Summary: Scriptures should always be looked at with a fresh set of eyes so that new insights can be seen.
I’ve heard the story before. I mean I know it backwards and forwards, I can probably tell it in my sleep. Do I have really have to hear it again, let alone preach on it? Heck, there is even a song about it, “We three kings of orient are; bearing gifts we traverse afar, la la la la la la lalala following yonder star”, but even that sounds like a old Jewish drinking song. Especially the next part, “Oh, Oh (swing your arm like its an old Irish ditty) star of wonder, star of light, star with royal beauty bright, la la la la la la la la, guide us to that perfect light”. It’s a story; it’s in the past. And you know what? The story shows up in only one of the gospels, it can’t be that important then, and I even have some questions about the story. Think about it, men lost asking for directions, highly unlikely. But no matter what I think or know about the story, I’ve already gotten all that I can from it, right? The wise men, magi, kings or whoever they were saw a light in the west and they wanted to see what was happening. I would guess that they probably had some sort of visions too, I mean, why else would they travel, oooppps, I mean traverse afar. So they come to Jerusalem, ask for directions (holding up fingers like quotation marks and winking), then go to Bethlehem, find Jesus, and they go off to live happily ever after. It’s simple; it’s the ole Jesus came to save not just the Jews but also the gentiles. It’s a prediction of Jesus’ ministry; He will be rejected by many of the Jews, but will have an appeal to the gentiles as demonstrated by the wise men recognizing him as a king. That’s the one and only message we can get out of this passage, right?
Well, as much as I hate to admit it, with some embellishment, these are some of the thoughts I had when I found out what Scripture I was going to preach on this morning. I could just see it, a room full of people waiting for a word, a message, something that speaks to them, something fresh, and I’m going to pull out the old reliable Magi story. Not only that, I was going to follow up with the sermon about how Jesus came to save everybody. Not that there is anything wrong with this message, it’s a powerful message, a message that needs to be communicated on a continuous bases but, and I don’t know about anyone else in this room, it’s just that it is the same message I have always heard attached to this Scripture.
So there I was, struggling to put excitement in the same old message. I fooled around with the idea of a reenactment, you know, like Charlie has done so well in some of his sermons. But instead of the three wise men, I came up with the idea of the three tenors coming into Jerusalem. I had them coming to Herod asking, “Where is this child? King of the Jews” (sung in opera voice). O yeah, I envisioned all of you standing at the end and throwing roses at my feet. But by the time I got done, it was 2 ½ hours long and I remembered I had a terrible singing voice.
So, there I was, stuck. I had done all this historical work like I’ve been taught in seminary, I read about 50 commentaries and, I must admit it, I even looked at a sermon that was printed in a book I have. But still, I had no, what my preaching professor would call, “a-ha” moment. So I prayed, put it aside, slept, and prayed some more. I did just about everything but go back to the text. Then I remembered what so many people have told me, “Go back and read with a fresh set of eyes”. Easier said then done sometimes. So I tried to drop all of my current understanding of the text and all of the ideas of where I wanted a sermon to go, I emptied the vessel and gave the Spirit something to work with. Then I went to the text again – Let me share it with you. We are in the second chapter of Matthew, verses 1-12. OOOPPPPs, I forgot, you should probably go ahead and empty yourselves too. Just close your eyes and listen.
Did you get it? You know, that fresh new meaning? That “a-ha” moment! Neither did I! But you know what, I took that fresh set of eyes and I went through my study notes again. Then I slapped on an even fresher set of eyes and went through it all again. I repeated the process up until about 5:00 yesterday evening, when all of a sudden there it was. I don’t know if it came from the newest set of eyes I was looking through or the pure fear of realizing that I had to have something to preach this morning but I had my “a-ha” moment.