2019-01-06/Community Lutheran/Rev. Joe Vought
A family was driving to visit relatives on Christmas. As they drove past an Episcopal church with a Christmas creche in the front yard, the 5-year-old asked who the characters were. The mother explained: “That’s Mary, Joseph and Baby Jesus in the manger.” Further down the road, they saw a Methodist church, where another display showed the journey of the Wise Men. “Who are they?” the child asked. The mother replied, “Those are Wise Men looking for the Baby Jesus.” “Well,” the child said, “they won’t find him there. He’s down at the other church.” It is important to remember it takes St. Luke’s story- the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem and St. Matthew’s story of Wise Men visiting the Christ child to make our Christmas complete.
Luke’s tells us shepherds were the first to visit Jesus. They went to Bethlehem where they saw Mary, Joseph and Jesus in the manger. Today St. Matthew says “wise men from the east came to Jerusalem.” They were excited about a bright star in the sky and it got them moving. What are the signs in life that inviting you to turn in a new way and follow? The wise men “followed the star till it stopped and entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother,” and they bowed down to worship. Like them, we need to know when to move out in faith and when to bow and worship.
The journey of wise men took them to Jerusalem to see Herod and his wise men who shared from the prophet Micah “the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem.” Notice the irony here? It is pagan Gentile foreigners who listen and follow Jewish scriptures and upon seeing Jesus, bow down in worship, offering their gifts. Not only are the words of Micah fulfilled, but the words of Isaiah in our first lesson, “Nations shall come to your light and kings to the brightness of your dawn.” Jesus, born King of the Jews is born not only for Jews but for all peoples of all the world. That’s the only way we can ever call the story of Jesus Good News, because if Jesus is just for some and not for all people of the earth then it’s just more bad news. It is why we have the banner out in front of our church. Epiphany means Christ is revealed to the nations and born for all people. But when Herod says to the wise men “bring me word of this child so I too may go and worship,” we sense sinister motives. We understand why the wise men were warned not to return to Herod. Matthew tells us when Herod learned the magi had tricked him, he flew into a rage of genocide murdering all the male children two years old and younger who lived in Bethlehem.
The story of Wise Men worshiping Christ and murderous Herod makes it clear that God’s coming to our world almost always creates conflict between God’s rule of love, justice and peace and earthly rulers. Someone somewhere said it wisely, “We must always be humble and honest for there is a Herod hiding inside each one of us.” In a world where too many people are tempted to play God, where politics seems rife as never before, where name-calling and vilification are part of our daily discourse how will we ever heal? Yes, we have foreigners, just like the wise men, people at our borders. But I think they are looking to us, asking us if we really believe what we say as Americans, “that all people are endowed by our creator with inalienable rights- life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” We need order and good government, but when children become victims and families are separated, we must cry out. Ronald Reagan quoting Jesus called us to be that “shining city on a hill.” Abraham Lincoln called us to live up to “the better angels of our nature.” The Biblical witness from beginning to end proclaims ‘God loves and blesses the whole world, no exceptions.”
So how will we be wise and humble followers? I believe it starts right here as we come into the light of Jesus’ presence, God welcoming us, inviting us to bow and bend, to put our egos on the shelf, reminding us that Love has come to lighten our darkness and we are made in God’s image for love. Whatever our differences, we come into the light of Jesus’ presence worshiping together. We all meet at the manger to worship to be forgiven. There is a reason Bethlehem means the house of bread, for when we come to this altar and the manger Christ comes to us in bread and wine, to restore us to our right minds. When we bow and worship Christ, we come home to who we truly are: to do justice love kindness and walk humbly with God. Then we can’t help but notice our neighbors and realize that Christ is in the stranger, the person we haven’t met yet, and dare I say it, even the person with whom we disagree.
Because of Jesus and our ministries we have met Christ in our brothers and sisters from MarThoma Church, in our brothers and sisters from the ADAMS Ctr. as we bring healing to this community and make music together, in our welcome embrace of friends from Green Meadow Homes, not to mention all the families of our PreSchool and those who come through our doors to listen and enjoy the music of our FOCUS performers.
On this Epiphany Day in this new year of
grace, I pray that we will Welcome, Grow and Share our Faith as Never Before by
Giving and sharing more of ourselves. Worshiping
God not just with our words and our time but to lay our treasure, our money and
gifts, like those wise men, at Jesus’ feet to build Community and be a bright
shining light here in Cascades. In a
world of division, fear and darkness, we worship, we keep the faith and we follow
Jesus. This is why we need each other
and there is always room for more. The
closer we come to Christ, the closer we come to each other. The closer we come to each other, the closer
we come to Christ. May God help us to
see Christ in all people. So we can sing
the angel’s song, “Glory to God in the highest and peace to all God’s people of
the earth.” Amen.