The particulars of the Iranian cosmologists who arrive in Bethlehem to pay homage to Mary’s child are surprising. Yet the fact that such characters should appear near the center of events when the biblical God has bares his arm should not surprise. It has ever been so.
In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, ‘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.’ When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. (Matthew 2:1–4 NRSV
King Herod, tricked up in privilege, self-interest, and a host of counselors enriched with custody of YHWH’s holy scrolls, still manages to stumble about wondering how he might abort redemptive events or, failing this, to profit from them. This, too, has ever been so.
Privilege and legacy are not to be scoffed at. They represent distilled blessing and are capable of making people both wise and strong. Yet proximity to redemptive precedent bears with it the soul-killing dangers of presumption and apathy.
YHWH has always at hand his astrologers, pagan kings, lepers, and tax-gatherers.
He summons them when his chosen ones have faltered with that divine mixture of grief and glee that clings to breakthroughs like skies filled with angels and a child in a feeding trough, squirming, pooping, and hinting at salvation.