Astrology reveals the Messiah in the Bible! The Epiphany

When you hear the same story retold time after time, year in year out, you know what is coming. So there is no need to think any further – is there? Well a little challenge on that point. Did you know that Christmas – or in fact more accurately Epiphany (the Christian season that follows directly after Christmas) – is all about Astrology? I bet they didn’t teach you that in Sunday School!!

We three kings of Orient are…..

No!, No!, No!  There weren’t three, they weren’t kings, and they weren’t from the Orient!  Bah Humbug.  If the writer of that carol was alive today, then I would take him outside and shoot him!

We need to read this passage in Matthew’s gospel with a first century head on our shoulders and not a twenty-first century one, nor with preconceived kingly ideas from past Christmases.  We read – ‘Magi, from the east….’  Not the Orient.  The Orient wasn’t encountered for several hundreds of years after this incident.  We don’t even read ‘the far east’.  We simply read ‘the east’, and any first century reader would say, ‘of course the Magi come from the east’.

East of Jerusalem is desert, yes, but east of the desert, the first country you come to, is Babylon.  And Babylon was the centre of learning of the times.  It was the Oxford and Cambridge of the day.  But you didn’t go up to Babylon to read computer sciences or media studies, you went up to Babylon to read Mathematics, Astronomy, and the Esoteric Arts.  How do we know?  Because we have already come up them doing this earlier in the scriptures, especially in the books of Daniel and Ezekiel.

They weren’t kings.  They were academics, the dons of the day, wise men.  And you don’t have to be very wise to know that if you are transporting treasure of this kind with only three people then you wouldn’t get half a mile from setting out before you were mugged!  There was safety in numbers, so they would have travelled with a camel train, a caravan, with guards and servants, making quite a number and grand entrance when they arrived at Jerusalem.

However we can do better than that – or perhaps much, much worse.  For the New English Bible, although lacking somewhat in poetic style, can be piercingly accurate at times.  It translates the word ‘Magi’ as Astrologers!!!  And with that insight we can see how that affects our understanding of the rest of this passage.  We read of births, times of birth, place of birth and stars.  What is astrology all about but births, times of birth, places of birth, and of stars.  It is about astrology!  And I can almost hear religious hackles rising and I am suddenly aware of a yawning pit in front of me, a trap for me to fall into.  So being VERY careful.  No I am not advocating we all learn about astrology, but I am advocating we try to understand the motive of these astrologers to see the main significance of this passage.

Choir, please help me out here.  Your starter for ten.  Complete the words and music of the following…… ‘This is the dawning of …….’  ‘The age of Aquarius’.  Yes, it is from the musical ‘Hair’.  A bit dated now but well remembered.

Staying with science, hard science and away from esoteric stuff.  We know that the planet Earth is hurtling through space at a great rate of knots, and we are aware of some of that movement.  There is the spin that gives us day and night.  There is the orbit around the Sun giving us the solar year.  And as we travel around the Sun, from our perspective the backdrop changes as the Sun seems to go through the twelve constellations of the night sky.  But there is a third movement that only scientists can tell us about for it is so small and slow. The Earth wobbles!!  There is no need to get worried and it is nothing to do with climate change.  The Earth has been wobbling for the last few billion years and will continue to wobble for the next few billion years.

If my stick is the axis of the planet then the planet wobbles like a child’s toy.  The North Pole is not always pointing in the same direction.  It slowly describes a circle.  Each wobble of circle taking an astonishing 26,000 years to complete.  It is called ‘The Procession of the Equinoxes’.  What that means is that at the Vernal Equinox, on March 21st, when looking at the rising Sun, the backdrop changes incrementally each year.  At the moment it is moving from the constellation of Pisces to the constellation of Aquarius.  Hence the song, the Dawning of the Age of Aquarius.  The transition takes a couple of hundred years.  But what is 200 years compared with the 2,000 years of seemingly staying in the same constellation.

Now do your sums.   Two thousand yeas ago, at the time of the birth of our Lord, the Earth was in a similar transition period.  But that time, instead of going from Pisces to Aquarius, it was going from Aries to Pisces.  That is all hard science, astronomy or astrophysics.  NOW we need to enter the world of the Magi.  What did they believe was happening, how did they see things?

Astrologers then, and today, believe that the constellations have attributes that somehow indicate influences on this planet.  The attributes of Aries included Martial Domination, and as the great age was declining so they saw the great Roman Empire beginning its decline.  The dawning age of Pisces had the attribute of spirituality.  So it was about a different kind of empire of kingdom, that of spirituality or the kingdom of heaven.  Interesting.

Far, far more important was their belief that each age was epitomised or personified by one person.  In fact that person would somehow bring about the New Age.  So the Magi, generally, were looking for the ‘spiritual man’ of the New Age.  But that doesn’t do it justice.  They were looking for the ‘god-man’.  So can you imagine their excitement, the consternation, the discussion and arguments that would have raged in the corridors of Babylon when they realised that this god-man had been born on their doorstep, relatively speaking.  They would have checked their observations, and their calculations and come to the realisation that here was an opportunity of significance.  An opportunity not of once in a lifetime, or even once in 2,000 years, but an opportunity of once in 26,000 years, to see for themselves the god-man, and pay him homage.  Some of their number had the strength of their convictions to accept the risks of the journey, accepted the cost of the journey, and went to Jerusalem to seek the child.

We, with the wisdom of hindsight, although lacking something of the strength of their excitement and leap of conviction, can see that their risks were justified, and that in this case their beliefs were also justified, as they paid homage to Jesus.  For we know that he was indeed the God-man, who brought about the kingdom of heaven to all believers by his life, death and resurrection.

St Luke, in his gospel, speak of the fulfilment of prophesy, of the Messiah, of God with us – Emmanuel.  St Matthew, in this gospel, speaks of the revelation of the God-man to the world.  And that is the significance of the Epiphany story.

That would also be a sensible place to finish this sermon, a wise place, but I am not necessarily known for my wisdom.  For I realised there is a corollary to all of this, a corollary that put the fear of God into me and I had to get down on my knees and pray.  I am still very much aware of that yawning pit before me, but I would like to bring this bang up to date and imagine what the Magi might say to us today.

It is sheer speculation – sheer speculation, however, they would point out that this is the dawning of the Age of Aquarius.  Yes, we know that!  But the attributes of Aquarius include intelligence and the application of intelligence, invention.  And looking at the transition period this last hundred or two hundred years has seen more invention that the whole of recorded history of this planet.  And it is accelerating.  We now have Artificial Intelligence – whatever that means.  Another attribute, and this is the discommoding one, is that of War.  Indeed during the dawning of this Age, although there have always been wars and rumours of war ever since there has been mankind, there has never been anything on this scale of two World Wars and the Cold War that followed where the whole of life was threatened with extinction in a nuclear holocaust – hopefully now passed.

And the person who would epitomise this New Age?  No not Putin.  But just as the Magi looked to the scriptures when they came all those years ago, so they could look to the scriptures today as say, ‘isn’t it obvious?’  Here is revealed the person coming on the wings of war.  But not any war.  The war of wars, of Armageddon.  A person we proclaim nearly every week.

But do we really believe what we say or is it merely lip service?  Do we say the words simply because others are saying them, simply because that is the response written in the service?  Do we dare believe the words to be true as we say, “Christ has died.  Christ is Risen.  Christ Will come again”.

The Epiphany will never seem quite the same again.