Summary: A sermon for Epiphany.
“Nothing Is Ever The Same”
What images come to your mind when you think of the Magi in Matthew’s Gospel?
Having sat through enough Christmas plays, it may be hard for some of us to banish the image of children wearing bathrobes and Burger King crowns, trying to look as wise and regal as possible.
For others, the heroes of this passage may bring to mind men in long flowing robes, beards, and big turbans.
Every year most of us receive at least one Christmas card with this kind of picture on the cover.
They are always in one of two poses: either kneeling at Jesus’ crib or sojourning across the desert on camels.
In nativity sets, they rub elbows with the shepherds from Luke.
We don’t really know these magi very well, though.
Scholars will tell you that they weren’t kings; there weren’t necessarily three of them, and they didn’t come on the night of Jesus’ birth.
But whether there were two, three or twenty of them, and even if they didn’t quite make it in time to help boil water for Jesus’ birth, they play a significant role in the Gospel.
And one of the most informative things about them is that they weren’t Jewish.
They were Gentiles…which means: anyone who wasn’t Jewish.
If you’ll notice on your bulletin for this morning today is Epiphany Sunday.
And the word “Epiphany” refers to the manifestation of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles.
This passage of Scripture is about the opening of God’s Good News to the entire world—no matter who you are, where you come from, what you look like and what religion you are.
And these magi, these “outsiders” represent this…
…that Jesus came to save all people, not just a select few.
And these Magi had a foreign belief system, one that the Old Testament tried to steer the people of Israel and Judah away from.
They were astrologers.
And for that reason, it seems even stranger that Matthew would tell us about these guys who used their astrology to find Jesus.
Because, certainly, Matthew isn’t endorsing astrology.
The New Testament warns against the use of astrology as well.
For trying to make one’s decisions based on their horoscope readings isn’t considered “okay” according to the Bible.
We are called to face the future trusting in God, not trying to predict what will happen on any given day.
In any case, God meets us where we are…
…God seeks us out no matter what kind of circumstance we are in.
God can use anything to get our attention.
We can make our initial steps toward Jesus in any number of ways.
God can draw us to Jesus from wherever we are and by whatever path we follow.
In his book Organic Church, Neil Cole tells about a young man named Sean.
Sean was an outstanding musician before drugs took everything from him.
He had sold all his instruments to feed his speed habit.
He had lost all his jobs because he would often steal in order to buy more speed.
Sean was circling around the drain, about to go down for the last time.
“We invited Sean to…church,” writes Cole.
“I must admit I was surprised when he came, and even more surprised when he came back again, and again.
Eventually he even began to smile and interact with us.”
Even though Sean had become a Christian believer he continued to slide back into his addiction.
Cole suggested that Sean go to a rehab center, but Sean didn’t like that idea.
That’s when Cole had a rather radical idea.
“Great; what is it?” Sean asked.
Cole replied, “You and I get in the car right now and drive over and tell your drug dealer about Jesus.”
With a smile Cole added, “Maybe if your dealer gets saved it will cut off your source.”
Sean went along with it but said it wouldn’t work if Cole went with him.
His dealer was a woman, a mother in fact.
She lived next door to him in the ghetto and supplied drugs for the local kids.
Sean shared the Gospel with her, and “from that point on, Sean never took any drugs. He was free. The power of the Gospel, received and also given to others, transformed his heart.”
Many people come to Jesus in many ways.
Whoever these “wise men” were, they show us that we can never predict how God will bring us to Jesus.
These Magi teach us not only in the strange way they come to Jesus, they also teach us in the way they leave.
King Herod lurks behind this scene.
Herod can’t see the Good News behind the birth of Jesus because he seethes with jealousy over Jesus as a threat to his power.