The Adoration of the Maji A soldier’s recollection It was the arrival of the Kings that caught us unawares; we’d looked in on the woman in the barn, curiosity you could call it, something to do on a cold winter’s night; we’d wish her well that was the best we could do, she was in pain and the next thing we knew she was lying on the straw – the little there was of it and there was this baby in her arms

It was, as I say, the kings that caught us unawares … Women have babies every other day, not that we are there let’s call it a common occurrence though, giving birth. But kings appearing in a stable with a “Is this the place?” and kneeling, each with his gift held out towards the child!

They didn’t even notice us. Their robes trailed on the floor, rich, lined robes that money couldn’t buy. What must this child be to bring kings from distant lands with costly incense and gold? What could a tiny baby make of that?

And what were we to make of was it angels falling through the air, entwined and falling as if from the rafters to where the gaze of the kings me the child’s assuming the child could see?

What would the mother do with the gift? What would become of the child? And we’ll never admit there are angels

or that somewhere between one man’s eyes and another’s is a holy place, a space where a king could be at one with a naked child, at one with an astonished soldier.

Christopher Pilling