What happened next?

Like many other preachers, I have been ‘working my way through’ the characters in the Christmas story this year. We have looked at Joseph, Elizabeth, the shepherds, the Magi, and even Herod.  As I have done so, the wonderful natwivity script has been a help, with its colourful characterisations and their blend of humour and pathos. However, I am still left with a nagging question: what happened next?

Was shepherding ever the same again – or did the shepherds find themselves always looking up as well as down – expecting another apparition in the sky? Did the Magi return to Persia, content with their successful research but happy to dismiss this as a purely Jewish matter? Could it have been possible to have a ringside seat at these earth-shaking events and come away unchanged?

Some years ago I read Andrew Smith’s book Moondust: the men who fell to earth. In it he interviews all those men who have walked upon the distant and impossible surface of the moon – and analyses how it affects their onward journey on the earth.  Some found the transition almost too much to bear – and became virtual recluses. Others have talked about it ad nauseam, and others have found alternative routes to ‘work out’ their feelings.  Alan Bean, for example, has painted canvas after canvas of lunar scenes, often including a small amount of moondust into the work itself. One of the most famous: we came in peace for all mankind, is pictured below.

Image: alanbeangallery.com

What might the Magi have painted, or written, I wonder?

Last word goes to Neil Armstrong, who paraphrased his own epic words by saying “it is more significant that Jesus Christ set foot on the earth than that man set foot on the moon.” Significant, yes – but how?

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