Sunday, January 6, 2019 – Epiphany
Good Shepherd Lutheran Church
Stars, and dreams, and kings, oh my! If this sounds like a line from the Wizard of Oz you’re right. I couldn’t help as I was reading Mathew’s text this week to see the similarities between these two stories. In the classic movie the Wizard of Oz, Dorothy sets off on a journey toward Oz to see the wizard who she thinks has all the answers. Her companions are the lion, the scarecrow and the tin man. The journey is a perilous one filled with danger along the way, but they make this journey anyway because they need to find the truth.
In Matthew’s gospel today, our three travelers are seeking truth as well. They are commonly referred to as the three kings, but in reality we don’t know that there were three of them – probably several – and they were not kings, but more like astrologers. In ancient times these astrologers made it their vocation to study the stars and astronomical events. It was a very precise science and because of the exact position of the stars and planets they could tell that something important was about to happen. So they set out on a journey – one that would prove quite dangerous for them as well. These wise ones were courageous.
Theirs was a dangerous journey because they were seeking a new king and that was a threat to Herod, the ruling king at the time. Herod was known for his murderous and evil ways and he would stop at nothing to end any competition. He told the wise men that he wanted them to report back to him when they found the infant Jesus so he could worship him too, but in reality he wanted to use their expertise to find the baby and kill him. Jealousy and fear are common evils in all of us. These emotions may not lead us to murder, but they can lead us to act in ways that are not life giving. They can lead one down a dangerous path into darkness. The only answer is to focus on the light of truth, and that true light is Jesus.
That is the light that the magi traveled to see. And so they followed the star. Now the text says the star was ahead of them. They saw its rising and then they traveled for quite a while, studying their maps and going in the direction they first saw the star. That meant that there were most likely many days that they traveled without seeing the star. They traveled by day and by night going in the direction, but with no person to guide their way. How did they know they were going in the right direction? How often do we ask ourselves the same question? How do we know if we are going in the right direction?
We study the Scriptures like the magi studied and interpreted their maps. We read God’s word carefully, discussing it with others and trying to interpret exactly what it is that God is saying to us. It’s not easy to understand God’s plan for us and often we have no idea. But like the magi, we follow the light. We follow the light of Christ and trust that He knows the answers. We pray, and listen for God’s response. And like the magi, when we find the Light, we are filled with joy.
Following the Light is a long journey for all of us. It’s filled with twists and turns and dangers along the way. There are people who, like Herod, will want to lead us astray, who will try and deceive us, but we must stay true to the course no matter how difficult it gets. The magi stayed to their course with their maps and stars. We have the Scripture and prayer. And like the magi, we have each other. We have each other to help keep us on the right path.
God spoke to the magi in a dream not to return the same way they came and they listened. By doing that, they were defying Herod and risking their lives if he caught them. But they trusted God and were courageous. God still speaks to us today. We need to be receptive to that, and we need to be willing to change course if that is what God asks of us. We must be willing to see Christ in unexpected places. That is what Epiphany is all about. It is the manifestation of Christ. He is revealed to us every day and we – like the magi – need to be open to see Him. Christ is revealed to us when we pray. He is revealed to us when we minister to one another. And He is most especially revealed to us in the bread and wine today that we receive today.
We, like the magi, are on a journey to seek the true King only we don’t need to travel far. Jesus comes to us whenever and wherever we are. That is the greatest gift of all. That is reason to celebrate and give thanks! May we, like these wise ones of long ago, follow Christ with courage and joy. Amen.