Sunday, January 05, 2014

Sermon, 2nd Sunday after Christmas, Matthew 2:1-12

Today is the second Sunday after Christmas. The poinsettias are still out and we are still singing Christmas hymns. Mary, Joseph and Jesus still abide with us. But we are also acknowledging the Feast of the Epiphany with the arrival of the Magi and an Epiphany hymn or two. And our gospel, while one of the three options for today, is the appointed reading for the Feast of the Epiphany in all three years.

We have come to the end of our Christmas journey. The season will officially end tonight with our Twelfth Night/Epiphany party. This journey started back on December 1, the first Sunday of Advent, when we began preparing for the arrival of the Messiah in that odd time of already and not yet. The adult ed class spent Advent with Luke. And now the child is born and the Magi come to pay tribute, offering gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

We have made this same journey many times in our lives. Advent arrives, we prepare; Christmas comes, we celebrate; the Magi arrive with gifts, we call radio stations and request Christmas songs on December 28, 29, 30, 31; the Magi go home and we put everything away until next year. This is a journey we have made many times, and one we hope to make many more.

And every year, whether we know it or not, we try to do something a little different so the journey stays fresh and doesn't get stale. Christmas as a child is different than Christmas as a young adult is different than Christmas as newlyweds is different than Christmas as parents is different than Christmas as grand parents. The journey changes.

Sometimes our journey changes simply because life pulls us along like a leaf in a stream. Sometimes our journey changes because God inserts himself into our plans and changes are made. The first instance is easy: we simply adapt to what life throws us. The second is more difficult because it requires us to be open to the Spirit of God working in our lives as well as being willing to follow that leading.

As I mentioned, the adult ed class journeyed through Luke during Advent and Christmas. We read the stories of Zechariah and Elizabeth, of Mary and of the births of John and Jesus. During this particular journey, one of the things I pointed out was that God uses ordinary events for extraordinary purposes. A small town. A young girl. A birth. If we can learn to see the holy in the ordinary, then we might be more open to seeing the extraordinary miraculous when it happens.

We have made our journey through Advent and into Christmas. We have followed signs and traditions of years gone by that have guided us to an ordinary stable where a birth like any other birth took place. Do we make this journey because we are simply swept along in the currents of life and tradition like a leaf in a stream? Or do we make this journey because we recognize the Spirit working in our lives and agree to follow that leading?

Christmas gives us an opportunity to see the holy in the ordinary. Go to any farm or ranch and there will be a place where the animals congregate. Go to any hospital on any given day and there will likely be a mother giving birth. On Christmas these two ordinary things – animals and births – were joined in a holy moment. It was at that moment of the ordinary when shepherds were told of the holy. And they chose to follow the leading of the Spirit and go to Bethlehem to see the extraordinary miraculous.

Over in the East a group of Magi were methodically tracking ordinary stars in a relatively mundane night sky. Something grabbed their attention and they caught a glimpse of the holy in the ordinary. The event that signaled the birth of a new king was also the event that kick-started their journey. They traveled an unknown number of miles for up to two years to reach their destination and present their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

On Christmas Eve, people all over go to churches to celebrate the birth of Christ. Ordinary signs of the holy appear in newspapers, church signs and phone messages telling when services will be held. People see these ordinary signs and follow them looking for the holy. And people do come and people do experience a sense of the holy.

And then people go home, satisfied that they have done their duty and/or confident that they know who this Jesus kid is. Baby Jesus, meek and mild, born of Mary undefiled. Add in a decent sermon, the Nicene Creed and Holy Communion and we've got a pretty good grasp of Jesus, God and everything.

The Wise Men may have thought the same thing. They came looking for a new king. The old one, Herod by name, was intrigued and politely asked the foreigners in his midst to find said king and report back. After all, if this was predicted in the stars, he should also bring gifts. So off they went.

They eventually found him and bestowed upon him those gifts fit for a king. They followed ordinary signs to the holy. They had done their duty and could now go home, confident they knew what they were dealing with. But being open to the holy in the ordinary also left them open to seeing the extraordinary miraculous.

And that's when God stepped into the stream of their life and changed their plans.

“And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another route.”

That's it. One sentence. One sentence of the Holy Spirit disrupting the waters of their lives. But because they had been open to seeing the holy in the ordinary, they were now open to seeing the extraordinary miraculous.

I imagine there was some confusion. An odd night's sleep. An exchange of dream stories. A conversation with Joseph about back roads. But more than anything, a choice and a willingness to follow the leading of the Spirit into a new understanding and a new way of being.

Today is the Twelfth day of Christmas. Tonight is the Twelfth Night Party. Tomorrow is Epiphany and the Manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles. Christmas has come and gone. Was this yet another event in the stream of your life, or did you catch a glimpse of the holy in the ordinary? Are you absolutely sure of what you saw and are satisfied you now have all the answers?

Maybe we need to pay more attention to that last sentence of today's gospel. This coming year let us look for the holy in the ordinary and let us be open to the working of the Spirit of God, being willing to travel down other roads we may not have expected. Because it just may be down those other roads that we see the extraordinary miraculous.



First time comments will be moderated.