3wise men

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(wise men of the bible, they follow a star and discover the Christ)

What about those wise men, what can they tell us? What lessons can be learned from them? Who are they? Start with the basics. First, they travelled from another land. Second they followed a star. Third they were on a quest. Fourth they carried gifts. The wise men are called magi and many believed they travelled through Zoroastrian Persia. They are often believed to be from three different kingdoms throughout the middle-east. The gospel passages gives them neither name nor number and much of that information has been gleaned from other texts. It is important that they did travel from other countries, and other cultures. Those wise men did cross geographic, cultural, and religious borders. Various regions around the globe give them different names. Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar in the West. Hor, Karsudan, and Basanater in the East and Ethiopia. Kagbha, Badadakharida, and Badadilma in Armenia. Larvandad, Gushnasaph, and Hormisdas in Syria. They travel from many distant places.

They are also often referred to as Wise Men. To some Zoroastrian astrologers, but another translation considers them to be simply wise and old men. They are scholars, philosophers, and people who have witnessed many things. They travel with purpose and they seek answers. Their arrival on a manger is not accidental or coincidental. It is deliberate. It is revealed to them, by a star. Stars of course are heavenly bodies, and we all know what inhabits the heavens. In that day stars were the home of the gods. Those wise men did not follow a map, they were guided by the wisdom and revelation of the star. They both had an epiphany and sought the same. They both sought and recognized the Christ as LORD and savior. They sought and were guided by GOD’S wisdom. They sought and discovered that in a manger. The Christ Child.

They did not passively wander, but they charted a course. They were wise men who sought the LORD. In discovering that Child in a manger, they passed over many other earthly kings. They disregarded they royalty of their and other lands just as they disregarded Herod. They passed by palaces, and emperors, and kings, queens and their descendants. They rode past prophets and sages and courts. They rode past everything their world held valuable so that they might honor a child in a feeding trough. To look at where those wise men arrived, one should also look at what at what they passed along the way.

They were wise and old, they had experienced many things, yet a child brought them to their knees. That Child could not be found within their own borders, or by the formulas from the cultures of the day. They were wise men, they sought and were guided by wisdom. They did not bind the LORDS wisdom by human constraints. They were guided and obedient to a star. Those wise men carried gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Gold of an earthly kingdom and frankincense of a heavenly one. Myrrh is the scent of suffering and death. Those gifts also can be looked at as either prophetic or symbolic. Prophesy tells of what is to come, or could they be symbols of what they sought?

They came to give a king homage, but that king was their revelation and not the worlds. The vision of a star. They were wise old men guided by the wisdom of the LORD. When they arrived at that destination, they knew they found what they sought. Seek and ye shall find. Knock and the door will be opened to you. Guided by the wisdom of a star across all barriers of age, culture, country, and religion. Oddly those barriers those wise men crossed seem insurmountable today. Look at the barriers of the world today. East versus West. Christian versus Muslim versus Jew. The barriers of skin and class and country. Wise men guided by a star, not aimlessly wandering throughout the land. I wonder what their journey would be like across that or any land today?

The Epiphany of the Lord
Lectionary: 20

Is 60:1-6

Ps 72:1-2, 7-8, 10-11, 12-13

Eph 3:2-3a, 5-6

Mt 2:1-12

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epiphany

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This day, the feast of the epiphany , is a familiar one. So familiar, one can reach a certain doldrums when describing it. That is something I am trying to avoid. I have no desire to rearrange sentences to repeat what I have already said. If someone should be interested in a past approach to this day, they are recorded and filed away. How do I approach this day today? I think it will not be from the standpoint of the gifts, or even much of an explaining of the kings. I think I will look at the journeys and the stars.

The story tells of the kings journeying from the east, Persia, to Jesus in a manger. They traveled guided by a star. Their journey was deliberate, and educated. They knew how they were going to chart their course, they knew their destination and who they were looking for. They knew in philosophical terms, they knew according to their intellect and background.

Some tell a little about these noble travelers, they were royal, and were considered to be Zoroastrian. Zoroastrian’s was a large religion in the region, they followed one god and adhered to a concept of good versus evil, and light versus darkness. Their worship was of the good, the light, which they symbolized with fire. Theirs was a large religion , the Jews knew them and they knew the Jews. Mary and Joseph likely encountered Zoroaster’s many times.The story tells of their journey to the Christ Child.

