Now, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the King, behold, wise men came from the East bearing gifts. A star they had seen in the East went before them, and they followed it ‘til it came and stood over the place where the young child was.
Behold, the first king knelt before the manger and presented his gift, and lo, it was a hot chocolate gift set variety pack, containing not only classic flavor, but also dark chocolate, mint chocolate, raspberry, praline, and something called “wintertime mix.” He offered the gift unto the child’s mother, for the child was sleeping.
“I thought I remembered you saying something about loving praline,” lied the first king confidently, mistakingly believing that he was successfully hiding the fact that he had completely forgotten to buy a gift and had just grabbed something at the grocery store on the way, as it had been foretold.
“Thank you, oh King,” spake the mother Mary, nodding demurely, removing the hot chocolates from the grocery bag the first king had wrapped them in, for he had not even thought to get a real gift bag. “This is a blessed gift because, if you take away the fancy tins and ribbons, you are reminded that you have basically bought the savior of the world groceries. Except unlike good groceries, which we can buy ourselves because we know what we like, you have brought us groceries we will only use about, oh, 60% of because, as everybody knows, flavored hot chocolates sound delicious in theory but are disappointing in practice. So from the person who will be cleaning out the cabinets three years hence and will find several yet-unused praline hot chocolate packets… thank you.”
“That is not all, blessed Mother,” the first King blurted out, wrongly believing that this was going well. “I have also brought the Christ child a sweet treat: a hollowed shepherd’s staff containing red and green M&Ms.”
And Mary treasured up all these candies and pondered them in her heart and also her mouth.
Then behold, the second King approached the manger and presented his gift: a 22 oz. Harvest Spice scented tumbler candle. “It, uh, says it has a 40-hour burn time, my Lord,” mumbled the first king, quite self-conscious of his gift. Unlike the first king, he had truly put many agonizing hours of thought into his gift; yet still, at the end of all of those hours of thought, he had somehow landed on… candle.
In his defense, he thought to himself, yea, there is no man who truly knows in his heart what a baby likes! Though what a baby likes may be a mystery, yea, it is definitively not a candle.
Early in the year, the second king had heard about a little drummer boy who had given the Christ child nothing but a song, and thought unto himself that it seemed a righteous idea, but after a few weeks of practicing “Stairway to Heaven” on his lute, he realized that, alas, this was probably one of those things that little drummer boys could get away with and grown kings could not. O, but the second King could not know this, but in knowing thus, he truly gave the wisest gift of all: sparing a small crowd of people from the second-hand embarrassment of watching a grown man performing mediocre live music.
“No, this is good,” spake Mary, staring at the candle. “Fire is just what we need in here, what with all the hay… and the straw… and the savior of the world.” As she spake, Mary madest a note unto herself that she needed to dial back the attitude. This decision was tested immediately as she accepted the candle and she noticed that it wasn’t even a Yankee Candle, which would at least have cost several denarii, but rather, a knockoff brand called — she squinted — Northerners Burnt Wax? A brief flush of annoyance came upon her, until, behold! She glanced at the bottom of the candle and saw a sticker declaring that registered the candle’s hometown as Target! And in this Mary quietly rejoiced, for she knew they had a generous return policy.
Mary gave another warm smile, and nodded, and the second king was overjoyed, for her acceptance meant that he could keep for himself what he had bought as a backup gift: Mike and Ike candies that he had bought in the checkout line. For yea, he thought to himself, though at 2-for-$1, they were priced as for a peasant, the package declared that they were sized as though for a king.
Then at last, the third king approached the manger, and peeked at the sleeping Christ child. “Oh my God,” he said, and everyone nodded, as though to say, “Ours, too.” The third king smiled at Mary. “Look at this perfect little guy,” he spake. “I have heard from the shepherds that even when the cattle are lowing, no crying he makes. Blessed are you among women, to have such an easy baby.”
“Sure, no crying he makes now, when people are around,” snapped Mary. “But believe-you-me, when he gets going… he can scream with the best of them.” Now she was truly annoyed: the Lord was actually quite a fussy baby, but whenever they had guests, bam! His transfiguration was into that of a perfect baby. Which, you know, great, it’s not like Mary wanted him to be screaming now, but also it would be nice for them to see even for a minute how colicky the little Lord truly was, as Mary couldn’t shake the feeling that her friends thought she was exaggerating about the blessed child’s moods. “You’re making me out to be a liar,” she once whispered to her sleeping son. “And I have a feeling that, in the future, that’s something you’re going to be very against.”
The third king nodded. “My gift for the child,” he declared quickly, hoping to move on, for he was afraid of Mary, “is not something that can be unwrapped.” The first and second king rolled their eyes. “Instead,” he continued, “I have tried to give a truly meaningful, original gift. You will never guess what it is! ”
He named a star after him, Mary thought to herself, sighing.
“I have named a star after him!” the third King declared. “You will never guess which one.”
That huge one that’s directly above the manger, Mary thought to herself.
“It is the largest star in the sky, the one right above this very manger,” cried the third King.
“Thank you,” said Mary. “You are definitely not the 44th King to give this same gift.”
At that time, the three kings all simultaneously sighed and looked at each other. “Welp,” the first King said. “Yep,” said the second king, slapping his thighs. “Just about that time,” said the third king.
“Wait!” cried Mary. “You’ve traveled for two years to reach us; I cannot let you leave without giving you gifts as well.”
The kings looked at each other and grinned. Gifts from the savior of the universe? Truly, this was where they would made up for all the miles they had put on their camels.
Mary handed out a small parcel to each of them, and the kings eagerly tore into the packaging. Their smiles soon turned to frowns, though, as they saw the gifts.
“An ornament,” said the first King, slowly.
“With a photo of the baby Jesus,” said the second King.
“Just like last year,” said the third King.
Mary beamed. “We used the same vendor that did our Christmas cards.”
“Your WHAT cards?” said the kings in unison.
“Sorry,” said Mary, brow furrowed. “I meant birth announcement cards. I don’t know what came over me. I must be sleep deprived.”
But as the kings tucked their ornaments into their robes and they said their goodbyes, as they spoke of next year and their dreams of slaughtering a white elephant for the feast, secretly, she thought the word Christmas to herself again, and decided that no matter where it had come from, it kind of had a nice ring to it.