Thursday, 12 December 2013

We three Iranians: Satellites stars and smart phones

As we prepare for another nativity, I've been considering the link between the Three Wise men from the East, probably Iran, and the thousands of Iranian believers today.

These three Iranians represent a massive prophetic promise. The first to come from far off to worship Jesus. Following a star, beginning a journey based on limited revelation, ending in submission to Christ and a total rejection of their old lives and world views. They point prophetically to the millions who have and will come to Christ from across Asia, from the Middle East, through Iraq, Iran, India and Pakistan. They are a foretaste of the many who will follow in their footsteps.

Today we don't hear stories of stars in the sky. However, there are many stories of Muslim background believers in the oppressive Iranian regime who have dreams and visions of Jesus. Many too who are stopped in their tracks by a satellite broadcast beamed into their homes, or a youtube clip about Jesus onto their smart phones.

Perhaps 60,000 Iranians around the world follow Jesus today. Three has become 60,000, just in our generation. A star has become a satellite, the outcome the same - a journey to find the truth about Jesus. The prophetic plan of God from the very beginning, to gather worshippers to Jesus from across the nations is accelerating.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Kings, carols and caricatures!

Maybe it's over familiarity, or the fast approach of another badly costumed kids nativity play -but the wise men in the story, found in Matthew 2, need to be commended.
First though, a few of our favourite myths need well and truly busting! These three Kings didn't just appear out of the mist, dropping into the perfect nativity scene with Shepherds, animals, Mary, Joseph and the lobster!

Most scholars agree today that their starting point in the 'East' was Iraq, Babylon, maybe even Iran. Either way, these guys came a came a long way, and they had been following the star a long time.
The fact that Herod orders boys under the age of two to be killed gives us an idea that Jesus was probably an infant by now. The shepherds were long gone, the manger back to it's animal use. Mary and Joseph would have long since presented Jesus at the temple and met Simeon and Anna. Indeed, verse 11 of Matthew 2 hints that the young family may now be living in a house rather than the original birth room behind the Inn.

It gets worse - The three fellas from the East almost certainly weren't kings, more probably wealthy astrologers. Perhaps Zoroastrian Priests, certainly pagans. The Jewish influence in Babylon and beyond since the exile would have left a legacy and an openness in some to the old prophetic promises held by the Jews.

Sadly, we don't even know there were three of them! The names, Balshazzar, Melchior and Casper, were probably made up in the 8th Century, in some kind of early Disney rebranding of Christmas! You will get as much truth out of the first verse of the Rev Henry Hopkins old carol, 'We three kings of Orient are' as you would from singing 'Rudolph the red nosed Reindeer!'

However many of them there were, and wherever they may have come from - it's more important to remember what they did and said: 'We saw his star in the East and we have come to worship him.'

It's easy for us to caricature the three Wise men, to box them into our inoffensive Christmas fairytale with their colourful costumes and non child friendly gifts. But all these Wise men had to go on was a flaky understanding of the Hebrew scriptures and a great big new star in the sky! This little bit of revelation is enough to make them very wise men indeed in my book.
We are those who have seen so much more than a star. We are the generation who have the big story in our possession, a greater revelation than any who have gone before us.
We are those who know who this child grew up to be. We are those who know about his miracles, his power, his life, his death, his resurrection, his ascension. We know he now sits at the right hand of God in glory, having made a way for all of us who believe to follow him. We know that he is returning soon to gather all of his worshippers, from all the ends of the earth, East and West, North and South, to be with him for ever.

Knowing what we know, don't these Wise men deserve a round of applause this Christmas? For making the same journey as us on a fragment of the story. For ending at the same destination as us, with all our knowledge, bowed together around the King that we have joined in worship of.