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
that holy child so lift your heart that you worshipped him with abandon, though he was just a baby?
The wise men journeyed, sought after the child, brought
gifts, and worshipped the baby Jesus. They were changed when they met the baby Jesus. They may have gone back to business as usual, but they were changed men. We don’t know what happened to them when they left, but we can believe that they were different. So, how were they different?
First of all, they could no longer accept unjust power
and authority. They had mistakenly gone to King Herod looking for the special child; and somewhere along the way, they got a glimpse of his true nature. They realized they could not give in again to such intimidation. They knew that they had to stand
against the injustice that Herod stood for, even if it was just avoiding the road by the palace. They became aware of his preferred way of doing things, and they realized that they could not allow him to find out where the infant Messiah was. They may not have confronted King Herod’s injustice face-to-face, but you can guarantee that they would have lived with the consequences if one of Herod’s men had found them trying to sneak out of the area.
What about you? Do you speak out against injustice?
Racial profiling, sexism, ethnocentrism, racism, ageism,
heterosexism, injustice in our criminal justice system, economic discrimination? Are you bold to challenge unjust authority when you see it in action? Do you stand up to tyrannical power and authority even if your life is threatened because of it? When you see people treated unjustly, do you speak out boldly, whether that injustice touches you personally or not? Have you