Sermon Matthew 2:1-12 January 5, 2014 “ Worshiping from Afar Just Doesn’t Cut It”

As we move from one season to another…from the 12 days of Christmas to the chilly weeks of Epiphany, we stow away the mementos of our Christmas trees with their crushed pine needles, tangled tinsel or bent branches. We pack away the gently used or perhaps slightly bruised, tree ornaments, the festive tree lights and the window frame candles. We move out of one mindset into another. Some of us can’t wait to see it all disappear for another year; the rest, well, we can’t wait till another Christmas comes. But, the Bible tales don’t let us move too quickly from the infant/child stories of Jesus. There are really very few but the ones that have been recorded by the gospel writers are familiar and beloved. This one is one such story. Wise men from the East traveling to see the proclaimed child of such merit that even his prophesized birth has reached their ears in a country far removed from the Bethlehem and the Nazareth of Judean history. So, although we may be inclined to put Christmas away in its various storage boxes, this morning’s reading compels us to look once more at the ancient and beautiful story of Jesus’ birth and, particularly, the aftermath.

We again listen to the very familiar story of the magi seeking out the Christ child.  Their search has led them far from their homes and has put them in some danger, first to the perils of the road and then at the whim of a fanatical and crazed king.  But regardless of the danger, the magi seek out the child.  By the light of one bright star they make their journey.

This story is so familiar to all of us and, of course, I’ve used the text so many times to preach on this particular Sunday each year, I wondered if there is anything new to report. Anything new to give us some greater insight into its meaning for our lives. And then, it occurred to me. In the long journey to worship the Christ child, the wise men have provided us with a clue as to how we ought to behave and how we are to live out lives of faith. Like them, we cannot worship Jesus from afar. Our faith must be bold and practical. What Christ asks of us is the intimacy of a relationship and such a relationship requires our attention. It demands our willingness to stretch beyond our comfort zones. The wise men left their home, their place of sanctuary and safety and ventured out into the unknown to explore something very new to them. They were willing to go where the Spirit led them.

We begin this year, as we begin every year with resolutions to change something about ourselves. Could be our weight, an unhealthy habit, or a desire to repair a relationship with someone in our families or among our friends. It could be a decision to volunteer more or attend more worship services, to give more of our resources to those in need. The list is endless but our resolve to follow through too often has limits. We want to invest in this new venture but, more often than not, the will to do so dwindles rather rapidly. We give in or up before too many weeks of the New Year have passed.

I think an important message for us today is the fact that the magi traveled a long way to reach what could best be described as an unknown end. They traveled physically, geographically, culturally and religiously from what they knew to what they glimpsed in the sky and predicated in their charts. Matthew captures the essence of this trip by reminding all who would read, hear, live his words this important reality: Christ had come to and for all humanity.

So today we listen for the voice of angels in our lives. We wait for a new word of hope. We lean into our new tomorrows and we seek out the Christ promised to us in faith and embrace a journey with no known certainty of what the end will produce other than the truth of God’s love for each and every one of us. We are all invited on a faith walk with and for Christ – to explore the stars, to test the waters, to strive to reach the next pinnacle, to answer the impossible questions, to seek God – the God Christ has come to reveal to us.  In the search, in the journey, we will find joy, love, and opportunities to serve beyond our comfort zones. We will be challenged to make a new commitment to learn more about this God of love. We will be invited to take new risks and to explore our faith in prayer, worship and in reflection. We will be asked to share ourselves in community and relationship to those God places in our path, those who journey with us or who have yet to take that first step. God’s gift to us is life itself.  Our gift to God is what we do with those lives. It is a new year. Let’s take up the journey with faith and move into this New Year with commitment and renewed wisdom and hope.  Worshiping God and following Jesus requires more than words; it requires us to make the journey in faith. Amen.