the visitors


“Gold, as to a king; myrrh, as to one who was mortal; and incense, as to a God.”

They sat in the front room, silent.
“A star, you said?”
“Yes,” replied one of them, speaking for the group.
“Hmm,” she replied. She nodded and looked over at Joseph, who smiled. She looked at their robes, the stitching and texture of the fabrics. “I’m sorry we don’t have more than the bread to serve.”
The one who spoke for the group shook his head. “Please,” he said, “there’s no need to apologize.”
There was a pause. They searched for questions. “Does he sleep well?” Asked the first.
“For a young child, yes. He has nights, as children do. He is learning to sleep.”
“Of course, yes.” 

A second visitor nodded, then leaned forward toward the mother and father. “And it was…it was a manger? In a stable?”
She nodded. “There was no room elsewhere.”
“Was it cold?”
“Yes — but Joseph brought blankets. We were warm enough.”
“Was it painful?”
“Yes — but all births are painful.”
“Do you remember it? The birth?”

Mary looked at the visitor. She looked again at his ornate clothes, his formality and posture. “I remember the taste of the tears I shed during the birth, and I remember the steam from the blood, and I remember his voice — like laughter, also — the cattle, and he.” She thought back to the moment, and she grinned. “I thought his voice would split me and the ceiling of the stable in two.”

After a moment, the third visitor interjected. “Were you afraid?”
Mary looked over at Joseph. “At times, yes.”
“What changed your minds?”
“An angel appeared to both of us and told us not to be afraid.”
“And that was all?”
Mary again looked over at Joseph, who spoke to the third visitor. “It was an angel; a messenger. It was an issue of whether or not to trust the one who sent the message.”
The visitor nodded and thought about the angel. 
Mary studied his face. “Do you have children?”
“No,” said the third visitor.
“You?” She asked the first.
“You?” She asked the second.
“Did any of you ever wish to have children?”
The first and second visitors shook their heads. The third, after pausing to reflect, spoke. “Yes.”
Mary turned her eyes toward him, and the third visitor continued. “I feel like I’ve been faithful to a calling — I feel — I feel peace about what I’ve done, and on most evenings, I sleep well because of it.”
“And the other nights?”

The third visitor managed a weak smile. “On those nights, I remember when I was a child, and I remember my own father, my mother — and I feel like there’s an empty room inside my heart — I can’t always see the details of the room — the shape or if anyone’s inside, but it always seems to take the shape of a child. It is a child’s room — a child-shaped room.”

Mary’s eyes welled with tears. She opened her mouth to speak — but then stopped. Her focus turned toward the other room. She heard something.
“Is everything alright?” Asked the third visitor.
Mary smiled. She turned back to him. “I think he’s awake. Would you like to meet him?”

And now it was the visitor’s turn to cry. Tears in his eyes, he smiled.
“Yes,” he said. “I would.”