(Preached between 1605 and 1624 before the court of Saint James)
Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he that is born King of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the East, and are come to worship him.” (Matthew 2:1-2)
Now, for venimus, their coming itself. And it follows well. For, it is not a star only, but a load-star, and whither should stella Ejus ducere, but ad Eum? Wither leads us, but to Him, whose the star is? To the Stars Master.
All this while we have been at dicentes, saying and seeing. Now we shall come to facientes, see them do somewhat upon it. It is not saying or seeing will serve Saint James: He will call, and be still calling for ostende mihi, show me your faith by some work. And, well may he be allowed to call for it, this day. It is the day of vidimus, appearing, being seen. You have seen His star: let Him now see your star, another while. And so, they do. Make your faith to be seen: so it is. Their faith, in the steps of their faith. And, so was Abraham’s, first by coming forth of his country; as, these here do, and so walk in the steps of the faith of Abraham; do his first work.
It is not commanded, to stand gazing into Heaven too long, not on Christ Himself ascending, much less on His star. For, they sat not still gazing on the star. Their vidimus begat venimus: their seeing made them come; come a great journey. Venimus is soon said, but a short word. But, many a wide and weary step they made before they could come to say venimus: Lo, here we are come. Come, and at our journeys’ end. To look a little on it. In this their coming, we consider (1) First, the distance of the place they came from. It was not hard by, as the shepherds (but a step to Bethlehem over the fields). This was riding many hundred miles, and cost them many a day’s journey. (2) Secondly, we consider the way that they came, if it be pleasant, or plain and easy. For, if it be, it is so much the better. This was nothing pleasant, for through deserts, all the way waste and desolate. Nor (secondly) easy neither. For, over the rocks and crags of both Arabies (specially Petraea) their journey lay. (3) Yet if safe: but it was not; but exceeding dangerous, as lying through the midst of the Black Tents of Kedar, a nation of thieves and cutthroats, to pass over the hills of robbers. Infamous then, and infamous to this day. No passing without great troops of convoy. (4) Last we consider the time of their coming, the season of the year. It was no summer progress. A cold coming they had of it, at this time of the year, just the worst time of the year, to take a journey, and specially a long journey in. The ways deep, the weather sharp, the days short, the sun farthest off in solstitio brumali, the very dead of winter. Venimus, we are come, if that be one. Venimus, we are (now) come, come at this time, that (sure) is another.
And these difficulties they overcame, of a wearisome, irksome, troublesome, dangerous, unseasonable journey. And for all this, they came. And, came it cheerfully, and quickly; as appears by the speed they made. It was but vidimus, venimus with them: they saw and they came. No sooner saw, but they set out presently. So, as upon the first appearing of the star (as it might be, last night) they knew it was Balaam’s star. It called them away, they made ready straight to begin their journey this morning. A sign they were highly conceited of His birth, believed some great matter of it, that they took all these pains, made all this haste, that they might be there to worship Him, with all the possible speed they could. Sorry for nothing so much, but that they could not be there soon enough, with the very first to do it even this day, the day of His birth. All considered, there is more in venimus than shows at the first sight. It was not for nothing, it was said (in the first verse) ecce venerunt: their coming has an ecce on it – it well deserves it.
And we, what should we have done? Sure, these men of the East shall rise in judgment against the men of the West. That is, us. And their faith, against ours, in this point. With them it was but vidimus, venimus. With us, it would have been but veniemus at most. Our fashion is, to see and see again, before we stir a foot. Specially, if it be to the worship of Christ. Come such a journey, at such a time? No. But fairly have put it off till the spring of the year, till the days longer, and ways fairer, and the weather warmer. Till better traveling to Christ. Our Epiphany would sure have fallen in Easter-week at the soonest.
But then, for the distance, desolateness, tediousness, and the rest, any of them were enough to mar our venimus quite. It must be no great way (first) we must come. We love not that. Well fare the shepherds yet, they came but hard by. Rather like them than the Magi. Nay, not like them neither. For, with us, the nearer (lightly) the farthest off. Our proverb is (you know) The nearer the church, the farther from God.
Nor, it must not be through a desert, over no Petrae. If rugged or uneven the way, if the weather ill-disposed, if any never so little danger, it is enough to stay us. To Christ we cannot travel, but weather and way and all must be fair. If not, no journey but sit still and see further. As indeed, all our religion is rather vidimus, a contemplation, than venimus, a motion or stirring to be ought.
But when we do it, we must be allowed leisure. Ever, veniemus; never venimus: Ever coming; never come. We love to make no very great haste. To other things perhaps. Not to adore the place of the worship of God. Why should we, Christ is no wild-cat? What talk you of twelve days? And if it be forty days hence, you shall be sure to find His mother and Him. She cannot be churched till then: what needs such haste? The truth is, we conceit Him and His birth but slenderly, and our haste is even thereafter. But, if we be at that point, we must be out of this venimus: they like enough to leave us behind. Best, get us a new Christ-mass in September. We are not like to come to Christ at this feast. Enough, for venimus.