|Isaiah 60: 1-6|
Matthew 2: 1-12
|January 2, 2022|
St. Mary’s Regina
Whenever people gather in groups, it is almost inevitable that one will hear stories. Stories are the vehicle that we human beings most commonly use to make sense of the world in which we live. Through stories told around kitchen tables over cups of coffee or tea, or maybe something a wee bit stronger, we share some of the things that have shaped and informed our lives, both present and past and these stories become our family histories. In my family I have noticed that through the years, some of the details of the events are changed depending on who is telling the stories and even though it makes for lively discussions on occasion…the inherent truth it holds for us doesn’t change. This is one of the ways that families pass on the values and traditions that have shaped and formed their lives.
Story telling is so important that we are taught from a young age to listen carefully and respectfully when someone is telling a story. Stories are powerful. Survivors of all sorts of trauma often need to tell their story in order to move forward from the event. A dear friend of mine once told me that we will re-tell or relive a traumatic event/story until we can make some kind of sense of what happened OR until we can find a safe place to store it inside us. It is a well-documented fact that being able to share our story often leads to healing and restoration. There is something powerfully sacred in the telling/sharing as well as in the listening. And I believe THAT is evidence of God’s grace in the world.
Today we celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany although the actual date for Epiphany is January 6th. Today we heard “the rest of the Christmas story”….the story of the journey of the Magi as they followed the light of a star. This story has captured our collective imagination for a very long time. Artists and poets have created masterpieces that have given us most of the images that we associate with the story. We sing familiar hymns like “We Three Kings” and there is even an Epiphany verse to the favourite Christmas carol, “O Come All Ye Faithful” which says: Led by the starlight, Magi, Christ adoring, offer him incense, gold and myrrh; we to the Christ-child bring our hearts’ oblations. O come let us adore him.”
So much has been made of this story. The images with which we are most familiar come from the lyrics of a song and honestly, there are few historical facts. The Magi were not kings and there were not three of them…at least not according to Matthew. We do not know who they were, where they came from, or how many of them there were. We do not know how long it took them to get to Bethlehem or how old Jesus was by the time they got there. And frankly, there is no historical evidence of that famous star.
Now, just in case you are wondering where I’m going with all this, I want you to know that I am not here to debunk the Christmas story. It’s not that the facts don’t matter. It is just that they don’t matter as much as the stories themselves do, and like our family stories, stories can be true whether or not they actually happened. The truth of a story is revealed in how it affects us. Does the story come to life inside us? Does it point us to an insight or truth about ourselves….does it make us more or less human over time? Well, let’s see.
What does this story say to us? For the next few minutes, I invite you to think about the journey of the Magi and how they found Jesus using the images that are most familiar to you.
The image that comes to my mind is of the wise men traveling by camel through a star lit night in which one star dominates the sky….much like a comet that I saw several years ago. They are standing on a hill top overlooking Jerusalem. Their journey is almost over and it’s been a long one. Like most journeys, there have been trials along the way but they have remained hopeful. They are cautiously optimistic in their search as most of us are when we journey into unfamiliar territory, but are certain they will find what they looking for. They have accomplished part of what they set out to do and followed the star because it somehow keeps calling to their hearts. But upon arriving in Jerusalem, they aren’t exactly certain where to find Jesus even though the star still shines, calling to them in the silence of the eastern sky.
The wise men do not discover Jesus and worship him, until they do something else. Did you notice that they consulted the Holy Scriptures? They do! They asked Herod, (who, frankly, didn’t know what they were talking about) so then Herod asked the chief priests and teachers of the law, where this King was to be born. These wise men discovered a truth….that although they are wise in their own areas of expertise, they do not have all the answers. And neither do we. We may know the way to Christ, what direction to travel in, and we may have a general idea of where he lays, but until we, like the wise men, turn to the scriptures, we cannot find Jesus and worship as we should.
I believe that it is the Word of God that leads us to God, as much as it is the enlightenment that God gives for guidance, be it the light of a star, or, more commonly, the light that shines through another person’s life….the light of peace and understanding and love.
If we are to make a connection with our Lord, then we need to be willing to seek the light that God gives to see where it leads. We need to be willing, as we seek, to seriously study the Word of God, and take to heart the wisdom it gives that enables us to follow the Lord.
We need the word of God as we seek Jesus today. We need the God-light that is cast by faith-filled followers and witnesses to Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour so that we don’t overlook the important truths God has for us. It is easy for us to over look important things because we are easily distracted by our own issues.
I believe that we can inadvertently overlook the truly important things in our lives that help us become happier, more faithful and more fulfilled. This happens when we focus on things that make us unhappy, less faithful and less fulfilled. I don’t think that we do this intentionally…..but we do it, none the less.
Like the wise men, as followers of Jesus, we are to offer our praise and gifts given in thankfulness for all that God has given us…in other words, to be stewards of the world in which we live and work. This gift of stewardship is given to us by God. It is our responsibility to insure that we, with thankful and generous hearts, share our resources (time, talents and yes, our money) so that our communities are sustained/enabled/equipped to share the Good News God brings to the world through Jesus Christ. The wise men shared their wealth with great thankfulness and we, too, follow their example.
As we begin this New Year, my prayer is that each of us will stop our wandering for a while so that we can get our bearings. We may discover that we are carrying burdens that keep us from realizing the abiding presence of God in our lives. If so, perhaps this is as good a time as any to unload those burdens before we carry them any further. Because to forgive the unforgiven, to heal the broken hearted, especially if it is ourselves, to ask forgiveness for ourselves enables us to be better stewards, to see, more clearly, the possibilities that the light of Christ brings into the darkness of our lives. Christ is in our midst, always waiting to show us how much fullness there is to life because he is the Way, the Truth and the Life.
When the Magi set their eyes on the star, they set into motion a journey for life. They focused on the right stuff, they listened to the right voices, and they consulted the right sources. In other words, the Magi found Jesus because they were attentive to the signs of God and listened to God’s word. We, too, offer praise to God for the Word Incarnate, for God’s light in our lives and for the gift of faith that allows them to work in our lives. AMEN.