Some people look to the heavens for signs and portents that would comfort and meet their immediate need. A clear sky tinged red at night would suggest good weather was coming. The same sky and colour in the morning might mean a tumultuous day. Others looked deeper into the heavens, mostly at night, to try to discern symbols and signals that might indicate good fortune or a warning of impending disaster. Still others like Caspar, who watched the birth of star in awe-filled wonder, looked for a reminder that there was much more to life beyond the here and now. Keeping lonely vigil for many years on a hilltop in what we now call India, he gained a reputation for being wise, purely by reason of not rushing to answer every question the moment it was asked. Caspar would take time to think and ruminate, drawing on years of stillness and reflection, before answering the original question with yet another question. He was not being churlish, he had simply learned from a young age that life is always more than just one question; in fact the more questions you ask, the more questions that need answers. His one and only personal question was simple, ‘Is there more to life than the here and now?’ As he had been gazing upwards he tried to work out what would it take to convince him that life had more meaning than what was at first apparent.
The arrival of a shaft of light, as if from nowhere, caused his mind to become dizzy and disoriented. What could it mean? Why here, why now? He spent long hours studying the light, its shape, its focal point, its placing amongst the other stars. Dawn broke with two startling insights; the first that the light of this particular ‘star’ shone as bright by day as it did by night; the second, that this was not a star fixed in the twinkling canvas of heaven, it was actually moving, shimmering and twitching, ‘like a hint of a smile on an aged face’, he realised but it was definitely moving. Gathering all his belongings together, he ran down the hill to his father’s village below. Although the star moved slowly, he feared he would lose sight of it. His wakened father recognised immediately a deeper significance to this celestial event than any of the others his dreamer son usually woke him to tell him. He hitched up his best camels, prepared a team of servants to travel with his son. At the very last moment, never fully understanding why, he gathered all they had harvested of the gummy sap of the local Boswellia tree; several camels were needed to carry it all. Of itself, it had little value but refined by steam it would produce a kingly gift of frankincense.
Caspar and his father had no concept of the extent of the pilgrimage before him, it would be a journey of nearly four thousand miles, that would take nearly twenty months to complete, but deep within their souls they realised that this was an adventure of epic proportions. Caspar’s father’s only regret was that he himself could not travel too, age and aching bones prevented it, but he sent his son into the unknown and the unknowable, certain only of one thing; something of serious significance was about to happen, something that had the power to change the direction of history itself. He wanted his stargazing son to be part of that, and to hopefully return and tell him and all their tribe of what it all meant.