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Summary: The wise, still today, recognize and receive God’s breakthrough into our world and react to it by worship and sacrificial love for one another.

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Title: The Breakthrough

Date: 12/18/16

Place: BLCC

Text: Matthew 2.1-12; John 1.9-12

CT: The wise recognize and receive God’s breakthrough into our world.

[Screen 1]

FAS: A 2016 episode on NPR's "StoryCorps" interviewed Francois Clemmons, who played the role of friendly Officer Clemmons on Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood for over 25 years. Clemmons was the first black actor to have a recurring role on a children's television series. This was a breakthrough moment in dealing with racial concerns for our country at that time. Surprisingly, Fred Rogers was clearly going out on a limb to cast Clemmons as a police officer. Clemmons knew this and expressed his reservations:

"I grew up in the ghetto. I did not have a positive opinion of police officers. And I really had a hard time putting myself in that role. So I was not excited about being Officer Clemmons at all." Still, Clemmons eventually agreed to take on the role.

Over the decades he spent on the show, [Screen 2] there's one scene in particular that Clemmons remembers with great emotion. It was from an episode that aired in 1969, in which Rogers had been resting his feet in a plastic pool on a hot day.

"He invited me to come over and to rest my feet in the water with him," Clemmons recalls. "The icon Fred Rogers not only was showing my brown skin in the tub with his white skin as two friends, but as I was getting out of that tub, he was helping me dry my feet."

He says he'll never forget the day Rogers wrapped up the program, as he always did, by hanging up his sweater and saying, "You make every day a special day just by being you, and I like you just the way you are." This time in particular, Rogers had been looking right at Clemmons, and after they wrapped he walked over. Clemmons asked him, "Fred, were you talking to me?"

"Yes, I have been talking to you for years," Rogers said, as Clemmons recalls. "But you heard me today."

"It was like telling me I'm OK as a human being," Clemmons says. "That was one of the most meaningful experiences I'd ever had."

: Of course remember that Mr. Rogers was an ordained minister. As such, there's every reason to believe that he was coming from a place of conviction here regarding what being a follower of Jesus says about human identity. Namely, that you are who God sees you to be, which is a forgiven sinner, a child of God, a child in whom he is well pleased. (1)

(1) Adapted from David Zahl, "Week in Review," Mockingbird blog (3-11-16) [Screen 3]

Just as Mr. Rogers had spent years trying to convince Clemmons he was regarded as his equal, God has been from the beginning trying to convince us that we are His children. That breakthrough moment came on a hillside in a stable full of cattle and sheep. A breakthrough moment, that had been foreseen by some of the brightest and best minds of that time, some 2000 years ago. Yet they missed it when it came.

[Screen 4] Matthew 2.1-12. 1 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem 2 and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

3 When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. 5 “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:

6 “‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,

are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;

for out of you will come a ruler

who will shepherd my people Israel.’”

7 Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. 8 He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”

9 After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another way.

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