"Light of the Gospel"
Just a few weeks ago we all were able to experience something out of the ordinary; a super star, or a great conjunction of planets lining up close together that only happens about twice a millennium. For those who were able to see it, I am sure today’s gospel reading was the first story you thought off as you gazed at this unique astronomical event. I am sure you all have had those moments where God’s amazing works of creation gets your attention, whether it’s a sunrise or sunset or a night full of stars, and all you can do is just look and admire it.
God chooses many ways to get our attention, and reveal God’s work and presence in our lives. God’s divine presence is revealed to us in general ways like a unique aligning of planets or a bright full moon that lights up the night sky. For us as Christians we find so much hope, and joy in the ways God has revealed God’s divine presence with us in special ways.
As we have heard the Christmas stories these last few weeks we have been reminded that God’s amazing love is revealed in the most special and unexpected ways to us through Jesus Christ, our Emmanuel, our God with us. A teenage girl is told of God’s love by an angel, lowly shepherds are told good news that a Savior has been born to us by a chorus of angels, God’s love is revealed to wise magi by leading them to the Messiah through the light of a star. Today we celebrate the Magi’s epiphany by reminding ourselves that God is revealing God’s amazing love to us in ordinary and extraordinary ways.
We live in a world full of epiphany moments when we are reminded that God’s presence is with us always. Every time we gather together as a community of faith, even if it is in a socially distant way, God’s love is revealed to us in special and different ways. First of all there is scripture, the Bible for us is the Word of God that proclaims to us how and why God loves us through Christ.
Worship is another ordinary way we experience the revealing of God’s extraordinary love. Even though it has been different this past year, and the way we worship has been different, the meaning and purpose of of our worship has not changed. Whether it’s through our songs, prayers, words, or actions, during our time of worship together we experience God’s love for us as we live in this world.
The other place in our community of faith that we experience an Epiphany of extraordinary ways God reveals God’s love for us is through our relationships. It’s in our connections with each other we experience God’s comfort, peace, forgiveness and reconciliation, nurture, and love. After all, just like God created the star, whose light shone bright to lead and reveal God’s love to the wise men, God created us to share our stories and our gifts with one other so our light shines bright to reveal God’s love to the whole world.
Today’s story reminds us that we all are on a journey of life and faith.
We all have our own story to tell of how our journey of life and faith has encountered paths or moments of uncertainty, fear, and feeling of being lost. We all have our own story to tell of how our journey of life and faith has been nurtured and transformed by God’s steadfast presence in the expected places and the unexpected places.
As we hear today’s story maybe we relate to the journey of wise magi from the east, and are inspired and intrigued by the way they seek meaning and understanding for what is happening the world.
Maybe you hear Herod’s story of power and control, and it relates to the injustices you see in the world. Maybe there is a connection with the fear that the people in Jerusalem are feeling towards the unstable leadership of Herod. Maybe you find hope that the story did not end in fear, but in pursuit of light.
It could be that some of us know what is like to be the Magi and feel overwhelmed with joy in experiencing God’s presence. You know what it is like stand in Christ’s presence and offer your own gifts to Christ and Christ’s family. There are so many ways our own story may feel connected to today’s gospel story. The good news of today’s story is no matter how you might relate to this text, we can find hope that God’s presence through Christ will always be our path forward.
The magi were seeking fulfillment in honoring a king they viewed as connected to this special star. What they did not expect was that their experience with Christ would lead them towards a new fulfillment. While the star was a unique way for God’s presence to be revealed to them, it was standing in Christ’s presence that they must have realized their purpose and calling would be different from here on. They were now forever part of the story of God’s Beloved Community. A community that is full of lowly shepherds, faithful teenagers, knowledge seekers, people who are afraid, people who are joyful. They are now part of a beloved community that has found new life in Christ, and a new fulfillment to respond to God’s love with their own gifts of love. They are now forever part of beloved community that lifts up the lowly, comforts the downtrodden. A beloved community that loves and cares for one another.
Later in Matthew’s gospel, Jesus is with his disciples and is teaching the disciples that they are an important part to how God’s love will continue to be revealed and shown to the world. In chapter 5 of Matthew’s gospel Jesus tells the disciples, ““you are the light of the world…let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give you glory to your Father in heaven (5:14, 16).” The light from a star shined bright so the outside world could know Jesus. Now we are called to be the light that points towards God’s amazing love.
Our calling to be an active participant in God’s beloved community can sometimes seem easier said than done. Today’s story proclaims the wonderful ways God is present in the world, yet today’s story also is a reminder that we as humans may sometimes get lost in our own human revelation. Herod’s story is a reminder that when we focus not on divine revelation, but on human revelation it can cause the world to be seen through eyes of power and greed. Fear of losing his power and privilege over others will cause Herod in the verses ahead to do awful things to young and innocent lives.
Herod’s actions of maintaining power through all means necessary reveals the reality of pain and suffering in this world. Our calling as God’s beloved community is we are not to ignore the harsh realities of this world, but to face them and be a light that points to God’s love in all situations. Our calling in our life with Christ as part of Christ’s beloved community is to care for a world in need. Our life in Christ calls us to seek justice for the oppressed, comfort the grieving, care for those in distress, and offering compassion to the sick.
Well the year 2020 is officially behind us. A year that was full of so much collective pain, fear, isolation, and uncertainty. As we begin the year 2021 our journey of life and faith continues, and maybe some of us are still not sure what lies ahead.
I came across this poem from Dietrich Bonhoeffer in a collection of his works in the book Wonder of Wonders, that was a powerful reminder that Christ is guiding us along the way as we face a new year together. He writes, “We are going into a new year. Many human plans and mistakes, much hostility and need will determine our path. But as long as we stay with Jesus and go with him, we can be certain that we too can encounter nothing that God has not already foreseen, willed, and promised.”
The good news is God’s presence is with us always. May we find comfort and hope that our journey ahead will be full of moments when God’s gift of special revelation will proclaim to us that God is with us through Jesus Christ. Our Triune God’s presence will always be present to guide us through the difficulties, the temptations, and the many things that might cause us to stray. Our amazing Triune God will be right there to reveal the ways we can be a light to the world and be an active participant in God’s beloved community.
So like those wise magi from the east, may we continue to seek all the glorious ways God is revealing God’s presence in the world. May God’s revelation of love for us through Christ that we experience in scripture, in our worship, and in our community of faith continue to be our source of hope that God is always with us on our journey. May we celebrate and respond to this wonderful epiphany by being like those wise magi and offer our gifts to God from the heart that we think are worthy.
Today’s text tells us that God uses all that God created to reveal God’s love for the world. May your new year be full of epiphanies of how God is calling you to offer your gifts of love to God’s beloved community so your light may shine before God and others. Amen