Desert of the Wise: A View-Master’s Journey

The sandy hills roll like waves in the moonlight. Four sets of footprints follow the silhouettes of six along a ridge. Two of the travelers ride on tapestry-covered platforms atop shaggy humps, and the third walks, rope in hand, with his lanky animal.

The desert is quite cool tonight, and calm. Except for the faint grumbles of the camels. I think they’re aware of my presence, but their masters pay no heed. The heavily-robed strangers appear focused, intent.

Every few minutes it seems, the short one riding center points just above the horizon. His camel jerks its head and stops. A heel kick in the side and a “hut-hut!”, and the beast is moving again.

The short one speaks a language I don’t understand–it’s too fast. He points again.

I see now what he’s aiming at. It was staring at me this entire time. No, it was shining. Leading. And the interesting grown-ups with long beards and funny hats are definitely following it.

The star is brilliant! How did it take me so long to see it? Maybe because I wasn’t looking for it. The camels are fun to watch, especially when they get irritated and swing their heads. But I already know what lies beyond the dunes. I had heard the story many times. And now I am sad, because I cannot go with them.


Thirty minutes earlier I had sat at Grandma’s breakfast bar munching on saltine crackers and grape jelly. I washed it down with one of those small bottles of Coca-Cola. It was June, but I was already thinking about Christmas.

The stairs creaked as I made my way to the basement toward the storage and wash room. My tube-socked feet slipped a little with each step on the smooth concrete, and I had forgotten to sidestep the drain dimpled in the floor. Grandpa had showered that morning. I wouldn’t need socks in the cool desert sand anyway.

I rummaged through cardboard boxes, most of them brittle with age and dust. I found what I was looking for. It’s what I always looked for at Grandma and Grandpa’s.

Photo from

The View-Master, and the Christmas Story reel about the Three Wise Men.


I was sad because I could not go with them. I knew the baby was in the stable just ahead, but that was 2,000 years ago. I held in my hands a plastic toy with a three-dimensional photo reel of clay figures. But held against the light, the story came to life, and I was happy again.

And that star! I really wanted to see that star. In real life. How fascinating it must have been, to witness a fireball in the night sky and to know something greater was about to shake the universe. The star was just a symbol. A guide. To something–someone–like the world had never seen before.

This Christmas season, are you looking for a star? Maybe a lucky star. Or a star to wish upon. Yeah, it all seems childish and cute, like a toy View-Master. Without the light, it’s just a story reel with dark photos of clay figures. I choose to look at it through the Light.

Jesus once again addressed them: ‘I am the world’s Light. No one who follows me stumbles around in the darkness. I provide plenty of light to live in.’” — John 8:12 (The Message)

Photo from the Science Channel

Today’s post is also being shared at:

The “Reflection” One Word at a Time Blog Carnival over at and

Bonnie Gray’s blog carnival at Faith Barista. Click here to check out other stories from the carnival.

11 thoughts on “Desert of the Wise: A View-Master’s Journey

  1. @JoyfulNoise, I agree — there’s an intrigue about the wise men and their dedication to science, and the understanding that science doesn’t disprove God but rather explains His existence. Thanks for the comment!


  2. Awesome Post. The wise men traveled from afar with the Star as their guiding light. These were wise men of science, learning and information. They knew that a king was to be born by studying the signs and writings of the past.Today there are signs and wonders that are leading us to discover the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, Jesus Christ. We will soon view him with our eyes, and we will be able to kneel at his feet and wipe his feet with our tears.


  3. I really enjoyed your descriptions in this post. Tube socks and view masters, saltines and little bottles of Coke – I felt like I was back there with you. Thanks for sharing 🙂


  4. Hi Brock, I’m so glad you joined in the jam this week – and poured us this brew of encouragement. I loved how you interweaved the ViewMaster, the Star of Christmas — and Jesus Himself as the light. That’s quite an awesome reflection, even here the day after.I hope you had a Merry Christmas — Enjoyed meeting you through this inspiring post! Thank you!


  5. @Dan, thanks. I’m loving all of the blog posts, facebook messages, and tweets this year about the Christmas star, the Light, all that good stuff. Makes me think people are looking for the real reason for the season this year. I think we’re all ready for some light in our dark economy and difficulties.


  6. I had a ViewMaster as a child (wait – does that mean I’m as old as your grandparents?). Those round slides – everything from Disney movies to travelogues and cowboy stories. I can still hear the click as I’d advance each scene. Good post, Brock.


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