The Visit of the Wise MenMatthew 2:1-12 (NRSV)
In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:
‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who is to shepherd my people Israel.’”
Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.” When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.
Do you ever wake up in the morning feeling totally overwhelmed with the world? Do you ever feel like you have so much to do that you don’t know where to start? Do you ever find it hard to focus on simple things? Or do you get easily frustrated with people, even the people you like? I know I do sometimes.
Well friends, today, we find ourselves a week past Christmas and just a few days from Epiphany, which is January 6th. Epiphany is the day that the camels and the wisemen join the Christmas story. It’s the day when we celebrate the star that led Magi from afar to see the child that was born in Bethlehem, bringing him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. It is a story that we hear year after year.
Now the word “epiphany” means “manifestation or revelation,” because it recognizes the fulfilled prophecies of old, naming Jesus as the perfect gift of God’s love for the world. On Epiphany, we find hope in the light that Christ brings to the world. We find peace in the humble stable in Bethlehem. We find joy in the celebration of the magi sharing their gifts. And we are filled with love at the thought that people from all around the world, and from all different cultures, and backgrounds, could gather to honor, worship, and celebrate the child.
But this year, as I reflected on the story of the wise men, something different jumped out for me, something I had never thought about before. Folks, in today’s world, when we often feel overwhelmed and frustrated and unsure, when we find it difficult to focus even on the simple things and when we find ourselves getting easily discouraged, distracted, and aggravated with others, the idea of what the wise men did is a perfect example for us!
Now, we need to put aside our questions as to: “Were there really three wise men?” And “Were they wise men, or magi, or astronomers?” “When did they actually arrive to see Jesus?” And “What happened when they got back to their homes?” Folks, those are all really great questions, but we need to hold them for another day.
You see today, rather than looking for the historical account and the facts and figures, I think we need to look at the essence of the story. A group of people feel something is important. They are interested in it, even passionate about it. So, they focus all their attention on it. Now, I’m sure that people in their hometowns told them that they were crazy. I’m sure not everyone agreed with the trip they were undertaking. I’m sure that they had to say no to other opportunities and even responsibilities to say yes to what their heart was calling them to do. But the good news is, they found their focus, listened to their hearts, and continued to follow the star anyway.
I’m sure that the trip was not easy. I’m sure they faced rough terrain, bad weather, and sleepless nights. I’m sure they questioned at times if they should throw in the towel and turn back. But the good news is they found their focus, they listened to their hearts, and they continued to follow the star anyway.
I’m sure there were times when they felt lost and times when they argued with one another as to which was the right way. I’m sure there were times when they just wanted to sleep in or call it a day at lunch time. And I’m sure that there were days when they had to stop to buy food, or to fix a ripped tent, or to take care of a sick or injured camel, and they got sidetracked from their journey. But the good news is they always got back on track, found their focus, listened to their hearts, and continued to follow the star anyway.
Friends can’t you imagine when they reached Jerusalem and talked with King Herod, they must have felt pressured by his authority and the weight of the government? Don’t you think they began to question themselves and wonder why others had not heard of this king they were searching for? But the good news is they found their focus, listened to their hearts, and continued to follow the star anyway.
And finally, as they arrived at the humble place where Jesus was, do you think they questioned their arrival or the gifts that they brought? Do you think they were disappointed by the journey they had made or what they had found? Or do you think their hearts were full because no matter what obstacles they faced they always found their focus, listened to their hearts, and followed the star anyway?
Folks, as human beings we can’t accomplish everything. We can’t make everyone happy, and we can’t solve the world’s problems. But we can focus our hearts on one or two things, dedicating ourselves to them and making a difference in our own lives and in the world around us. Sure, there will be days when we get busy doing other things. There will be days when our families are sick, and we don’t feel good ourselves. And there will be days when we want to fix everything and in so doing, we will accomplish nothing.
Folks, it takes everyone choosing one star to follow and giving it their all, rather than trying to follow a galaxy of stars and getting lost and frustrated in the shuffle. Because you and I, we were not born to be Saviors to the world–Jesus was. We weren’t made to BE the light, but to follow it and to share it with others.
So, as we begin this new year, I would urge you to take some time to think about the star that your faith calls you to follow. Then, rather than feeling bad that you can’t say yes to all of the stars, find your focus, listen to your heart, and follow the star that you feel called and excited to follow. And when you do, enjoy the journey, because it’s going to be amazing!