Listen to the story of the Wise Men. Have you seen the stars shining in the night? Some are little twinkling ones, and others big and bright. In the far East there were many wise men, who spent most of the night watching the stars. One night three of these watchers stood in a garden gazing at the sky. They were dressed in white woolen cloaks and white pointed caps. They were not studying the old stars that night. They were watching for a new star, for they had read that a new star would arise in the East to show the world that Christ, the promised King, was born. Every night for months they stood in the dark garden watching and waiting. They be gan to wonder if they ever would see the new star, when suddenly they clasped their hands in joy, for there in the sky a strange star had suddenly appeared, small, but of a wonderful brightness. Larger and larger it grew, sparkling and flashing through the night, until the light from that one golden star filled the whole world. "It is the star," cried the Wise Men, "the Saviour's star, the King so long foretold!" The star moved across the sky a space, stopped a moment, as if waiting for them to follow, and then very slowly it went westward.
Outside the gate of the garden stood three camels laden with many bags, as if ready for a journey. The Wise Men mounted the animals and over the desert they hurried, in the path made bright by the new star. All night long they traveled, and many days and nights, over the dry sands, hardly stopping to eat or to sleep. At last the desert was crossed and they reached a country where there were many green fields. Over the white roads they hurried, the star leading them, up a steep hill to the little town of Bethlehem. The camels walked one by one through the dark, narrow streets. Then the star began to move more slowly, and the Wise Men wondered if it would lead them to one of the great palaces. But no; it passed over them, then suddenly stopped over a very lowly little hut. The camels knelt before the door, and the Wise Men lighted to the ground. The door opened, and what did they see inside? A beautiful woman, Mary, with the lovely Baby, the little Lord Jesus, asleep in her lap. The Wise Men fell on their knees before Him and worshiped Him. Then they opened the bags the camels had carried. These bags were full of gold and sweet perfumes, and they laid them at the Infant's feet. They had brought the Lord Jesus their most precious
treasures. Then, filled with happiness, they quickly rode away. But all their lives they never forgot what they had seen, the little Child Jesus Christ, who came into the world to make them and all others of good will happy and good.
Why were these gifts the Wise Men brought so pleasing to the Lord? Gold, frankincense and myrrh, the gifts of their devotion, signify the liveliness of their faith, the firmness of their hope, and the fervor of their charity. This is what made their gifts so pleasing to God. Faith, hope and charity are the first and most necessary virtues, because they bring us most closely to God. These three virtues are the foundation of all other virtues, and it may well be said that no one can be saved unless he makes frequent acts of faith, hope and charity.
It was the holy season of Epiphany when the Christ-child was first shown to the Gentiles. Among the many who went to church that day was a little boy who loved no place so well as the House of God, with its "dim religious light," its fair white columns and its solemn music. He was a very quiet little boy, and thoughtful beyond his years. Often he would go into church alone, when there was no service, and kneel down and think and pray. It seemed to him that when the light streamed through the stained-glass windows and fell upon his prayer-book, he could see the sky open and catch a glimpse of that wondrous city of which St. John speaks in the Bible. It seemed, too, that some times the pictured saints and angels in the window would smile upon him, as though they were pleased to see a little boy in church. But there was one window at which the little boy never tired of looking. It showed the Wise Men offering their gifts to the Child, Christ Jesus. Whenever he looked at this picture there was always one thought in his mind: "Oh, that I might see Jesus, and that I might give Him an offering! "The child was always saying to himself : "If I could only see Jesus and take Him a gift! "One day when he had heard the wondrous story of Epiphany over again, the little boy remained in church, lost in thought. He fancied that the organ was being played very soft and low, as though an angel's fingers were touching the keys, and as he gazed on his favored window the figures seemed to live and move. He saw a very brilliant star, like a comet, shining down from the sky and making all the picture bright. The scene was a rude stable, and the oxen and the other animals were standing there. The animals seemed to bow their heads before the little Babe, wrapped in swaddling clothes. At first the boy could not see the face of the Babe, but he observed that she who held Him in her arms was most beautiful. As the stream of light became brighter the little boy could see the features of the Babe, and he thought that they smiled lovingly upon Him. After awhile the boy saw three strangers kneeling before the Mother and her Babe, and he knew that they must be the Wise Men who came to worship Jesus. As he watched the wonderful scene the child saw the Wise Men open their stores of treasure and the first, kneeling very humbly, presented his offering of gold to the Holy Babe. Then the second Wise Man drew near and held in his hand a silver dish, from which rose a sweet-smelling vapor, and the boy knew that it was frankincense. Then the third Wise Man approached the crib and offered something wrapped in a fine linen cloth; at this the boy noticed the face of the Holy Babe and His Mother grew sad, and he remembered that this was the gift of myrrh. By and by the scene faded away, and the boy saw only the stained-glass window as before. But now the longing to see Jesus came upon him stronger than ever, and as he knelt he prayed most earnestly: "O Jesus, let me see Thee, and give Thee an offering!" Some one seemed to whisper in his ear, " In as much as you have done it to the least of these, my brethren, ye have done it unto Me."
"When the boy went home his mother gave him a ripe, rosy apple, and the boy was delighted with the fruit. Just as he was going to eat it, he thought of a boy friend, a poor sick lad, who lived in a back street in the town. He hastened to the poor lad's bedside and gave him the apple of which he thought so much. The apple was all he had to give, but it brought comfort to the parched lips of the dying lad.
On his next visit to the church he seemed to see once more the vision in the stained-glass window. And, to his surprise, he saw an apple of pure gold among the gifts that lay at the feet of Jesus. And so the good boy learned how he could offer gold to Jesus by doing good to His poor people. But still he wondered how he could offer frankincense and myrrh. That night in a dream he thought an angel came to him, bearing a silver censer in his hand. And as he swung the censer to and fro there went up a cloud of sweet incense. And the angel smiled upon the child and said:
"These are the prayers of all holy children who pray to Jesus, and your prayers of today are among them." Then the little boy was very happy, for he knew that he had offered two gifts to Jesus, gold and frankincense.
Soon the sick lad died and was buried in the church-yard. The children of his class, of which the little boy was one, agreed among themselves that they should deck the grave with flowers each day in turn.
Very early, one morning in summer, when the old sexton was on his way to work, he was surprised to find a boy lying asleep upon the grassy mound where the lad lay buried. The sexton asked him how he happened to be there, and the little boy answered: that on the night before it had been his turn to deck the grave, but he had not been able to find any flowers beautiful enough, and so, said he, " I would not disappoint my dead friend, and I thought that, as he used to call me his 'little flower,' I would just put myself on his grave, to show him how I loved him." And this childish act of kindness was the third gift, myrrh.
Let us open the treasures of our heart, my dear children. Our God and Saviour requires of us this day the sacrifice of true love. Let us, then, offer Him our hearts and all that we have, in return for giving Himself to us.
Source: Anecdote - Sermonettes for Children's Masses