Summary: An Epiphany sermon - explores the way that we are changed after we meet the baby in the manger, just like the "wise men" were. (also makes reference to the James Taylor song of the same title)
Grace be to you and peace from the One who was and is
and is to come. Amen.
As the story goes, the Magi in our gospel lesson had
seen a star at its rising that they interpreted as announcing the birth of a king. Magi may have been dream-interpreters, astrologers, or astronomers, but not likely kings. Perhaps they did not even know why they had decided to follow the leading of this star. They were foreigners, non-Jewish, un-holy. They followed the direction of the star until they came to the place they believed it was leading them - the palace. To King Herod’s palace to greet the newborn king. It all seemed logical - an infant king in a palace, right? Instead, they found King Herod, who tried to save face by saying that he too was interested in the birth of this new king.
Historically, Herod the Great, mentioned here in Matthew
2 has quite a violent history. He premeditatively murdered his wives, his sons, many other relatives--not to mention the horrible slaughter of all those innocent children we read about in Matthew 2:16. He is willing to consolidate and maintain his kingly power "by any means necessary". His desperate stranglehold on tyrannical power led him to feel quite threatened by even the rumor of another king. King Herod asked his own chief priests and scribes where the Messiah was to be born so he could keep the threat of the baby king at bay. After all, there could only be one king, and he had to make sure it
was him. King Herod asked the wise men to inform him if they found the baby king, "so that I may also go and pay him homage". Right, pay him homage with a sword perhaps!
So the Magi continued their journey, following the star
until it stopped, indicating where the baby Jesus was. They went, paid him homage, lavished gifts upon the Holy Family, and then departed from them. But then there’s this short little sentence in verse 12: "And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road." Or as the James Taylor song paraphrases it: "They went home by another way."
This final phrase can have multiple interpretations.
Yes, certainly it does mean that these Magi decided to
physically took a different road home that didn’t lead them back to Jerusalem and King Herod again. But it’s important to note that they also went home in a different state of mind and heart. After meeting the infant Jesus, the Magi were changed. They no
longer acted or believed the same *way* they had before. They could not travel the same roads or do things the way they had always been. They went "home by another way".
This Christmas season has brought us again to the manger
and the infant King. Again with our voices, hearts, minds, and souls, we worshipped the Word-made-flesh; we honor the God-with-us; we adore the baby Jesus. We brought our gifts to our family, friends, and neighbors. We made journeys and traveled to far-away places. But are you changed? Are you a different person than you were before this celebration? Did your encounter with