Anglican Morning Devotion, 7 December 2021 Anno Domini
A ministry of the Anglican Orthodox Communion Worldwide
“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, 2Saying, 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. 3When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. 4And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. 5And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet, 6And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel. 7Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared. 8And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also. 9When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was.” (Matthew 2:1-9; all scripture quoted is from the King James Version)
On the night of the birth of our Lord Jesus, there were poor Jewish shepherds keeping watch on the hills overlooking sleepy Bethlehem. These poor men were the first to know of the birth of a Savior other than Joseph and Mary. They came to Him that very first Christmas night. However, far to the east there were Zoroastrian Magi (Maggoi in Greek, Persian priests) who were learned in the arts and sciences and who studied the heavenly bodies and their movement. This was the religion of Cyrus the Great and whose enclave was in Esfahan. These were gentiles. I saw their holy mountain almost every day when I lived in Isfahan, Iran. They kept an eternal flame burning atop that holy mountain night and day. These men had studied the Hebrew Scriptures and diligently searched for the sign of His coming. “And he took up his parable, and said, Balaam the son of Beor hath said, and the man whose eyes are open hath said: 16He hath said, which heard the words of God, and knew the knowledge of the most High, which saw the vision of the Almighty, falling into a trance, but having his eyes open: 17I shall see him, but not now: I shall behold him, but not nigh: there shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel, and shall smite the corners of Moab, and destroy all the children of Sheth.” (Numbers 24:15-17)
The nights on the high desert of Persia in Isfahan are crystal clear and pristine. On one cold winter night, the Magi observed a heavenly body of peculiar brilliance arising on the eastern horizon. This was their ‘eureka’ moment! This Star moved with a steady and direct movement unlike any other in the skies. It may even have previously passed over the observatories of Korea as there are records of a similar sighting of such a Star moving east to west as recorded on wood tablets at Haen-sa Temple in southeastern Korea in 4 B. C.
The Magi could have followed the Star by a northern route across the formidable Zagross Mountains, or they may have followed a longer and less treacherous route by way of the western rim of the Persian Gulf. By either route, the distance would have been between 1,150 and 1,540 miles. Because of the desert terrain, mountains obstructions and the moors of Ahvaz, the journey would have involved several months if not up to one and a half years. By the time they would have reached Bethlehem, the Baby Jesus was no longer in a stable but in a house. “And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.” (Matthew 2:11) It is speculated that Jesus was two years of age or young since Herod sent soldiers to Bethlehem to kill every male child up to two years of age.
In the Church Calendar, we normally associate the visitation of the Magi with the Season of Epiphany – “January sixth is observed as a church festival in commemoration of the coming of the Magi as the first manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles or in the Eastern Church in commemoration of the baptism of Christ.” (Webster’s Online Dictionary) Just as the shepherds, “keeping watch over their flocks by night” were first to see the Baby Jesus, so were the Magi the first of the Gentiles to see Him. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek (Gentile).” (Romans 1:16)
The Road to Christ was rocky, indeed, and pitted with the dangers of desert sandstorms, mountain crevices, wild beasts, and quick-sand along the way, but with the bits and pieces of knowledge they had gleaned in their scholarly pursuits, they overcame every barrier to see the Christ-Child. They had no complete Bible, only parts of the Law and Prophets of the Hebrew biblical text as well as secular histories; yet, with what knowledge they had, they persevered to come to Him by the leading of a Star. With your fullness of knowledge today, do you, too, follow the Star across every obstacle to come to Christ? “I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star.” Revelations 22:16