Summary: A sermon about two different roads.
“There is Great Hope despite Power, Self-Interest and Greed”
By: Ken Sauer, Pastor of East Ridge United Methodist Church, Chattanooga, TN www.eastridgeumc.com
The heroes of our Gospel Lesson for this morning certainly seem familiar to us.
Each year, we probably all receive at least one Christmas card with their picture on the cover with their long flowing robes, beards, and big turbans.
Usually they are either kneeling at Jesus’ crib or sojourning across the desert on camels.
In our nativity sets, they rub elbows with the shepherds.
We don’t really know them very well, though.
They weren’t kings; there weren’t necessarily three of them; they didn’t come on the night of Jesus’ birth.
But whether there were two, three or twenty of them, they have some things to teach us about what it means to come face to face with Jesus!
One thing to note is who the Magi are and what they represent.
If they are not kings; who are they?
The word Matthew uses for them, can refer to “magicians,” or “astrologers,” or “experts in interpreting dreams.”
They were also, not Jewish.
They were Gentiles who came to celebrate Jesus’ birth and to worship Him.
So, there is a message here about the Gospel of Jesus Christ being open to the entire world, represented by these “outsiders” who come to Jesus.
And you know, astrology and magic and all that kind of stuff is something that the Old Testament writers tried to steer the people of Israel away from.
The New Testament doesn’t endorse astrology either, instead, we are called to face the future trusting in God.
But, the really neat thing is that God is so open, big and filled with so much love for all persons, that God meets us all where we are.
Where were you when you first met Christ?
Perhaps in a ditch following a night of drinking and drugs.
Maybe at the end of your rope, having tried everything else.
For some, the encounter was gradual, starting in early childhood.
Whoever these “wise men” were, they show us that we can never predict how God will bring us to Jesus.
But these Magi not only teach us about the strange way God brings them to Jesus, they also teach us about how they leave!
Because King Herod lurks behind this story of the Magi.
And Herod cannot see the Good News in the birth of Christ.
Instead, Herod seethes with jealousy over Jesus as a threat to his power.
So Herod makes the decision to try and thwart what God intends.
He wants to stand in God’s way.
With a fake smile on his face and murder in his heart, he invites the Magi in for a talk.
Claiming that he wants to “worship” Jesus, Herod asks the Magi to let him know where Jesus is.
And so, Herod represents all those in power who claim to have a noble purpose, but who act out of self-interest and greed instead.
He stands in for all who clutch at power without regard for who might get hurt.
One scholar has written that Herod “becomes the ancestor of all politicians and leaders who have used religion to gain votes and exert control over others.”
And Herod’s plan would have worked, except for God.
And that’s a BIG EXCEPT!!!
Speaking to the Magi in a way they could understand—through a dream—God points them to a different path, away from Herod.
And so, the Magi have taught us, not only by the way they arrive, but by the way they leave!
“they returned to their country by another route.”
When you and I stand up after kneeling before God, we too are called to stand up to resist evil in the world!
For worshipping Jesus is what gives us the motivation and the strength to overcome greed, oppression and injustice!
When we encounter Christ, we are called to go on another road.
We are called to turn from evil, in all its forms, and follow—instead—the God of Love!!!
What difference has your encounter with Christ made in your life?
In what areas is God working on you, changing you, transforming you, molding you more and more into God’s image?
What corners of your heart still need to be converted?
What are you grasping onto that you still need to give to Christ?
In our Gospel Lesson, we read that Herod too planned to search for Jesus, but not to worship Him—to kill Him.
And “when Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under…”
At the heart of the Christmas story is a Baby Who poses such a threat to the most powerful man around that he kills a whole village full of babies in order to try and get rid of Him.