A letter to Melchior — Duncan Wilson, UK

Post-Christmas correspondence from a shepherd to a traveler from the East

Dear Melchior,
Greetings from all of us.

We trust you made the journey home safely and didn’t run into any of Herod’s lot because terrible things happened after you left! When you and your friends didn’t report back to him after your visit to Bethlehem, he went totally berserk. His soldiers went from house to house looking for any boy child who looked the right age. Terrible! All those angelic glad tidings and now this.

Will this killing madness ever end? Always the children, always the little people coming off worst. We wept. God must weep, too. The town is inconsolable. In the meantime, thankfully, Joseph and Mary got away by the skin of their teeth, but they had precious little between them and she was washed out before they set off.

Egypt, they said. I saw Joseph wrap your gifts tightly into his cloak. The gold will be a Godsend. Who knows who they might have to bribe and how much money they will need to see them through. Will we ever see them again?

I‘ve done a lot of thinking about our chance meeting in that cow shed. What a picture we will make someday! Will anyone believe it? You and I at opposite ends of the world. You and all your learning and wealth, me and my flock and a smattering of country wisdom – what a combination we might make! And me, a weathered old Jew who hasn’t been to synagogue in a decade, and you with your oriental head in the heavens trying to read God’s mind. And just look at what brought us together! A baby in a hay box. No, nobody will ever believe it, will they? You know, you couldn’t make it up if you tried. Well, could you?

But I can’t get that child out of my mind, not that I would want to. I keep wondering if anything has changed or do we just go back – me to the hills and you to your stars? I guess we just have to wait to find out, but I do know that nothing I ever saw in my life made me ask as many questions. What did we see, Melchior? You are the wise one. Do you think we really were looking into the face of God, you and me? Why us?

I haven’t told my wife yet, well, not the whole story. She knows the bit about leaving the sheep to wander – spot of bother over that. How do you tell anyone that you think you may have seen, even touched, the Saviour of the world?

This time next year, Melchior, it may all be old news but I won’t ever, can’t ever, forget.

Your friend, Jethro, (third shepherd from the left).