Today is the twelfth and final day of Christmas – the Epiphany; the traditional date on which the three Magi from the orient visited the newborn Christ child. This story is well known to us in the West; however there is another, more curious telling which finds its origins in ancient Iran.
This is the story as related by the great traveller Marco Polo.
“In the city of Saveh in Persia there are three magnificently housed sepulchres, each one beside the other. The people of this town no longer remember who lies entombed here, only that they were great kings of old. It is said of Saveh that the noble Magi who rest here are Beltasar, Gaspar and Melchior, and that they were indeed the three who travelled to Bethlehem to worship the Christ child.
Picture the scene. It’s the week before Christmas and today is bitterly cold. Even though it’s not yet evening, darkness has well and truly fallen. If you braved the wintry weather tonight, you would soon see the stone walls of a church by the sea. Warm lights shine out invitingly from the windows and make patterns of the churchyard trees on the new-fallen snow.
Then, suddenly, the lights go out. If you went inside right now, you would see people of all ages lining the walls of the church, each holding an orange with a lit candle. The tiny lights show little else but the face of each bearer. And they all begin to sing.
Hands up – coming clean – I am a Christian. The chances are, you wouldn’t know this about me unless you really know me. I have never been the type to stand on a soapbox to proclaim my beliefs for all to see. I don’t even share them with other Christians (unless asked) because in my 26 years of being a follower of Christ I have encountered more hate, rejection and derision inside a church than out of it.
That being said, I am still a Christian. I call myself an unconventional one, and this is why.