Monday, January 7, 2019

Follow That Star

Matthew 2:1-12
January 6. 2019

Christ has been born,
the savior has come into the world
the light has shattered the darkness
And now everyone is happy,
the good news spreads, everyone believes
and follows Jesus way and the world is perfect.

Maybe we could believe that
if we only hear the story read on Christmas eve.
We could enjoy the sights of shepherds,
angels, heavenly hosts,
quiet mangers, and holy families.

But Matthew’s gospel doesn’t
let us get away that easily.
In Matthew’s story, the birth of Jesus isn’t just a family affair,
it’s not just a miraculous birth of a baby.

In Matthew, the birth of Jesus almost immediately
sends ripples through the world,
not all of them good ripples either.

Of course we know about
the wise men who see the star in the sky and understand
that this indicates that the messiah has been born.
And even though they are not of the Jewish faith
they see the sign and they want to pay their respects to him.
So the wise men, some say kings,
people who are important enough in their own right,
follow the star and find Jesus and his family.
They bring gifts to the baby and they kneel
and pay him homage, placing the little baby,
born to a poor family, in a status above themselves.

This scene is familiar enough:
the three kings bowing to a baby,
it’s pleasant enough to show up in our nativity scenes,
and to garner festive celebrations all over the world.
But the story in Matthew isn’t pleasant at all.

To help the wise men find where this baby is,
they go to the person that they assume
will be in the know about the event --King Herod --
the man who has been appointed the king of the Jews.
They assume that Herod would know about
this important thing happening to his own people.
But he doesn’t know.

And when he finds out, it turns out Herod
is not excited that the hopes and prophecies
of his ancestors are coming true.
He’s not overjoyed that the messiah has come -
about the light scattering the darkness.

Janet McKensie
It says that at this news that Herod was frightened
and not just him, but all of Jerusalem with him.

To think that Herod just didn’t understand
the importance of this birth would be naive I think.
Herod understood, he understood all too well
maybe more than some others.
The birth of the Messiah didn’t just mean
light and fulfillment of everyone’s hopes.
the birth of the Messiah meant a different reality,
God coming into the world.
It meant justice, change.
It meant that the lowly would be raised
and the powerful would be tumbled down.
And Herod was one of the powerful.

Herod’s desire to cling to his power
had already driven him to 
kill several close family members.
And his fear of the Messiah 
led him to do the unspeakable.
Which is the second part of the world’s 
reaction to Jesus birth
in Matthew’s story.

Herod had his people kill all the children
in and around Bethlehem
who were two years and younger
in an attempt to kill Jesus.
Which is what made Mary, Joseph, and Jesus
run from their country and escape to Egypt
and live there for several years.

Now some say there were 20 children killed
in Bethlehem, some say it was 10,000,
Some say it never happened at all.
But it doesn’t matter, we have seen enough leaders react
out of fear and paranoia and a need for control.
We have seen enough killing in our lifetime
and enough innocents slaughtered
to know that even if Matthew
isn’t talking about a historical event,
Matthew is telling us a Truth.
Matthew knows, the good news of Jesus the Christ,
is not always good news to everyone.

Two reactions to the birth of the Messiah:
The wise men – three kings of some unspecific
religion and country who followed stars rejoiced at the news.
They sought out Jesus, they embraced the mystery,
knelt down to worship, offered their gifts,
The three kings who make themselves servants of the
power of God found in Jesus Christ.

But the actual king of the Jews,
the one who holds the actual title,
the leader Yahweh’s people,
the man who is sitting in David’s position, King Herod.
But he is not delighted to hear the news of the Messiah’s birth,
he reacts to the messiah in fear and dread
He lashes out in violence in an attempt’
kill God’s plan for the salvation of the world and
maintain his own power and control.

In these first chapters, Matthew is getting us ready
for the end of the story of Jesus
where religion and power do eventually
come together again and attempt to carry out that plan again.

Now we might come to a conclusion,
like a lot of people do,
that the world is just divided into two kinds of people:
that the good people just choose the wise men’s route
And those evil people choose Herod’s way.

But isn’t it closer to the truth that both exist in each of us?
Don’t we all have the propensity for worship
with our whole selves to embrace the unknown,
to risk going wherever God leads us?

But don’t we also sometimes respond
in fear to the change that God has in store?
Don’t we also back away from God’s plans
And as citizens, haven’t we even supported or ignored
violence at times if it means maintaining our
comfort, our status quo?

We all embrace God’s justice and rule and will
and we all turn it away, ignore it, and rebel against it.
We are making those choices every day.

Matthew’s story is about the world’s journey of faith.
It’s about the many ways that we can react to
the good news of Jesus Christ.
It’s also about finding those wise people
in the most unexpected places.

We are called to be people who are
not slaves to our fears,  who don’t cling
to power and violence and control.
We are called to be wise people
who take risks and leave the old behind.
We are called to follow stars that look
like all the other stars to everyone else,
but that we’re sure in our hearts means something.
We are called to follow uncertain things with certainty.

The messiah has come to us.
Christ has been born.
The savior has come into the world.
The light has shattered the darkness.
Let us be like those wise people.
Let us leave our fear behind and follow another road.
Let us embrace that star, risk the unknown, and follow Jesus.

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