The Rev. Jennifer L. Adams - January 5, 2013 - Christmas II, Year A: Matthew 2:1-12
This morning on the Church calendar is the second Sunday of Christmas and so no matter how far along things are out there, we’re still within the twelve days that officially mark the season in here. The Advent wreath and candles are all still in the center of our gathering. And the candles are all lit now, signifying that the light of the world has come among us. The greens still surround us. The music still echoes Christ’s birth. It’s very obviously still Christmas here!
But if you listen closely you’ll notice that we’re also beginning to transition. Tonight is Twelfth Night, the Eve of the Epiphany and so we’re moving into a new season that will take us from the celebration of Jesus’s birth into the revelation that Jesus is the Christ. And while it might sound kind of obvious in terms of how all of this flows, it’s a huge step! We’re on the move here – shifting from celebration into new revelations, new understandings. Which is what Epiphany is all about.
First the wise men arrived from afar signaling that Christ’s birth was a not just a local event but a gift for the whole world. Next week we’ll hear of Jesus’ baptism which began his formal ministry and then there will be miracles that happened through him. Epiphany which is our celebration of the “manifestation of Christ” tells the stories about how people began to see who Jesus really was, Son of God born into this world.
Now it might be hard to let this season hit us quite the way it hit all of them. Because we know these stories right? At least the basics. We have already been told who Jesus is – for some of us our whole lives. So it’s no surprise really that the angels sang, the shepherds came, the wise men followed the star? Even that first gospel miracle when the water was changed into wine at the wedding in Cana is something we’ve heard about before. Now there are creeds that tell us who Jesus is. There are traditions that carry us through the stories of his life. There are services and celebrations and rituals that remind us weekly, daily even in word and action who Jesus was and is. We have all of these things like tradition, liturgy, theology, Christology going for us at this point. In so many ways, explanations of who Jesus was and is are in front of us all the time. So, who needs a star?
We do too. Which is why Epiphany might be the most humbling season of all. Here is this amazing gift in our midst, a gift that’s been here for over two thousand years! And we need our eyes opened too. Still. No matter how many times you’ve heard these stories, no matter how familiar the wise men and the angels and the heavenly hosts have become – we need understanding, we need revelation – we need the miracle too.
And I think that’s because the way home is always changing. Did you hear that part of the story? It matters a lot. I don’t want you to miss it so here it is again: The wise men followed the star from quite far away, all the way to see Jesus. And they found him. And they gave him their gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh. The wise men got to see who Jesus was.
But there was an evil king, Herod, who didn’t want another king, let alone a Messiah to ruin his rule. And so Herod watched the wise men and he listened to the wise men, so that he could stop the whole thing from unfolding any further, before the news of Jesus birth spread too far. But the wise men each had a dream, and those dreams saved their lives.
The dreams warned them of King Herod’s plans and in the dreams, God told the wise men to go home by another way. And they did. In order to get home again, they couldn’t just back track. They couldn’t just take the same road to the place, the home that was theirs. They had to travel differently. They had to find new ways. And so they did.
Which is why no matter how much we know about Jesus, we need Epiphany too. The ways home change. The ways into faith and the ways of sharing the faith change. Who is Jesus for you now? I’m guessing you answer that question differently than you would have twenty years ago, or ten years ago or even five years ago. How are we to be Body of Christ for the world in 2014? We do and and we should respond differently then the church of the 50’s did. Given what we know, what we’ve learned, what we’ve experienced, what we’ve seen, given what happened yesterday, and the day before, and three weeks ago, how do we get home again?
According to the dreams of the wise men, we just do it differently. We go home a different way – whether home is your faith, or family, or a people, or a community or all of the above. Even when home is that sacred place deep inside each of us – the way to get home changes. Because there are very bad things that happen and very, very good things that happen. Because there are angels and there are Herods and there are dreams and they all give us something that means we have to change direction now and then in order to find that place that is ours with others and with God.
The good news is that miracles continue. There is a way home, there’s always a way. Dreams from God still come. Stars that guide us still shine. Bread and wine are transformed in ways that sustain us and we are transformed into a presence that in a way becomes its own way. Because God can do all of that. God is doing all of that still. Still helping us see Christ among us, in us, and through us, for us and for the world too.
So don’t be afraid if the creeds aren’t all you need to understand who Jesus is. Don’t be intimidated or put off if the words help but don’t give you all of what you seek from God. Don’t be scared if “the way” shifts now and then or it feels like getting home is more of a challenge then the first part of your journey led you to believe. All of that just means that you’re listening; it might even mean that you’re alive.
Just stay faithfully open. Pray for the dreams to come and listen to them when they do. Watch the sky and notice the stars that continue to shine brightly over that place that is calling to you. Hang out with a wise person or two – watch and learn from them. Most importantly, know that Christ is here. And Christ is there. And the God who brought the wise men to Bethlehem and back again is guiding us all home every day.