Summary: A sermon for Epiphany Sunday.
"Darkness and Light"
When you live in the city it can be easy to forget what it's like to get away from streetlights, big buildings, bright restaurant signs, car headlights, and all the rest.
I was out in the country a year or so ago, and we were getting ready to have a bon fire.
It was a pitch dark night, but the sky was clear and so it wasn't so pitch dark after-all because the stars and the moon were brilliant, in focus, and lit up the night as far as my eyes could see.
You know what I'm talking about; it's a breath-taking sight is it not?...
...it brings us closer to God in some way...
...it helps to remind us of our place in this vast eternal universe, and it reminds us of the mystery which surrounds us, our lives and what it all means.
Artificial lights can sometimes cause us to forget about God--to get us off track, to focus us more on the human than the divine.
The light from the night sky often causes us to seek out God, the Truth, the Way, the Life.
The ancient world didn't have street lights.
And many people, particularly in the countries east of Palestine, had made the study of the stars and the planets into a fine art.
This mystical craft, handed down from the ancient Sumerians, predated even Moses.
But praise God!!!
God so loves YOU and ME and EVERYONE ELSE that God came into this world as a human being in order to save us, to show us the True WAY--to give us the TRUE LIGHT, so that we need not follow artificial lights that just lead us in circles of frustration and into deeper and deeper darkness.
In our Gospel Lesson for this morning we are told that "After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in the territory of Judea during the rule of King Herod, magi came from the east to Jerusalem.
They asked, 'Where is the newborn king of the Jews?
We've seen his star in the east, and we've come to honor him.'"
Who were these magi?
Well, they were early astronomers and astrologers who studied stars and star charts in search of the truth behind the mysteries of life.
Today we might call them "seekers."
They were seeking out the Truth in the best way they knew how.
And God so wants us to find Him, He will use any means to bring us to Himself.
The magi were open to God.
They wanted to find Him.
After Jesus was born they followed "his star."
And since they knew that Jerusalem was the center of power, they figured that this was the right place to go in order to find out more about this "newborn king of the Jews."
This brings them to Herod.
And Herod was a man filled with darkness.
We often have to travel through the darkness of life before we find the light, do we not?
Unlike the magi, Herod had no interest in honoring Jesus.
Herod had no interest in pursuing the mysteries of life, finding the Truth and the Way and the Life.
It's been written that "Herod was a bad man; a cruel man; an evil man."
According to Jewish historian Josephus, Herod had his wife and brother-in-law executed along with at least one of his sons.
Later, when Herod realized his own death was near, he ordered that all the leading citizens of all the villages be slaughtered at the exact moment of his death--so that the nation would be plunged into mourning, even if it wasn't mourning for him.
In any event Herod was obsessed with power, so obsessed that his lust for power took complete control of him.
And thus, the darkness of fear, the darkness of suspicion, the darkness of brutality, the darkness of jealousy and paranoia ruled his life.
How awful is the outcome of those whose lives are ruled by a "lust for power" and whose concern is only ME, ME, ME.
Jesus' call to humility and promise that the "last shall be first, and the first shall be last" not only speaks spiritual truth--it is beyond brilliant in its understanding of psychology, the workings of the human brain, what drives us, and how we are able to find peace, happiness and mental stability.
What is most important in your life?
What guides your actions?
Is it a "lust for power" or a desire to find and follow the Truth, the Way and the Life?
Herod wanted absolute control.
He was filled with ego and pride.
And this caused him to have a great and terrible insecurity.
So imagine the expression on Herod's face when these foreign magi came to Jerusalem asking "Where is the newborn king of the Jews?"