January 6, 2019 Sermon
“It’s A New Road”
Old Testament Scripture: Isaiah 60:1-6
New Testament Scripture: Matthew 2:1-12,16
‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who is to shepherd my people Israel.’”
Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.”When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men.
Sermon: ‘It’s A New Road’
…You know, the word Epiphany is supposed to mean ‘to shine light upon’, ‘to cause to understand’, ‘to be illuminated’. But in reality, after reading this text from Matthew, I’m admit, I’m still in the dark. I have more questions than answers. For instance, I wonder, what, exactly, were the magi looking for? I wonder, did they find it? Were their lives changed by what they found?What are we looking for, when we come to the manger?Do we find it? Are doors of the manger still open to us?I wonder if we still even know where to look for the manger? Have we become so sure of our faith journey, that we don’t even look to the heavens any more to see if we are heading in the right direction? Do we still pray for the light of a rising star to guide our lives? Or have we already plugged to the destination into our spiritual GPS, and are running on autopilot? What happens if we hit a detour? Are we ready to change directions, if our life calls for it?Or, have we stalled out in our journey to Bethlehem? Have we set up camp at a nice comfortable way station on the road, thinking that we’ve come far enough, here is a nice place to stay, there’s no need for us to go any further?Where are we on our road to the manger? By what road did we come here today?And now that we’re here, what gifts do we bring this infant king? How do show our love and recognition of his place in our lives? Where do we go, once we leave on our own road to go home? Will our visit at the manger today change the way we live our lives? I’m not going to even try to answer these questions. Maybe some of them don’t have any answers. But as I’ve read and studied this story of the journey of the wise men, I wonder if maybe it’s not supposed to be a story of explanation. Maybe it’s a story of confession. Maybe it’s a story that doesn’t seek so much to describe Jesus, but rather invites us to consider who Jesus is, for us. And especially, as we begin a new year, I wonder if this text is inviting us to consider our own understanding, as a church, of what it means to seek out Jesus, and to maybe take some new roads as we do it. Over the next several months, I hope that we can examine everything we do in the light of Epiphany, the shining star of our Savior and see how our ministries help those who are on the road, hoping to find a new day. Because Epiphany is not an explanation. It’s not persuasion. It’s not coercion. Epiphany is our confession that Jesus Christ is given to us, to be our light, our truth, our way, and our life.It’s our confession that the light of Jesus Christ shines for the whole world, not just a small, particular part of it. Not just Presbyterians, not just Americans. But the whole world, in ways that are strange and mysterious to us.Epiphany is our confession that people will come from all walks of life and many different reasons to seek the good news that Jesus offers. Some of the reasons they will come are hard to understand, some of the practical, some of them spiritual, some of the relational, some of them accidental. But they will come. Are the doors of our manger open to them? Or will they travel all this way to find the stable empty, the doors barred, the candles blown out?Epiphany is our confession that the light still shines in the darkness, and the darkness will never overcome it. And today, we celebrate at the table that light, and the meaning that it has for our lives. Jesus Christ is alive, he is always alive, and he invites us to live with him, forever.The year 2019 is just beginning. And I’m looking forward to seeing what it will bring. It’s a new year, a new day, a new road, and I’m feeling good. I invite all of you to join with me in exploring what the light of Epiphany will show in the coming months. Thanks be to God. Amen.