Winding Oak's Bookology Magazine

Three Wise Women

UnknownToday is the Feast of the Epiphany. More than just an end to the sea­son of Christ­mas, Epiphany is a Chris­t­ian cel­e­bra­tion all its own com­mem­o­rat­ing the rev­e­la­tion of God the Son in the human­i­ty of Jesus Christ. There are var­i­ous tra­di­tions observed around the world, but the sto­ry of the magi who came from afar to vis­it the Christ Child is the cen­tral tale remem­bered, and often, reen­act­ed. One of the most pow­er­ful pre­sen­ta­tions of this sto­ry I’ve ever expe­ri­enced comes in the form of a pic­ture book.

I remem­ber the day I hap­pened upon it. My lit­tle boy and I were mak­ing our usu­al trip to the library and there was Mary Hoffman’s Three Wise Women—just lying there in the pic­ture book bins. It’s roy­al blue cov­er, Christ­mas star, and three women gaz­ing off in won­der into the dis­tance near­ly bowled me over. I knew before I even opened it that it was the book I wish I’d writ­ten.

It’s fine that Ms. Hoff­man beat me to it, because I can now read it to any­one who will lis­ten — that might have grown tire­some if I was read­ing my own book. I’ve read it to my own chil­dren, oth­er kids in my life, sto­ry­time groups, wor­ship­pers, and church coun­cils. It’s been out of print for a num­ber of years, but can still be found and it’s worth every pen­ny.

The three women are intro­duced one at a time.

In the west the sky was bright with stars as a young woman stayed up late, bak­ing bread….

Way down in the south, where coun­tries are hot­ter, anoth­er woman sat up late at night, rock­ing her child….

Far away in the south­east an old woman was telling sto­ries to her grand­chil­dren by the dying light of a cook­ing fire…. 

Far away, each woman sees a new star, brighter than all the rest, beck­on­ing. For rea­sons none of them can explain, they fol­low the star. The bak­er takes her bread…the moth­er her child…the grand­moth­er her stories…and they set out on an adven­ture.

What was it about that star? There was some­thing dif­fer­ent about it that drew all three women from their home­lands; and some­thing the same that said to each of them, “Fol­low me.” 

The women meet on a path of starlight, not know­ing how long or far they’d trav­eled — but they aren’t hun­gry, thirsty or tired, so they each assume their jour­ney has been short. They con­tin­ue togeth­er, tak­ing turns car­ry­ing the baby, through hills, past sleep­ing shep­herds, and down into a town lit by the unusu­al star.

There they see men in fine robes who mount camels and ride away from a small build­ing with a thatched roof.

We have come so far…we must go inside.”

Inside the small sta­ble, there is a new fam­i­ly — a man, a woman, and a new­born child (none of whom are named) — sur­round­ed by rich gifts and starlight. The moth­er invites the star-struck wise women in. Each has a full heart and feels com­pelled to give a gift. But they have noth­ing — or so it seems at first. They give what they have. The bak­er-woman gives her bread — the baby reach­ing out to “touch the loaf, as if to bless it.” The grand­moth­er tells him a sto­ry full of starlight and hope. And the young mother’s heart pounds against her sleep­ing child, “for he was all she had to give.”

When the grandmother’s sto­ry ends, the child wakes and holds out his arms to the new baby. The two moth­ers hold their sons and the child gives the baby “a kiss full of starlight.” His moth­er sighs — there was a present to give after all.

And then the three wise women leave and walk the paths the star made back to their homes. When they arrive home, no one noticed they’d been away and no one remem­bered the star.

If the sto­ry end­ed here, it would be very good and I would like it so much. But it’s the last para­graph that real­ly cinch­es it. I’ve nev­er read it with­out tears.

The star-baby in the sta­ble nev­er for­got the women and their three presents. When he grew up, he showed that fresh-baked loaves taste even bet­ter when they are shared. He told the most won­der­ful sto­ries to any­one who would lis­ten. And the man whose birth had been marked by a new star taught the whole world that the great­est gift of all is love. 

Bless you, Mary Hoff­man — such the gift you’ve giv­en us with this book.

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2 Responses to Three Wise Women

  1. Karen Henry Clark January 6, 2015 at 12:11 pm #

    The wan­der­ing Three Wise Men have always been my favorite part of the Christ­mas sto­ry, but the three char­ac­ters in this book are just as love­ly and mean­ing­ful. I’m glad to know about this title.

    • Melanie Hill January 6, 2015 at 12:50 pm #

      Karen – you’ll love it, I think.

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