This Guiding Light

12-23-18

Matthew 2:1-12

Robin Riley

 

Greetings from ancient Persia. I am Milchoir bar el Ashban. Astronomer priest of the Hamatku satru.  Your scripture writes about me in the book of Matthew, as you have heard read this morning.

I am one of three who came to seek the truth, the way and the light. I was there on that holy and sacred night when the messiah was born.

        I am here to share my story with you for the 15 minutes your pastor has given me so he wouldn’t have to preach. So I will tell you of my story here at the manger, why I came and what it means to me.

 I am only mentioned in your book of Matthew and it rightly says that we were magi from the east. Yes, magi, which translates into astronomer priest and philosopher.

Your word magic comes from this ancient term. We are priests of the stars who study and explain cosmology, astrological orientations, astronomical calculations and so forth.

But please don’t ask me to read your horoscope. That is not what I do, though there is some truth to your curiosity with the relationship between the signs and your personal lives.

Our science led us to Jesus. Our mathematical calculations led us to him. We were not guessing. We had predictability and constancy of the celestial canopy guiding us. We were certain of this great occurrence. It wasn’t magic! For those who look at scripture, his birth is foretold there as well.

The planetary alignment created our guiding map. We knew its location, and precise position for our search. We did have it slightly off, we had assumed the messiah would be born in Jerusalem.

You see every 140 years there is a conjunction when two planets appear to pass near one another.  Jupiter and Saturn passed each other three times that year, in May, September, and December – a triple conjunction. We set out in May and traveled to the destination by celestial navigation and arrived during the third passing.

We look at signs in the stars for predicting the future too, although calculations are far more complex. Indeed “astrology” is the reading of the stars to predict the future.

I have to tell the truth, though it is flattering to be considered a king, as your legends claim. I am not, we are not kings. We are magi. Priestly astronomers seeking light and truth according to our religious beliefs. The word then was magu, from magupati. Only 200k people follow this religion today. In your terms it is called Zaroastrianism.

From the time I was a child, I studied the celestial canopy. I remember sleeping out under the stars. Our parents would lay there with us explaining each of the constellations and tell us stories about them. We watched them cross the sky at certain angles and positions, different each night. In time I learned their every movement and variation.  The stars became my life work and I studied with the teachers and wise ones, hamatsu hachktu.

Our main work was to study and predict the equinox occurrences so we could also predict the proper planting and harvesting times. The farmers were astounded by our ability to tell them exactly when to plant their wheat. It was a very important calculation because if we were wrong, results could be disastrous.

We lived within the seasons, while it seems that you, live outside of them. You have time pieces. Did you now that we invented time keeping through a system of measurement, sexa-gesimal. The circular measurement of 360 sections.  I am bragging a bit, but not too much.

Writing originates with us as well. Our ancient ancestors learned to take reeds, cut the ends off and pressed them into wet clay, making distinctive cuneiform marks. It is the basis of written language.

Our understanding of the supreme being is tied to the stars. And astronomy is at the foundation of our religion. We found order through the stars, through the universe, because it was predictable and constant. We knew when an eclipse would occur, we knew because we had mathematical models for calculating it. We plotted the movement of the sun and moon to create the calendar. We divided the year into 12 months and the month into 30-days, the day into two 12-hour sections.

We started the idea of celebrating the new year!

We were the first people to conclude there is one supreme being, A single diety. And that deity judges all after death where there is a heaven and hell. Each person has free will. Our sacred book is Avesta. It tells us that the purpose of life is to renew the world. It is to make the world progress toward perfection.

I learned from a young age that there is but one path, the path of truth. My father told me, do the right thing because it is the right thing to do. When you do the right thing, all beneficial rewards will come.

It is in our language “beh-din” Persian for the best religion. We say humata, hakhtu, havarshtha. In English, good thoughts, good words, good deeds.

Our book of truth says in the end of time, good will prevail over evil. When time comes to an end a savior will appear.

We were able to predict the birth of the messiah through our calculations. Our science led us to Jesus. Our mathematical calculations led us to him. We were not guessing.

We had predictability and constancy of the celestial canopy guiding us. We were certain of this great occurrence. It wasn’t magic! For those who look at scripture, his birth is foretold there as well.

The planetary alignment created our guiding map. We knew the location, and precise position for our search. Although we did have it slightly off, we had assumed the messiah would be born in Jerusalem.

You see every 140 years there is a conjunction when two planets appear to pass near one another.  Jupiter and Saturn passed each other three times that year, in May, September, and December – a triple conjunction. We set out in May and traveled to the destination by celestial navigation and arrived during the third passing.

When we arrived in Jerusalem, people were curious and asked us why we were here. We thought they would know, since the messiah was to be born here, to them.

But Herod did not know, nor did the priests or religious leaders. Herod invited us to stay and we spent the night there in his courtyard. In the morning he brought us to a lavish breakfast and this time had more of his leaders who questioned us about the star and messiah. They had prophecy from Micah and Samuel about the town of Bethlehem.

We explained to them how our calculations led us to this place and that we had studied their scripture as well, which told of a coming messiah.

It was somewhat surprising to see them so serious and concerned when we were so excited about our final stage of the journey to Bethlehem. I had carried frankincense as a gift.

We set out on our way in the afternoon. I was very excited and filled with anticipation of seeing this wonder from God. You see this event marked the convergence of stars, which was revealing a message to our hearts.

It was a convergence of holiness, righteousness, truth, and justice all coming from God. God was using the stars to reach us and the supreme being emerged through the stars.

One way to help you feel the magnitude of what we experienced is to to compare it to your eclipse of 2017. The wonder, the awe, the magnificence of the natural order. Beyond the simple geometrical movement, light and dark is the moment when God is present to us.

        Your book of Matthew says that when we set out from Jerusalem, the star reappeared. I need to clarify that the stars that had led us to our destination, the alignment of planets was separate from the star that appeared over Bethlehem.

One was naturally occurring and the other a supernatural presencing of God.

        This light that shone over the shelter where Joseph and Mary were staying, was God piercing into the natural order with this birth. You see, when we arrived, we entered a place and time of holiness.

When we stepped into the shelter to give honor and worship this new king, we saw this light streaming from the child up into the sky. It was shimmering, glimmering, glowing, and flowing. All creation seemed to be standing still in that moment. I took my frankincense to the foot of his small crib, leaving it there. As I put it down my hands felt the light. They began to glow and I felt them warming. The feeling of warmth moved all through me as I looked on this sleeping baby.

        It is nearing the end of my quarter hour and I must depart back to my time. I am thankful for your presence and your audience for what I witnessed. Before I leave I must share one more thought. The stars guided me to the Christ child. I ask you, what is guiding you to the Christ child? Do you know the coordinates of your heart that you may navigate your way to the foot of the manger?

Are you willing to make the journey to follow that star to the foot of the manger? Will you allow God to enter your heart so that the beam of his life and grace might give your life new meaning?

If you journey to him and bow to worship him, what gift will you offer? Your heart? Your service? What sacrifice will you make to honor him?