North Highland United Methodist Church
Thursday, December 05, 2019
Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors

 

Matthew 2:12 and the New Year One of accounts of scripture that all-too-often receives little attention is Matthew’s account of the astrologers and sojourners, whom we often call the “Wise Men”, the “Three Kings”, and more accurately translated, the “magi”. It is far easier to put them in the nativity scene along with their camels and treasure chests of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Yet, when we do that, we miss out on an amazing story that is quite perfect for us, as we too begin a journey into a new year. If you were in worship on Epiphany Sunday, January 6, you heard some of this in the message—but it bears repeating. Their story and in particular the concluding verse of Matthew 2:12— And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for home by another route, has been a good reminder for me as we all consider what route(s) we will take in this new year.
 
Here is a nutshell’s worth of info on those ancient magi: They came “from the East” (and not East Bethlehem, thus it was months of travel), we are never told their names or number—legend has named them, song and the numbers of gifts have led us to assume there were three (there likely was an entire caravan), and when they eventually made it to Bethlehem, Jesus and his parents were in a house, and he had long since outgrown the manger bed.
For me, one of the most amazing aspects is their daring to defy the powerful king, Herod. The first verses of Matthew Chapter 2 tell us the travelers stop in Jerusalem, assuming that seat of power was the logical place to find the new king, who they as astrologers were seeking, after noticing a change in star patterns. Herod is troubled and his angst has spread throughout all of Jerusalem. When the magi show up, he is led to ask his religious experts where the King of the Jews would be born. They point him to ancient scripture that names Bethlehem as the place. Herod plays the role of a benevolent king, sends them on their way, and requests they tell him where the child is found so he too can honor him.
 
The magi are not worshipers of the God of the Jews—they would have been known as pagans or perhaps gentiles (non Jews). And yet they, as often happened in ancient times and we have read in Old Testament stories, receive a message in a dream warning them not to return to Herod. Does that not fly in the face of any who would insist that we know how and to whom God communicates? Are we tempted to proclaim that God speaks exclusively to those who believe a certain way? And isn’t it amazing that ones named as “nonbelievers” would respond to a Divine message? But they do. And they choose to return home by a different route, thus avoiding the all powerful King Herod. What courage that took.
Which leads me to ask, to whose voice will we listen in the coming year? Will we be willing to find new paths for our lives or our corporate ministry together? From where will our dreams and vision come? Do we have the courage to try new or different routes to life and the life of our church? May we be wise seekers in 2019!
 
Peace and Blessings,
 
Pastor Lou
 

 

January - February 2019