Aloha Friday Message – January 4, 2019 – A Star is Born

1901AFC010419 – A Star is Born

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    Matthew 2:2 […]“Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.”

Aloha nui loa, ʻŌmea! Welcome to a new year of shining a light on The Word. We will begin by taking a look at the back-story of today’s Key Verse which give us an account of the famous Star of Bethlehem. It obviously held meaning for the Magi, for Herod, and that meaning grew from its purpose. Was it merely an arbitrary conjunction of two or more light-sources in the vastness of the universe, or perhaps a phenomenon created by God for one specific moment in time? Was it a comet, an optical illusion, a bending of space and time? We will never truly know until all creation is remade. Is there a plan for everything, a unifying explanation of all the things we do and do not understand about God and his Universe? Many are convinced that there is no such systematization of physical reality and discount all spiritual and metaphysical explanations for the existence of anything – themselves included.

Let’s look back and what inspired these resolute travelers to journey into foreign lands in search of someone whose existence apparently held deep meaning to them.

In our Key Verse, we see the word “magi.” It’s often translated as “wise men.” Traditionally we consider the envoys to be a group of three, mainly because of the list of three gifts they bestow of Jesus and his family: Gold, frankincense, and myrrh. We don’t know their country of origin, the exact reason for their interest in the “newborn king of the Jews,” their names, or their physical characteristics. We have lots of pious ideas about all of that, but the bottom line is we don’t know for sure. We are, however, pretty sure they didn’t show up with the shepherds at the stable by the overflowing inn where Jesus was wrapped tightly in cloth and nestled in a feed trough. The passage that describes them consulting Herod, King of Judea, about how to find this baby is found only in the Gospel of Matthew. Herod, of course, doesn’t know, so he asks the chief priests and the scribes who tell him the prophecies say Bethlehem (house of bread), so he sends them in that direction. Then we read that the star “preceded them, until it came and stopped over the place where the child was.” (See Matthew 2:9) They were thrilled as they entered the house and “saw the child with Mary his mother.” (See Matthew 2:11) There is no mention there of Joseph, shepherds, angels, and a menagerie of animals. It was just Mary and Jesus and some pagans from somewhere east of Judea who were referred to as “the magi,” two or more persons with the moniker Magus. What’s a magus?

They were followers of a very ancient religion called Zoroastrianism. Zoroaster, also known as Zarathustra, was an ancient prophet from the region which is what is now southwestern Afghanistan or northeastern Iran. His writings represent what might be called the first monotheistic religion based on the belief that there is only one God. In his writings there were two distinct persons, very much opposite, that held control over all creation and life. They were called Ahura Mazda – he is omnibenevolent (absolutely good), and Angra Mainyu who is his opposite and therefore “omnimalevolent” (absolutely evil). His writings have influenced several religions (and heresies!), and include the Mazda-Yasna, a system based loosely on the principles of goodness, truth, and fairness. The magi who “discover” Jesus and Mary were probably of a sect of Zoroaster’s followers who believed that the Abrahamic covenant was an integral part of Ahura Mazda’s perfect plan for eliminating evil forever. Their arrival holds a very important and specific meaning, later expressed through the teachings of the Apostle Paul: Salvation was coming to all nations under one God:

Romans 3:29-31 29 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, 30 since God is one; and he will justify the circumcised on the ground of faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith. 31 Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law. These pagan magi were gentiles – not Jews. They came to do homage to the newborn king of the Jews, and were thus the first representatives of the gentiles to worship God Incarnate, Jesus, the Christ of God.  That is why we call this Feast Day Epiphany – it is the “showing forth,” the manifestation in Time of the Second Person of the Godhead, Jesus. This is the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham when Abraham took Isaac to be a sacrifice in Genesis 22:17-18 17 I will indeed bless you, and I will make your offspring as numerous as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of their enemies, 18 and by your offspring shall all the nations of the earth gain blessing for themselves, because you have obeyed my voice. That blessing for all nations is, of course, Jesus who will be “a Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” Who in the World is that?

We need to go back to the early days of Abraham, when he was still Abram, and a terrible battle in the valley of Siddim. We can look at these passages for more information:

Genesis 14:18-20 18 And King Melchizedek of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was priest of God Most High. 19 He blessed him and said,

“Blessed be Abram by God Most High,
maker of heaven and earth;
20 and blessed be God Most High
who has delivered your enemies into your hand!”
And Abram gave him one-tenth of everything.

That crosses back to Psalm 110:4 The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind,
“You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.”
 The Apostle Paul writes of this encounter in Hebrews. Hebrews 5:5-10 Christ did not glorify himself in becoming a high priest, but was appointed by the one who said to him,

“You are my Son,
today I have begotten you”;
as he says also in another place,
“You are a priest forever,
according to the order of Melchizedek.”
In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; and having been made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him, 10 having been designated by God a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.

Paul finishes up in the seventh chapter of Hebrews with an astute analysis of God’s fulfillment of his plan of salvation tying it all to Abram’s encounter with Melchizedek. Truly, that plan was consummated when Jesus pronounced, “It is finished.” But, for us Belovéd, it all began there, in the presence of Abram, Melchizedek, Lot, and El Elyon – God Most High. Bringing the whole story full circle is the fact that Abram and his family came from “Ur of the Chaldeans,” a city in Ancient Mesopotamia which today corresponds to present day southeast Iraq and about 150km NNW of Basra:

Abram and his family originated in the same part of the world that Zoroaster inhabited. Perhaps the Magi who came to see the newborn king of the Jews also traveled from that region following a star that hovered over a location somewhere around Bethlehem – the House of Bread – and gave Jesus’ family things they would need later in life when the World came to realize that the King of Kings is the Bread of Life and The Rising Dawn – the Morning Star, The King of Nations, and Emanuel (See the O Antiphons). Peter calls him the Morning Star: 1 Peter 1:19 19 So we have the prophetic message more fully confirmed. You will do well to be attentive to this as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. Jesus’ birth was heralded by Angels who sang “In the highest heaven, glory to God! And on earth, peace among people of good will!” (See Luke 2:14 CJB), illuminated by a star sent by God to welcome the gentiles and all persons of Good Will, the Lilly of the Valley (↔ Music Link), the Bright and Morning Star, and honored and adored by three Magi from the traditional land of Abraham’s birth. There is certainly meaning in that for all of us. What can we do in this life that will “show forth” that meaning for others and grant them the Epiphany of Faith that will put the Light of the Gospel in their hearts and minds?

Whatever, whenever, wherever, whoever, however, if ever, forever — at your service, Belovéd! (And seriously, go read Hebrews 7.)

Unless otherwise indicated, all scripture passages are from the New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE) New Revised Standard Version Bible: Catholic Edition, copyright © 1989, 1993 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Biblical languages inserts from Bible Hub (Bible Hub: Search, Read, Study the Bible in Many Languages) Visit at http://biblehub.com

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Aloha Friday Messages by Charles O. Todd, III is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License

 

 

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About Chick Todd

American Roman Catholic reared as a "Baptiterian" in Denver Colorado.

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