January 1 2017 Ephiphany
2:1 In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem,
2:2 asking, "Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage."
2:3 When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him;
2:4 and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born.
2:5 They told him, "In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:
2:6 '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.'"
2:7 Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared.
2:8 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."
2:9 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.
2:10 When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy.
2:11 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.
2:12 And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our strength and our redeemer Amen.
Firstly, Happy new year to you! It was been a wonderful Advent and Christmas here at St. Philip’s and now we are ready to celebrate Epiphany today, the coming of the wise ones to honour and worship the Baby in a manager. So….. we are not done yet, the season of Christmas lasts into the new year.
It is not true that Christmas is over as the stores and radio music may be trying to tell us.
Today’s gospel is a reality check. We are told of death and harm brought upon the children by King Herod the powerful. Little ones were killed at the command of the king who feared the power of a new born baby – the one that was foretold.
Even at the very beginning of the Christmas story – we see conflict It is not just about sweet sheep, gentle cows in a manger and peace on earth. This tiny little one that we have gathered here to worship today is feared by the powerful
people in the time of King Herod paid an awful price – They were caught right in the middle of the will and rule of a dictator. Not a peaceful time at all.
In the gospel of Matthew, the Jesus story becomes another case of seeing how power and fear are often intertwined. King Herod fears that his reign soon come to an end. It was foretold that there is another who will “set the people free”
King Herod believed the prophecy or he would not have commanded such a horrible decree.This story comes in the middle of our Christmas celebrations after a very long Advent…. All that waiting and preparing. Finally Christmas was here. The warm glow of Christmas, the sharing of good will towards each other, the excitement of welcoming the new born Christ child, the beautiful carols that proclaim this event from generation to generation…. I love this time of year….. I don’t want to move from this moment. I bet I am not alone in this.…
In the midst of all this celebration, some of it quiet and contemplative, and some of it over the top with grandkids so excited about the joys of the season that they can hardly contain themselves. It has been lovely, yet we all know that the strife of everyday reality for folks including you and me are also part of the reality that cannot be ignored.
You and I probably know of friends and family that have had to deal with the real pains of life this Christmas season. There were still moments of struggle, illness, times of loss, times of upset, broken relationships, etc. The circumstances of life do not stop.….
But can we as Christian people choose to embrace the birth of the Christ child to help us? We can choose to take moments to pause, prepare and embrace, LOVE HOPE PEACE and JOY.So how do we move forward with the gospel lesson today?
Reality checks…. Not always welcome, but not always a bad thing, it just means looking at the present moment or learning from the past with a new lens. We have the Christ as part of our life, in good times and in bad, in our joys and in our sorrows. Our faith and hope in God’s love and presence helps us get through the tough times.
The wise ones were on a journey for a very long time, following a star finding a baby in a manger. I am sure that was a surprise to them, but they embraced the moment.
I am sure that Mary and Joseph were dealing with anxiousness too…. Caring for God’s son. How would they manage? How can new parents on the road, not at home, care for a new born babe, having to flee King Herod.
A few weeks ago I mentioned that Mary and Joseph and Baby Jesus were refugees in astrange land, struggling to protect their new born son. It was not a natural or ordinary start to their family life.
Could you imagine the responsibility that Joseph would have felt, being responsible for the safety of God’s son? Mind-blowing….. a tyrant was on a rampage … after JESUS.
A Lutheran pastor and the preaching professor at Union Seminary in New York, Edmund Steimle wrote that the Christmas stories are not children’s stories, they are “…adult stories for adult Christians…”.
Steimle goes on to say that the purpose of these Christmas stories, as recorded by the authors of the gospels, is to remind us that the silent, holy night of unnatural calm that we celebrate on Christmas is really the point of the eye of the storm. Chaos, danger and violence are at the bible’s edges.
So on this day….. it is good for us to pause for a reality check! We acknowledge the wisdom and dedication of the wise ones who journeyed so very far to worship the Baby King. We are also on a journey, together here at St. Philips. We are standing ready to begin a new chapter in the life of our church – a new year where we can minister to each other and to the community that we need to serve.
I am excited at looking at ways in which we can build on this missional focus. Our parish membership may be small in numbers, but we can do good things here – one goodness at a time.
Connie reminded me of Our Queen Elizabeth’s Christmas message – so I watched it before our Christmas Day service. Her Majesty talked about parts of our world being in chaos. She acknowledged this, yet finds hope and inspiration all around her. She encourages us to be the change in our corner where you live, one generous act of kindness at a time – it all adds up, it is a sign of hope and God’s action in the world. This is her challenge to us.
Our little parish of St. Philip’s can make a difference, one act of kindness at a time. We are entering a time of opportunity that will challenge us. Yes, Advent is done, Christmas is here and Ephiphany is celebrated today. With God’s help we can embrace the next chapter.
Let us pray:
Lord, help us at St. Philip’s to continue to be that voice and hopeful presence in the world where we know that Jesus Christ is Lord, who lives and reigns, powerful as a baby boy, powerful as our Saviour.
Thanks be to God! AMEN.