Sermon: January 4th, 2009

5 01 2009

Here is the sermon for Jan. 4th. We apologize for it being “choppy”. The other sermons will be created in a different format and this will not occur. This should be a one-time event.

The Scripture

In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, 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.” When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet: ‘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.



                                                            Matthew 2:1-12




He was tired, he journey had been long and very hard at times,
and despite the companionship that he enjoyed on the way,                he had often found himself feeling discouraged.
But for all that -tonight was special, 
His journey was over and he felt a peace in his heart he had
never felt before..
It had all begun months earlier - it seemed like years now -
when he had noticed a new star in the heavens, a star that did not belong there one that had never been there before.
At first he thought that he had made a mistake, that the charts that he had relied upon for years were in error, but as night followed upon night he saw that the star moved, that it was changing position against the familiar constellations.
Finally, - certain of his discovery, and not sure what to make of
it, he told another astrologer at the Shah's court about what he
had found.
Events followed fairly quickly then... at first anyway.
After his discovery was confirmed by his friend all the Shah's
astrologers and soothsayers gathered to observe the star and to
discuss what it meant.
After a few days of intense debate, days in which astrological charts were cast in the dozens, and clerks scurried back and forth with complicated calculations, after an incredible amount of work and confusion, it was decided that the star signaled the birth of a new king, in fact of a great king - and that this king had been born, or was about to be born, in a land somewhere to the west of them.
For another few weeks various attempts were made to discover what
king had been born in the western lands or what Queen was expecting a child, but, because there was no news to be had from those far lands
and because the Shah still expected advice every day and couples still wanted charts drawn up when their children were born, and because business too was very good among the merchants who wished to know the best time to buy and sell their goods, because of all these things, very soon most of the wise men in the land forgot about the new star and the excitement caused by its appearance.
But there were some who could not forget, and he and two others
continued to discuss the star long after the news of its appearance had faded from the minds of the rest.
It seemed to him and two of his companions that the star was a
sign of tremendous significance. Never had they heard of a new star appearing and never had they seen a star move in the heavens.
Together they discussed how the star must be a sign from the gods
that something very important was happening and that the king
whom everyone had agreed the star heralded was no ordinary king.
The star was a such a powerful sign, that he finally resolved to
set forth and to find the king who lay beneath it. He knew that his life would be incomplete if he did not meet the king the star pointed to.
His two friends, who were equally excited by the star and in awe
of the power it pointed to, agreed to go with him on his trip. So it was that one night, leaving behind all that they held dear and knew so well, they set forth.
They had travelled a long way since then, a long way, and often the way had been difficult, often there had been delays and uncertainties, often there had been danger and confusion..
There were times when he and his friends could not move onward, the sky would be obscured by clouds and they could not be sure if they were heading in the right direction and so they would set up camp wherever they found themselves and wait.
Always when he had to wait he lost some of his confidence. He was never sure if, when the clouds parted once again, that the star would still be in the sky.           
Perhaps it would disappear from view as suddenly as it had appeared, perhaps he was chasing a ghost star, a star with no real significance,           a star with no real existence. Perhaps he was a fool on a fool's errand.
At other times - when the star shone brightly and the three of them could move onward their progress was impeded by terrain that even people travelling by day would have had trouble with.
A leg of their journey that local residents told them would only take a day would take three, and the easy paths that other travellers told them about never seemed to be as easy as they expected.
It seemed at times that there had never been a easy night for them: always there was some anxiety or other to disturb them - even on the most level paths; sometimes, in fact, those paths worried him the most, for there others might be roaming, others with evil on their minds, others ready to kill or steal from passing strangers.
But the worst thing, the thing that made the journey the hardest, was the comments of others. Most of the people they met on their way could not understand why they were following a star.
They thought they were crazy to travel by such an obscure light,    crazy to have left behind the safety of their own land, and the security of their jobs in the Shah's court.
They would ask him and his friends why they had not stayed at
home with the other wise men, and they would suggest, without actually saying so, that perhaps they were not as wise as those others who         had seen the star, but not followed it.
"So, a king has be born" they would say, "This happens every day - so what is so special about this king that you would undertake this journey.  What possible difference can it make to you?"
And when he or one of the others replied that this king had a
special star, a kind of star never seen before, they would laugh
