Ephesians 3: 16-19
Matthew 2: 1-12
January 4, 2015
TEXT: “ When they saw star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy.” Matthew 2:10
Having forgotten to set his alarm clock, and being eager to get to Church on time, a certain pastor was driving well over the speed limit when he was pulled over by a policeman. The officer was unimpressed by the pastor's excuse for being in such a hurry. "Well, reverend," he said, "how would you like me to preach you a nice long sermon?" "Forget the sermon," the pastor replied, "just get to the collection."
Reading over today's Gospel Lesson, I said to myself, "This is an ideal Sunday for skipping the sermon and just taking up the collection."
In today's Lesson, Matthew tells us that the star which guided the Wise Men on their journey to see the newborn King "stopped over the place where the child was ." And when the Wise Men saw this, "they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the Child with Mary, His mother,". That was it! The Magi came face-to-face with the newborn King and, without benefit of a sermon or a learned commentary on the Event, "they knelt down and paid him homage" (Mt. 2:10-11).
Then what happened? "They opened their treasure chests," Matthew tells us, and "they offered Him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh" (Mt. 2:11). (Thus, Matthew skips the sermon and just takes up the collection.)
There is the story of a man who had an inordinate liking for the color yellow. Everything around him had to be yellow: the outside of his house was painted yellow. Everything inside was yellow, too: the carpets, the walls, the ceilings, the curtains, the bedspreads, the kitchen appliances -- all were yellow. Even his pajamas were yellow. Then one day the man became ill with yellow jaundice. The doctor came to the house and went into the bedroom to examine the patient. When the doctor came out, the man's wife asked, "How is he?" "I don't know," said the doctor, "I can't find him."
What a great day it would be if we came face-to-face with Our Lord, opened our treasury of time and energy and talent, and offered Him the gift of our very selves! The problem is that we merge our religious experience so completely into our secular background that we can't find Him. Yet, amid all the secular hubbub, somehow we keep on searching. After all, isn't that what brings us here together, in this holy place?
As believers, we want to get in touch with the Presence of God as something more than a concept or an idea. As believers, we try to become aware of the Presence of God as something that involves our whole being. We want to let God touch us inwardly as well as outwardly. For true believers it is not enough to know about God with our minds. The God who saves us and liberates us from the bondage of aimlessness and absurdity is the God who is present in our whole being. And this is what Matthew is talking about in today's Gospel Lesson -- the story of the Epiphany.
Matthew is saying that, at a certain time and place in history, the essential Being of God, the Christ-Spirit which was with Him "from the beginning," was fully embodied and revealed in Jesus of Nazareth. And, for this reason, Jesus is called "Messiah," "King of Kings," "Lord," "Savior." Moreover, the Gospels inform us that this same Christ-Spirit that was embodied in Jesus is also in us. At the center of our being, the Spirit through which God created all things is alive in us, and "This is our hope of glory," the Apostle Paul tells us -- the glory of wholeness of life now and the glory of life that is to be.
The Presence of Christ is an enabling Presence. One of our many problems is that when we get into a difficult situation beyond our own strength to remedy, we still try to resolve it on our own. It may be a bad habit that has been ruling us for years. It may be a terrible loss through death. In these situations we have neither the power nor the strength to go it alone. The Apostle Paul said, "Even when I know what is right, I cannot do it. But I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Paul is talking about the Life Force, the Power that is released within us, in and through the Christ-Presence. We are given a strength beyond our own strength. Literally, the Power of Almighty God is available to each one of us: to renew us; to overcome our spiritual and emotional fatigue; to win our freedom from bad habits; to move through our crises of sickness and death triumphantly; to heal our broken relationships; to bring to fruition our dream of being effective, loving witnesses for Christ.
The Christ Presence is a uniting Presence. Think of all the brokenness in your life and mine, and in our world: estrangement; bitterness; misunderstanding; jealousy; and even deep hatred -- between parents and children, between husbands and wives, between peoples of different nations, between the Races, between the sexes, between the religions of the world! Even in Christ's own household, there are still deep divisions. How we need the reconciling, harmonizing, healing Christ-Spirit to break down the walls and bring us together!
Jesus is not just a great teacher. Jesus is not just a great man. Jesus is the Christ! Jesus is the One in whom the Christ Spirit of God became fully embodied. This is why we love Him. This is why we give our lives to Him and for Him. Christianity is not just an ethical, cultural society of some kind. Christianity is made up of a People who have experienced the Christ-Spirit in Jesus and who love Him with all their being.
"Go and search diligently for the Child...bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage," said King Herod. Herod, as we know, did not receive full details. But we have received them. Herod did not understand. But we understand. The Christ, the One in whom the Spirit of God is embodied, has come into our lives so that we may experience the fullness of life and the fullness of love. That is why we have come to offer Him homage.
On this first Sunday of the New Year, like the Wise Men of old, we have come to pay true homage to our King of Kings. Like the astrologers of old, we come as gift-bearing people. With God at the center of our lives, we pay homage to the King of Kings through our gifts of heartfelt compassion, patient understanding and genuine concern for others. Our greatest gift to the world in this New Year or any other year is the gift of self. And this is the homage we pay to Him: to love another as He has loved us.
There she was, the young woman with the radiant smile. She was leaning against one of the stalls, and the eyes in her happy face were closed. The man was at her side. And behind them, in the manger where the cows came for their food, was the Baby.
He was a tiny thing, wrapped tightly in a long linen robe and sleeping as soundly as any newborn baby -- sleeping as though the world had not been waiting thousands of years for this moment; as soundly as though your life and my life and the life of everyone on earth were not wrapped up in His birth; as soundly as though, from this moment on, all the sin and sorrow of the world were not His problem.
Should you speak to His mother resting so quietly there? Should you ask her if you might touch the Baby -- not to wake Him, but just to touch His hand?
What a moment that would have been! To have reached out your own hand and touched the Son of God!
What a moment it can be even now! Do it now! Reach out! He is with us now!