Summary: How wise lessons from the Wise Men can help us listen to God.
There were once two men, Pete and Joe out sailing in a boat. A fierce storm blew up. Torrents of rain splashed down. The waves were rocking them. They desperately the rigging this way and that trying to keep the boat up right. "It's at times like this" shouted Pete above the noise the storm, "I really wish I'd listened to what my ol' Mum said." "Why?" asked Joe "What did she say?". "I don't know, I didn't listen!"
Often when it come to hearing what God has to say, we are bit like Pete and Joe - we never hear what God says because..... we don't listen. Today's reading about the wise men gives us a number of lessons for listening. Very Very occasionally God speaks so loudly that we can't miss what he says. It happens at the end of today's Gospel. "Having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another route" (Matt2:12) "Having been warned in a dream". There are two or three times in my life when God has spoken like that - so obviously that you can't miss it. One or two of you have told me of similar occasions when God has spoken like that to you. But most of the time God does not speak like that. God speaks to the wisemen in three ways, and this is only one of them.
The first way that God speaks to the wise men is through the stars. Now I like stars. If I'm ever in the countryside, I like to go out on a cloudless night to look up at the stars. It's so beautiful, isn't it. But if I had gone gone out and looked in the stars 2000 years ago, I wouldn't have spotted anything. Chances are I would not even have been looking up at the sky to spot it, because I don't often gaze up at the stars. Even if I'd been lucky, and I just happened to be looking up that one night, I might have spotted a bright star up there and gone "oh how birght that is" - but since I know nothing about stars, I wouldn't know it was anything unusual. I'd just have assumed it was always there. The wise men noticed this unusual star that led them to Jesus, because they had spent ages studying astronomy. They had spent so long studying the stars that they knew this star was odd. So they knew God was saying something through it.
Now I'm not saying God wants to speak to us through the stars. Actually the rest of the bible is quite anti astrology. It seems God only spoke to the wise men through this because they were pagans and he knew this was how they would hear. But the lesson we can learn from the wise men is that they heard God because they put the effort and the time into listening "we saw his star at its rising". (Matt 2:2) If we want to hear God, we have to make time to listen. And it mustn't just be like me making one off time to go out and look at the sky. Next month we are having a quiet day. It's great to make in depth time like that to hear God. It great - but it's not enough. If we only make time very occasionally to listen, then we'll miss all the other times when God is trying to talk to us. If we want to hear God we need to have regular daily prayer times when we don't just talk to him but listen.
The second way that the Wise Men hear God is through the bible. That must have been a bit of a surprise to them, since as pagans they would have known nothing of the bible. Yet that is where the answer is found. "Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews?" and the scribes reply "Bethlehem" "For so it has been written in the prophet". (Matt 2:2,5). St Jerome says "Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ". And if we want to hear Jesus's will for us- we need to regularly read our bible.
Now hands up if ... somewhere in your house ... in any translation whatsoever .... you have a bible [all but two people then put their hands up. Looking at the relevant people I say...] That's good, I can see there's only two people I need to buy a bible for [at which point their hands start to shyly rise....]
Now in some parts of the world their our so few bibles. In many parts of China their is such a shortage of bibles that many churhces, only the vicar would own their own bible. But for us to read a bible, it is really easy. All we have to do is reach up onto that dusty shelf [mime the action] and take it down.