The other half of the story was told earlier in the Nativity narratives. The  other half of the story is Christ’s journey to the manger. That story contains Judaism, the Annunciation, the Visitation, Josephs encounter with an angel, the immaculate conceptions . That journey contains every detail that leads to the birth of the Christ Child, including that manger he was born into. It includes the visit by the shepherds under the direction of an angel. If one were to look at every event that lead up to the nativity as a point of light, a star, a constellation would begin to emerge. The magi were astronomers, they read the stars.

Two constellations begin to emerge.The magi’s story also had its points of light, they had their constellation, they had events that lead them on their journey. When they reached the end of their journey, they fell to their knees in adoration at that manger. The stars fell into place, they were aligned.An  order in the heavens, a new order on earth. A manger as significant as a temple, in fact more so. Their epiphany was discovering the answer that sent them on a quest. That answer was the Child born in a manger, a very specific Child. The Christ Child, they found their King. It was written in the stars.  This is a very profound event, celebrated from the earliest years of the Church.It is an  Epiphany.

 

feast of saint andrew

Aside

feast of saint Andrew

Simon who is called Peter, and his brother Andrew,
casting a net into the sea; they were fishermen.
He said to them,
“Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
At once they left their nets and followed him.

Todays reading tells how quickly Andrew and Peter followed Jesus. During Advent can I compare their response to those that will be part of the nativity scene? How quickly the shepherds go to see the newborn King. How diligently and deliberately those magi follow that star that leads to a King in a manger.

Epiphany

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Epiphany: epiphany means manifestation, and this day celebrates three epiphanies of Christ. They are the adoration of the magi as described in the reading, the baptism of the Lord, and the wedding at Canna. Today though the focus tends to be at this Christmastide epiphany that is the adoration of the Christ child by those three magi. The thing though, is just as those travelers chart their course towards the new born messiah, this person must chart a course on how to approach this event. There is the wise men themselves, their legend, their history, their gifts, the lessons learned. A lot is projected onto this day, it has many traditions associated with it as the little Christmas. As they took a journey across the Mideast to reach the Christ, I thought perhaps I would take a journey through their history and incorporate tat history with the journey of the Spirit.

To start the historical journey, would one question to ask be “who are magi, and where do they come from?” Magi are Persians, and are from a religion known as Zoroastrians. The land that they came from is now Iran and at the time of Christ’s Nativity they were quite a large group. In the Mideast they were the predominant religion of Persia until they were overtaken by the Muslims. Their beliefs were in one God, and they are the ones who brought into prominence the notion of light and darkness as representative of god and evil. Lights and fire play a major role in their worship, so much so that some observing them thought they indeed worshiped the light emanating from their fires. They did not, they worshiped the goodness that the light represented. It is fitting then that extra candles are lit in Churches today symbolizing Christ as the light of the world. Those magi on their journey were specifically looking for the newborn King that is the light of the world. They worshiped the light of good, and in seeking that light they followed a star to the newborn King of the Jews. That star then that guided them was the goodness of God, Gods love.

Collect: May the splendor of your majesty, O Lord, we pray, shed its light upon our hearts, that we may pass through the shadows of this world and reach the brightness of our eternal home. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever

In thinking of those wise men on their journey, one has to think of them not simply as legend but as genuine people with their sandals to the ground. They took a real journey, and on that journey they had to chart a course and follow a path. To put that road into perspective their gifts were gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Two of these, and possibly all three were incense, and incense was more valued than gold. Frankincense is representative of the heavenly kingdom, and Gold the earthly. Myrrh hints towards the suffering the child would endure. There was a road that ran from Ethiopia through Jerusalem known as the incense trail. Had those wise men travelled it, the would have travelled through many kingdoms. On that journey, they were in search of a newborn king, and guided by the light of a star. I wonder at what point  that star guided them to Bethlehem?On that journey they would have traveled through many Kingdoms, but how many were kingdoms that were Guided by the light? I am certain as they travelled down that road they journeyed through darkness and all that word suggests. They stayed on their course though and followed that star. Their epiphany was to find that newborn king that was beneath that star.

On that journey, I doubt Herod was the only king that they encountered, but I am certain that they encountered many like him, not kings of the light but men of darkness. It was darkness that those wise men wished to defeat. They journeyed for a king guided by a star, Gods love.That star led them to Mary and her Son, Jesus the Christ. That newborn King they searched for we call the light of the world. Today’s collect emphasizes those wise men’s quest for that King known as the light of the world, and also the darkness that they certainly had to navigate to find it.