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2009/01/04: The Second Sunday After Christmas - The Rev. Susan N. Blue

posted May 21, 2010, 6:07 PM by Unknown user   [ updated May 21, 2010, 6:16 PM by Terry Brady ]
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…”

The Rev. Herbert M. Goetz, Jr., told this 100 year old Swedish story in his January 3, 1993 sermon at First Community Church. “A country doctor came to a farmhouse one night to help deliver a child. As the mother labored on a kitchen table, her husband assisted the doctor by holding up a gas lamp to illuminate the makeshift delivery room. After a time of courageous labor, the mother produced a fine baby boy. Then, to the surprise of both parents, the doctor announced that a second child was due to arrive. And indeed, the mother delivered a lovely daughter.
Her husband was already shaken by this unexpected turn of events, so you can imagine his astonishment when he heard the doctor say, “Hang on? I think there’s a third. I think we have triplets!” At this, the father began to back out of the room. “Hold it!” called the doctor, “Come back here with that light.” “Oh, no,” said the father, “it’s the light that attracts them!”
It was another light that attracted the wise men 2000+ years ago to that infant lying in a manger. A huge mythology has arisen about these men … just who and what were they? First, there could have been two or twenty – the Bible never mentions three. Furthermore they could have been of any race, though, it is unlikely in the ancient Near East that even one of them was Caucasian. They were probably Medes, a Persian tribe, who served a priestly function. They might likely have been Zoroastrians, astrologers, magicians, dream interpreters or alchemists. We do know that they were wise in regard to the heavens and the stars, for they identified that star and followed it. That light was so strong with such powerful attraction, that they left everything and set out on a long and dangerous journey. They represent, for us, that Jesus came for all people, not just the people of Israel. They were strangers, gentiles, the “others.” We know that they were willing to take a great risk, and that their search was deliberate, intentional. They did not just “stumble upon” the Christ Child. Further, they illustrated humility, one that allowed them to be led and to trust in God. They moved on faith and hope as open and vulnerable human beings.
When they arrived at the manger they recognized Jesus for who he was – and opened gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. The gold symbolized kingship out of the line of David. The frankincense, used in the temple as a symbol of prayer, indicated that he was the Holy One, sent from God. Finally, myrrh, that which is used to anoint the dead, symbolized that though he was royal and holy, he would surely die, that he was fully human.
The late Rev. Canon Linda Strohmier’s answer to the question: “Who are they, these wise men bearing gifts?” is “Well, friends, they are us.” We, like them, are outside, not a part of the covenant with Israel, we, too are foreigners and strangers.
The gifts of the Magi tell us something of who Christ was for them, but they also tell us, who bear his name, what we are to be. The gold calls us to obedience, to honoring the life of Christ by emulating that life. We who bear the sign on Jesus on our foreheads from our baptism are to be God’s hands and hearts in the world.
We are called by the frankincense to worship and to prayer, to a constant remembering the one who created us and the one who sustains us. We are called to share that worship with all whom God has made – to be open and inclusive.
We are called by the myrrh to remember that we, too, are finite, that our stay on earth is limited. We are called to live a life that matters while we are here, trusting that we shall join the one we worship at our death.
I would suggest that this Epiphany time, 2009, we are ones who are called to journey, to follow the cries of our fellow human beings in Iraq, Israel, Afganistan, in Washington, DC and wherever God’s children are suffering. We are called to give our time, talent and resources to those who are experiencing incredible loss and pain. Like the Magi we are to be intentional in our reaching out and sacrificial in our giving. Finally, we are to trust God that there is enough for all of us, that all of us are loved and that the abundance of wealth and love in this world are enough for everyone.
On this Sunday of Christmas II let us remember that wonderful little saying penned by someone who is anonymous:

The Work of Christmas

When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among brothers,
To make music in the heart.

I can think of no better way that we could honor the incredible gift that we were given – that of God coming into the world as a human being, that assures us that to be human means to be loved by the Creator beyond our wildest imaginings. AMEN