Thursday, November 11, 2010

Mbele Tse’ Tse’aar - The African Wise Man

Background: This Christmas, my church will donate mosquito netting to a village in Africa to help prevent malaria. The worship coordinator decided that an African theme to the service would be nice. She wanted to have the children come up and be told an African Christmas story. The problem is, of course, that the Christmas story isn't African. But there is a lgendary tie-in to Africa....
Mbele Tse’ Tse’aar - The African Wise Man

Many, many years ago, in the east of the vast land that is now called Africa, there was a great kingdom called Ethiopia. Their rulers were noble and wise, and they built great cities. The stories were told of how Tse’ba, an ancient Queen of Ethiopia, had won the heart of the great King Sh’lomo of Yi’isra’al, far to the north. Egypt, the glory of her Pharaohs and pyramids long past, bowed to the East African Kings. The Romans, who had conquered so much of the Known World, left Ethiopia alone. The people of Ethiopia lived in plenty and peace.

It was into this world that Mbele Tse’ Tse’aar was born. From an early age, Mbele was taught how the heavens direct the hands of men, telling them when to plant, when to expect the rains, when to harvest. He learned how the stars and moon wheel in the great dome of the sky, how the Wandering Stars (the ones the Greeks called "planets") move among the constellations, and how to use their motions to predict the change of seasons. He also learned to watch for signs and portents, unusual happenings in the sky, portents of change.

Mbele grew wise in the ways of his people, earning great honor for his ability to read the stars. A learned man, he knew of the prophecies recorded by the people of Yi’isra’al, whom Queen Tse’ba had adopted as her own. These prophecies foretold the birth of a great King, a King of Kings, who would rule the whole earth. Mbele hoped that he might one day see the heavenly sign of this King’s birth, but he did not really expect to live so long.

One night Mbele was holding his hands up to heavens to measure the distance between the White Wandering Star (the one the Romans called Venus) and the Red Wandering Star (the one the Romans called Mars), when he saw something new!

A faint, fuzzy spot of light had appeared where nothing had been before. Mbele took careful note of its position.

The next night, he looked for the fuzzy light. It had moved! The Wandering Stars were where he expected them to be, but this new, fuzzy star... was not.

The next night the fuzzy star had moved yet again. When day came, Mbele spoke with the elder sky-watchers. Together they consulted the records of their people. Fuzzy stars were rare indeed, sometimes taking on terrifying appearances. And more, they always seemed to appear at times of great change.

Mbele did not sleep well that night, nor for many nights thereafter. The new star continued to move across the heavens in a steady northward path. By the time of the new moon, Mbele had decided that this new star heralded the birth of the Great King predicted by the ancient prophets of Yi’isra’al. He resolved to travel to meet the new king.

At that time, the greatest and most knowledgeable of the sky-watchers lived in the ancient land of Ur, between the two great rivers Tigris and Euphrates, the land where civilization itself began. Mbele arranged a to join a caravan of traders to that distant land, where he hoped to consult with sages even more wise than he. After many weeks’ journey he came to the sun-baked city, built around a tall, stepped tower. At nightfall he climbed the steps and greeted the sky-watchers there, who were taking their measurements of the heavenly bodies, including the new star. They listened with interest as Mbele told of his observations and his travels.

Mbele was chosen to be part of a delegation to travel to Yi’isra’al to greet the new King. The journey by caravan was long. They traveled by night, following the star as it grew into a flaming arrow pointing to the west. They came into the land of Yi’isra’al and sought the King, Chah’rod. Chah’rod was a jealous king. He was alarmed that a new king had been born, and especially that the birth had been announced in the heavens. He inquired of his own wise men where the King was to be born. Consulting the ancient writings, they told Chah’rod that the King was to be born in Beit Le’chem. King Chah’rod asked Mbele and his companions to find the newborn King, and then return and tell him where the child might be found.

Of course you know the rest of the story: The Wise Men found and worshipped the baby Y’Shua, the new-born King, giving him princely gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And being warned by a dream that Chah’rod meant harm to the Child, they returned to Ur by another path.

You might think the story ends there. But decades later, Mbele traveled even farther east, to the land called India - as ancient as Ur, and as learned in the ways of the stars. There he met a man from Yi’isra’al, called To’mas, who told him an amazing tale: How the child Y’shua born in Beit Le’chem many years ago had grown into a great teacher and healer. How he had angered the religious rulers and had been put to death, and how he rose again after three days. To’mas had doubted the story until Y’Shua appeared to him in the flesh.

To’mas carefully explained to Mbele how Y’Shua had fulfilled all the prophecies of the ancient prophets about the King of Kings. He explained to Mbele that if he trusted in Y’Shua, that all his sins would be forgiven and that he would spend eternity in the presence of the Creator of the Heavens. Mbele received this Good News with great joy.

The tales record that Mbele T’se T’aar, later called Balthazar, was baptised by Thomas the Doubter, who brought the Gospel to India.

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