When they [the Magi] saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshipped him. Matthew 2:10–11a
My family’s nativity scene was made of plaster of Paris (or something like it) and was unfinished when it was bought. You were supposed to paint all of the figures yourself. Being the youngest, by the time I came around, all of the figures had already been painted (and were getting a bit worse for wear). Of course, the Mary and Joseph figures were always set up staring down at the baby Jesus in the manger. (The straw in the manger was getting pretty bedraggled, also.) I can remember cows and sheep and a shepherd or two standing or kneeling outside in worshipful attitudes, but what I remember most are the Magi and their camels.
My father firmly believed that the Magi didn’t come when Jesus was a newborn, so they and their camels had to be set up far away from the crèche. I always wanted to move them closer, but that wasn’t allowed. I guess that at some point one of the camels got broken, because there were three Magi but I remember only two camels. The camels were a strange color. Maybe whoever did the painting was running low on brown by the time he/she got to the camels. And they had more than one chip in the paint where the plaster showed through.
So, when I tell you that I see myself as a camel—looking in from the outside, missing the major event, slightly chipped in places—you might say, “How sad,” but no, not really. Those camels got to travel; they persevered through who knows what hardships; they delivered the Magi safely and got them back home by a different route; they did their job and did it well. They fulfilled their purpose in life, and by doing so they participated in worshiping the Christ.
Prayer: Gracious and loving God, help us to fulfill our purpose in life—whatever that may be—and, by doing so, may we worship you by serving others. Amen.
About the Contributor
Eunice Knouse teaches biology at Spartanburg Methodist College and has been a member of FPCS since 2001. She has chaired the Bereavement Committee and currently chairs the Prayer Committee. She was involved in the start-up of SPIHN at FPC and has taught children’s Sunday School for many years.