Grace, mercy, and peace be unto you from God, our Father,
and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, whose visitation by the magi is the
text that we concentrate on and meditate upon as it is found in its context of
the Old Testament reading.
That last verse of that hymn is beautiful. What joy it is to
know that He is the First and Last, and the journey that we’re on will lead us
to the bliss that’s been promised us. But for those weary magi traveling
thousands of miles from either Arabia, Persia, or Babylonia, all they had were
little snippets of the Old Testament promises that they had gleaned from when
the Jews were in exile 800 years prior in the land of Babylon.
And it was on those various promises, we know not which
ones, that they pinned their hope when they saw that star rise in the east, and
risking ridicule and at great monetary expense on their part did they travel
those thousands of miles to visit the child who is Christ the Lord.
It’s a lot like your and my journey. They were people who
lived in a pagan culture who worshipped and praised gods of….which are not
real. No different than you and me living in this country amongst people who
do not worship the true God and especially for those of us who reside in this
Austin area. A little more marked here than it is in other places.
And we face what those wise men faced every day, nagging
doubts like a drip, a faucet, questions and cynicism arising in our minds and
placed there from the seeds of Satan in the ground of our own sinful flesh,
questioning and wondering is this really taking us, this journey that we’re on,
following the star that has arisen in our own hearts, will it bring us to where
we wish to be brought? To the very feet of the child, the God-man made flesh
who is our hope and our future and is our present comfort.
You know that it had to have nagged on them each night as
they gathered around the fire to cook their dinner and to talk if they could
gather things enough to find in order to build a fire in the deserts of that
part of the world as they discussed these things. And you know, they also
thought that, once they arrived, they would also have to return, just as you
have to leave this place and go back amongst the people with whom you dwell and
with whom you work and who even may be in the same house as you who do not
believe as you.
That path down which God is leading you … again brings you
here this morning. When they arrived to talk to the king—Herod—they do not
come with cynicism and skepticism and all kinds of questions and doubts
concerning this man’s integrity. They trust….they trust that Herod, who is a
Jew, who is a part of this culture that believes these prophecies, would give
them the full truth. And so, in asking him, “Where’s the one born king of the
Jews?” they knew he would find out where he would be.
There are a lot of people whom you have invited, and there
are people within your own family who argue with you about coming here, but the
kind of skepticism that you and I are familiar with, the cynical doubts and
questions that arise about the journey down which you and I are being led just
like the wise men, but the wise men received the word in humility and
obedience. Even though the one speaking it, the chief priests, the learned men,
speak it without belief. And even though the one who is the civic king of the
Jews doesn’t believe those words either, is the Word of God proclaimed to these
people, and do these magi believe these words and enjoy what they hear. But
even more so, when they step out and leave the presence of these unbelievers who
proclaim truth to them do they see the heavens and the earth bow in humility to
the one who is the Lord of heaven and earth. That star appears to them again,
and they follow it to the place where God is dwelling with man as man.
So prominent, all the hymns that we sing about the star,
it’s in the panel up in front, shining upon the Christ child. It is in this
choir enclave on top of one of the windows there, shining brightly. It is what
led them down that path to the place of the Christ child. And when they got
there, what did they see? And with what expectations did they come?
What kind of expectations have you brought to your God? Rather
than receiving from Him the gifts that He wishes to bestow, we throw up a wall
of unfulfilled desires and expectations injustices experienced and incurred
upon us. They behold a toddler who is the King of the Universe. They behold a
child whose ability to speak is still infantile, and yet, He is their God who
created them and knit them. What they see is not what they believe. Their
faith overcomes what they see and they see with the eyes of faith, just as you
who gather here to hear words proclaimed and spoken and read believe that those
words apply to you and have meaning to you, and are the very hope, the grains
along the path that God is leading you down to where you will finally behold
Him with your own eyes, as Job wrote.
You with that same faith behold Him, the Morningstar,
nestled amongst bread and wine where He feeds you Himself. And it is not what
is made sense by your mind’s eye but like the magi, you receive the blessing of
the Word delivered to you, the promises delivered to you, and receive it as
what it is meant to be received….forgiveness, life, and salvation.
And then, like the wise men who live in a world and interact
with a world that despises them and wishes them nothing but ill harm and
horrible repute, they have to live with that faith in this world just as you
do, for you leave this place and go back and live amongst people….even fellow
believers….who are not always loving and cordial and kind and forgiving.
And you call yourself a member of a church that’s full of
people like that, who have the Word delivered to them in the same way as it was
delivered to you, who were led along the same path as you, who were nestled
amongst that bread and wine in, with, and under that you may eat and drink at that
same place, marking yourselves as being bound to one another, just as the
magi. And God continually delivers you from your Herods in this world.
Even if you can’t see the great power and horrible repute
they wish to put upon you, no more than the magi have no idea how completely
corrupt Herod is, nothing more than a glimpse of what beats within their own
bosom, nothing more than a glimpse of what beats within your bosom. There but
by the grace of God go I….go we….and having been brought and having had the
Word delivered to us and having been thrust back out like those magi, they had
to return to that same place and all they had with which to return were those
You have, what Paul said, more promises fulfilled than what
those magi have had. You had fulfilled for you more promises than the apostles
and the prophets can imagine. You have had fulfilled in your very sight on
your very tongue and in your very ears — God made man for you.
Now that faith that has been nourished and strengthened is
that same hope and confidence that all you have to share with someone else, to
invite them to this place. Whether they’ve told you no a thousand times or
haven’t even been asked by you because you’re nervous about asking them, whether
it’s that family member with whom you have not got along always so well,
whether it’s your son and daughter who have walked away from what you have
given them or have forgotten, whether it’s your grandchild, your husband, or
your wife … you have been given the same gift as the magi but even greater. And
you have been led down the same path as they but even greater. And you have
had delivered to you a Word made more sure and certain than was given even to
the magi and with what great boldness did they leave those gifts with Him in thanksgiving,
and you have that opportunity today and each time you gather. And yet we
struggle with that, don’t we, at times, not freely or joyfully or gladly giving
back to God that which He has first most abundantly and graciously given to us.
Rejoice, brothers and sisters, the Word’s been delivered to
you. Now take that Word and proclaim it and rejoice in that comfort that you
alone have in sins forgiven, as you walk down that path and sometimes run
without knowing where you’re going, but that God leads you and will deliver you
as we sang in that hymn and will continue to sing in this place. In Jesus’
The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your
hearts and your minds on Christ Jesus to life everlasting. Amen.