smelled nice.

Second of all, the camel was grumpy because it had become a very long trip. Long trips aren’t unusual in the life of a camel, but that doesn’t mean they like them. This one didn’t like them.

“Will it never end?” he said.

“I think we’re almost there,” soothed another camel.

“Will it never end?” he’d repeat.

Third of all, the camel was grumpy because they were travelling at night. Camels aren’t night animals. This camel wasn’t a night animal. This camel was increasingly cross.

“More light,” he grumbled. “I want more light.”

“I think they’re following that star,” said another camel.

“Stupid stargazers,” said the camel. “I want more light.”

I think you can probably guess who those star-followers were, and where they went, and who they saw, and what gifts they gave that family. Here’s a hint: it wasn’t lead. It was gold.

When they left, the camel was in a much better mood. For one thing, it looked like they were taking a different, hopefully shorter route back. For another, the three loads were gone, so there wasn’t as much to carry. For another, they were finally back to sensible travel by day.

And finally, something had happened when that camel had, drawn by some unlikely curiosity, stuck his nose through a window and seen a baby receiving those things he’d carried across the miles. The gold and frankincense and myrrh didn’t seem like great playthings for an infant, but they seemed really important for a family that was obviously poor and seemed to be worried about trouble. And the child himself, well: the camel felt, just for an instant, like he had made a world of difference, and that he could do so again.

“More light,” he said as he took each step on the way home. “I think I’ve seen more light.”

by Eric Anderson

Watch the Recorded Story

In the recording, I’m telling the story from memory of the prepared text above. Between memory and improvisation, there’s a lot differences between them.

The image is Journey of the Magi by James Tissot – Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=45592253. Regrettably, the artist set the painting in daylight.

Epiphany 2023

So when at times the mob is swayed
To carry praise or blame too far,
We may choose something like a star
To stay our minds on and be staid.

Robert Frost, from “Choose Something Like a Star”

Side by side they march across my media screens:
the images of travellers who, bearing gifts,
will praise an infant in all ignorance
of how his royalty will manifest, and

The images of violence incited by repeated lies,
of broken windows, hangman’s noose, Christian symbols
raised in blasphemous approval
of both praise and blame that went too far.

On this Epiphany I pray for an epiphany,
for light to penetrate the hearts lost in the shadows,
for wisdom to once more display itself in giving,
for a jealous would-be ruler to, for once, step down.

While power battles power still (if with less flash grenades
and tear gas clouds), I’ll turn in prayer to One
who manifested perfect power in its weakness:
a radiant love that flickered like a star.

Photo by Eric Anderson

Epiphany 2022

“When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him…” – Matthew 2:3

One year since some deluded,
some deluding, some misinformed,
some misanthropic stormed
the halls of Congress, to retain
a would-be Herod on his throne,

Revealing in an afternoon of rage
the violence they credited to others,
the hollowness of civic virtues
claimed, the eagerness to claim
the lie as truth, to curse the truth.

The rising of tide of wrath withdrew
as evening – came in face of force –
so legislators came once more to count
the votes, and as they did, the injured
sought relief, the grieving comfort.

King Herod missed his mark. The child
he sought escaped, though wailing rose
in Ramah where Rachel wept uncomforted.
His rising tide of wrath withdrew
though unfulfilled, without success.

Would Herod be assured to know his work
was finished near Jerusalem’s height
by Pontius Pilate after thirty years
had passed? Did his corpse-teeth grin
to hear the soft moan, “It is finished”?

Is our Epiphany to be
that Herods rise, and Pilates rise,
as tides of poison circling the globe?
Oh, might see once more the One beset
by violence, who died, indeed – and rose.

A poem/prayer based on Matthew 2:1-12, the Revised Common Lectionary Gospel Reading for Year C, Epiphany of the Lord.

Photo by Eric Anderson.

Star-Creator

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” – John 1:1

“For we observed his star at its rising…” – Matthew 2:2

Star-Creator discovered beneath a star,
Planet-Former found over the curve of Earth,
Human-Shaper nurtured in the womb of Mary,
All-Embracer wrapped in mother’s tears:

Shine upon us.

Monarch-Ruler fleeing from a king,
Word-Incarnate lacking human speech,
Life-Light needing one to testify,
All-Knowing yet unknown:

Shine upon us.

Spirit-Eternal in human flesh,
Glory-Unbounded with a weary face,
Life-Everlasting corpse upon a cross,
Love-Transcendent unrecognized in a garden:

Shine upon us.

A poem/prayer based on John 1:1-18, the Revised Common Lectionary Gospel Reading for Year C, Second Sunday after Christmas, and Matthew 2:1-12, the RCL Gospel Reading for Epiphany.

Photo by Eric Anderson.