and say that life was too good to go off chasing after a king
that no one had ever seen, let alone heard about.
Even the other astrologers they consulted along the way thought
that he and his friends were being foolish.
     "What difference can it make to you", they would ask? 
     "Right now you could be making a handsome profit
     casting charts for businessmen or telling your nation's
     generals when to make war and when to make peace, and
     instead here you are wandering the world looking for
     someone or something that may not even exist."
And so the days and the weeks passed. 
They pressed onward, just often they wondered if anything would come of it, and always, even on those marvelous days when they had no doubts of their own, they had to contend with the doubts of others.
There had been days, when resting by the roadside in their camp, or casting charts in a village square to earn money to pay for their food and lodging, he had been tempted to give up his quest.
He would feel comfortable, money would be jingling in his purse, his belly would be full, and he would think about the hazards of their journey, and how good he it felt to do what everyone else did, and he would forget the new king for a while.
But then night would come and he and his companions would look up
and they would see the star, and it would seem to outshine the others in the sky, and realizing just how special it was and how important the
new king had to be, they would once again mount their camels and set forth to find him.
Yes, he was very tired, the journey had been long and very hard at times, but tonight was special, he had at last arrived at the place the star had led him to.
The country he and the others were in that night was not a very
important one.  It lay under Roman rule - and it was primitive and backward.  
But they had heard rumors that a king was supposed to be born in
it, and when they had gone to the capital city and asked about that king, the man who governed the nation had told them to go and check in a town called Bethlehem.
Earlier that night they had left the city.
The star had shone brightly from the direction that Herod had
indicated and they had followed it, until they had entered the village of Bethlehem, and when they had arrived there it seemed to him that the star was, for the very first time, directly above his head, and that it shone in a special way upon one house.
He had dismounted and with the other two had entered the house
and saw an infant child in his mother's arms. For a moment he doubted that he had found the great king, for though the star shone through the chimney hole so that its light seemed to rest upon the child's face - everything else seemed to be all wrong.
There was no sign of royal wealth in the house - there were no expensive oils to sooth the skin, no costly furs or linens upon the sleeping pads to bring easy sleep to the baby, there was nothing in fact to indicate that the babe was anything but the child of a poor peasant, of a man, who by the few tools and pieces of wood          stacked in a corner seemed to be a carpenter.
Yet - there was a feeling in the room, a feeling that seemed to radiate from both the mother and the child, and the star light seemed to cast a halo around them.
So he had explained to the woman why he was there with the others, and in return she had told him of a dream she had, a dream in which her God had told her she would bear a child to rule his people and to bring light to the gentiles.
Then her husband told them that the baby was special, and that when he had been born shepherds had seen angels and come to the stable were the baby had been born and worshipped the child.
And then he had looked again at the child, and at his mother, and he thought about the light she had mentioned, and how the star had brought him to this very place, and a feeling of joy overcame him,
a feeling that he saw had overcome his friends.
Then, without a word to each other, they had knelt, and paid homage to the new king, they had prayed that God his father would bless him in all his days, and make him greater even than the star that had led them to him, and then they had given the child those things that they had brought to give to the new born king gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
Now, outside the little house he thought about his journey, he felt tired, but he felt too a peace that he had never felt before, he realized that he would never feel incomplete again, for the king who had been born, was not a kinglike all the other kings he had known,
for he was a king who would look after all those who were like
him: the poor, the weak, and the humble.
He was a king who would conquer with love, and rule with compassion.  
He realized that somehow the God that Mary spoke of was the only God that mattered, and that this God was in the child they had seen.
He prayed for the second time that night, he prayed that he might be one of those loved by that child, one of those loved by that God, and that he might always see the light of his star inside his heart and follow his way, and he knew even as he prayed - that his prayer would be answered.
It had been a long journey, at times it had been a discouraging journey, but it had been a worthwhile journey, because not only had he found a great king, he had also found a God who cared so much for
the world, that he had taken on flesh and dwelt among his people...
Dear Lord God - open to us the way of this New Year,
the way to you. Help us follow the light you have placed in our hearts,
give us courage to go on despite the dangers, despite the ncertainties,
despite the doubts. In times of ease - help us not to forget your purpose for our lives, In times of darkness - give us encouragement.
When others question us - build us in our resolve to follow in your path When others attack us - defend us with your spirit.
Bring us to the joy, the hope, the peace, and the love, you have
promised. We ask in Jesus' name.  Amen




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