Summary: Communion message the second Sunday of Advent. Gifting doesn’t come from stores but from our Lord in the incarnation of the Eternal Son, Jesus Christ
Gift-wrap has either been tossed out or neatly put away and saved for another time. Boxes may have been recycled and hopefully the toys aren’t all broken yet. CD’s have been played, DVD’s watched and those new clothes worn. Christmas is officially over. So what’s the good news?
It is a mixed bag. Waterford/Wedgwood reported a 6% increase over a year ago on it’s top-end tableware and crystal. In US markets one survey as of December 16 said that sales were up 3% but store traffic had decreased by some 6%. But the real important question is whether or not we got what we wanted for Christmas? Did that certain someone pop the question? Did we get a Wii or Playstation 3 to resell on Ebay? Maybe it was the age old pony we wanted or that certain fishing pole, golf club or just a time to relax with no fights, no drama and no extra pounds.
Sadly, that is too often the way our world and even some among followers of Jesus look at Christmas. We send cards that proclaim, "Jesus is the reason for the season"; and we loudly answer a clerk’s "happy holidays" with "Merry Christmas" yet sometimes even the best of us can miss out on the gift that God has given to us in Jesus.
So we come to Epiphany. January 6 is the traditional day in which we celebrate the worship of Jesus by these magi from the East. There is a lot more unknown about them than known. We don’t know how many there were. We don’t know there names, even though someone in the 6th century gave them names. We don’t know if they came from Persia or Arabia or wherever. But we do know that these pagans discovered something far greater than they imagined. They sought it out at great expense and effort and were surprised, awed and transformed by what they found in Bethlehem.
A few weeks ago, I said we’d talk about the gifts that the Magi brought to Jesus. These gifts were, as the song We Three Kings, says are symbolic of the life that Jesus was called to live among us--King, God, and Sacrifice. It should be remembered that any one of these isn’t enough to make us whole.
Kings come and go. Look at the Old Testament and you’ll see that some did what God commanded and others didn’t. Some fought and won wars others lost. They didn’t affect normal everyday life too often. God’s are a dime a dozen. Every ancient village and special place had it’s demigod or spirit. Most cities paid respect to this or that group of god’s. And these god’s priests were just as mixed. From highly elaborate to simple folk, their spells, incantations and the rest were aimed at having these gods pay attention to our needs. Jews knew all about sacrifices. You probably couldn’t walk around the temple area without smelling the mixture of burning meat and incense. There would be the hawkers of the most pure lambs and cheapest doves going on around the area. Sacrifice was the only reason for being in that place.
But when Jesus combines these, he does the unexpected. He becomes the sacrifice. He becomes the priest who offers the sacrifice. And in his glorification, his death resurrection and ascension he takes His place as King over Heaven and Earth.
What is amazing is that these three leave having received the greatest gift of all. They are humbled and transformed. These leaders, apparently wise men worshipped as they saw this infant. I don’t think it’s too much to say that the dream they had about Herod was a sign that they had become open to being transformed, changed and recreated. And this change allowed them the wisdom to return by a different way.
This table is a great representation of Jesus and His gifts to us. It isn’t much to look at. It isn’t dinner at Ringside or even Izzy’s. It is simply oyster crackers and grape juice. It isn’t even like the bread Jesus would have eaten or the common wine of his day. But something happens when we come to this table.
First, we need to be prepared when we come to this table. Those travelers didn’t take off without thinking about provisions. They didn’t leave without having an idea of where they were going. When we come to this table we best do so ready to meet with God. It doesn’t do to come with a flippant attitude or with a sense of "Oh, well. It’s communion Sunday."
Second, we should be ready to be met with the unexpected. The wisemen came to Jerusalem because they assumed that is where the king would be born. They were wrong. When they arrived at Bethlehem, they didn’t find a baby surrounded by powerful leaders and people but a baby in a very common family. This table doesn’t treat us as puppets. In The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien has a Galadriel, an Elven leader invite the fellowship to look into her mirror. If you saw the movie, you saw a much-cheapened version of the book. When Frodo asks her, "What shall we look for, and what shall we see? Her answer is good, "the Mirror will also show things unbidden, and those are often stranger and more profitable than things which we wish to behold. What you will see, if you leave the Mirror free to work, I cannot tell. For it shows things that were, and things that are, things that yet may be. But which it is that he sees, even the wisest cannot always tell. Do you wish to look?"1