Sermon for January 8, 2017 Epiphany “Star of Wonder”
It would be nice if we could say it was an honest mistake. It might let them off the hook. And maybe us too.
But it’s a mistake we have made for too long. And that we make too often.
It’s a mistake that usually has tragic consequences. And we haven’t learned from them yet.
Why did the magi go to Herod, to find God’s newborn king? The magi were wise, but sadly not wise enough yet to really know and embrace the way of God in the world. And because of it, they very nearly ruined everything (to quote Bruce Cockburn from “Cry of a Tiny Baby”)
…. and then what? Maybe something about the magi as peak of human evolution so far — smart, rational, far-seeing, scientific … just like us still and even now … in control, powerful, master of the food chain and lord of the jungle … but still lacking that one more essential step, that one more necessary transformation in order to become fully human as God intends, fully and gloriously human in the image of God — the one essential step down from power to vulnerability, from control to service, from relationship-against and relationship-over to relationship-with and relationship-for. One of my favorite authors, Brene Brown suggests, and powerfully so, that until we embrace and live into our vulnerability, we will continue to separate ourselves with power, gender or war.
And yet how could the Magi not go to Herod. They were not like the rest of the travelers in Bethlehem. Word in that small community would have spread fast and to Herod’s ears that three men on majestic camels, dressed in glorious clothes were in town. I wonder if they sought out Herod or did Herod have them brought to him? We will never know. But they did see Herod.
God has tried to lead us here … in so many ways all through the biblical story… and still we resist, suffer the consequences … most often make others suffer the consequences even more than ourselves. We are reluctant to acknowledge that greatness can be found in weakness, that power can be found in alleys and meekness, that God can be found in a stable out back.
I blame Herod, not God, for the massacre. I blame the magi for not knowing better than to look for God’s way in an imperial court rather than a stable and a humble house and among the poor. But that was then and this is now and maybe just maybe we have learned a thing or two from Jesus.
Maybe the real message of the magi in the story – is that it is never too late to learn — like Ebenezer Scrooge in The Christmas Carol, once the magi actually see Jesus in all his vulnerability, poverty and powerlessness, and pay their homage to him, they are changed … they awake from the nightmare of power with a dream of a different way of being … and they don’t go back to Herod … they go home another way …
And maybe we too can hear the angel voice and realize that power, lasting power is not in Ottawa or Trump towers or even Washington, but in the forgotten places, minds and hearts, where God can be revealed and lives transformed. That is the wonder and aha-ness of Epiphany.