Friday, 15 January 2016

Christmas 1/Epiphany 2015, Wise Men

There is a strong Christian tradition, that would see astrology as suspect. But here are astrologers from the East, traditionally thought to be Persia/Iran visiting the infant Jewish Messiah because their stargazing has foretold a very significant birth. They embark on a long and dangerous journey to find the reason for this large star. They non Jews believed that the star depicted the birth of the King of the Jews, and they went to the palace to find the king-because kings live in palaces. But Herod was troubled by the arrival of the magi. He pretends that he is interested and encourages them on their way to Bethlehem, which means in Hebrew, House of Bread, to where the prophet Micah has foretold that the Messiah will come from.

And so they go to Bethlehem and give the infant Jesus gold, frankincense and myrrh and pay homage to him: Myrrh for a kings anointing, gold symbolising costly worship and frankincense prayer. And they departed another way having been warned in a dream of impending trouble, if they went back to Herod. The importance of dreams in the gospel stories of the nativity are striking. Do we take notice of our dreams?

Where would we find such wise men or wise women today? I think they are a rare breed and as such should have protected status! Wisdom is much lacking in our society though revered by other cultures, like ageing. We have much to learn about wisdom and wise guides to help us. 

To find this star and the baby King, the astrologers had to
1.physically travel,
2. mentally adjust to cross cultural differences and
3. religiously adopt another set of beliefs or at least some of them.

They had to journey. They had to leave behind the safety of their homes, their occupations, and in great danger follow their hunch. In doing so they also willingly gave materially, such was their devotion. And lastly they listened to their dreams.

Without a vision, a dream we become as dead people. So any resolutions we make for the coming year should be fired with real belly felt dreams. For me Gods Spirit is at its most powerful in what inspires our imaginations and our dreams and these dreams drive us to think and act in ways that can change us and those around us and our world.

What will drive us like the Magi to foolishly follow the God of Truth and Wisdom. It may involve upheaval, It may involve a change of attitudes. It may involve traveling. It may involve, if temporarily, a leaving behind and moving into dangerous territory and the giving of what is costly. But of such stuff are dreams made of and of such stuff is the journey we are on.

Its scary stuff, being able to peel back the layers and listen to our hearts desires or our dreams because it can result in changing the small corner of our world to follow that dream and others may not be sympathetic.

The Journey of The Magi-T.S.Elliot

A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.'
And the camels galled, sore-footed, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.

Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
And running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty and charging high prices:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.

Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;
With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped in away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
And feet kicking the empty wine-skins.
But there was no information, and so we continued
And arrived at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you may say) satisfactory.

All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This:  were we led all that way for Birth or Death?
There was a Birth, certainly,
We had evidence and no doubt.  I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.



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