Sharing the Light of Christ

Sharing the Light of Christ

The Visit of the Magi
In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, magi from the east came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star in the east 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 magi[e] 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 in the east, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped,[g] 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.

Matthew 2:1-12 (NRSVUE)

This story of the magi, the bright shining star, and the gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh is told only in the gospel of Matthew. Matthew calls them “magi”, not kings or wise men; those are words that we know from Christmas carols that we sing. And we know that they came from the East, most likely Persia, which is present-day Iran. The Magi were of a different faith, a different culture, and a different understanding, and yet they knew in their hearts that there was something special–something special about that star in the sky that they felt called to follow, and something special about the child they found.

Now the magi often looked to the stars and the heavens and even to their dreams for inspiration and direction. Well, I have to tell you that this week as I reflected on the Epiphany story, searching for inspiration for today’s message, I too had dreams of a shining star and magi, which is not unusual for me, especially when I am really wrestling with scripture. But there was also a song–a song that I simply couldn’t get out of my head. Now there is a piece of me that doesn’t want to sing it out loud because it’s one of those songs that, once you hear it, you can’t get it out of your mind. I also know that I will be dating myself because unless you grew up in New England in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s, I’m not sure you will have heard it before. But it goes like this, and please feel free to sing along if you know it:

Star of the day, who will it be?
Your vote may hold the key.
It’s up to you. Tell us who.
Will be Star of the day.

Now, for those of you who don’t know the song, it came from a regional access show called “Community Auditions.” I guess you could say it was like an extremely early “America’s Got Talent,” but produced by local television. Now I fully understand that Epiphany is all about the star in the sky that led the magi to the Christ child, but what I have been wrestling with is why that song would get so stuck in my head.

You see, I personally have always thought that Epiphany is one of the most important holidays when it comes to living out our faith. And it was fifteen years ago this year on Epiphany that I was ordained as a minister and called to share the light of Christ with the world.

Folks, if you think about it, for the four weeks during advent, we were called to prepare the way of the Lord, to make straight our paths, and to prepare our hearts and our homes for the coming of the Christ child. Then we spent the twelve days of Christmas celebrating the birth of the baby in the manger and the amazing news of Emmanuel, that God has come to us. And now, for the season after Epiphany, what are we called to do but to BE stars–maybe even the star of the day!–sharing the light of Christ with the world as best as we are able.

I always think that this is the most exciting season because it is when we’re encouraged to really live out our faith, share our gifts, and be the people that God has created and inspired each one of us to be. Friends, we spend so much time waiting and planning and preparing, but now is the time to go out and actually do the work!!

On Epiphany Sunday, we hear the story of the Magi and their long journey to bring gifts to the Christ Child. But do you remember what happened on their way? Well, scripture says…“When King Herod heard what was happening, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him. So 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.”

But that is not the full story, is it? You see, the truth is, Herod wanted to be the star of the day, but not the kind of star that our faith calls us to be. He wanted to be not a star that shines a light in the darkness to help others, but a star that shines light and brings attention to himself. We know that Herod was not looking to worship the Christ Child. On the contrary, Herod was looking to get rid of him. After all, Herod was the king. He was in charge and he wanted all the power. He enjoyed sitting back and basking in the light of his own wonderfulness. He wanted all the attention. He wanted everyone to worship him and he didn’t really care what happened to anyone else, which was apparent by the lies that he told and the horrendous choices that he made. Herod’s life was filled with jealousy and hate. He never thought that he had enough money or power, and he always wanted more.

My friends, on Epiphany, we are reminded of the awesome gifts that each of us has been given, and as children of God, we are all called to be stars out in the world–not bringing attention to ourselves but sharing the light of Christ with others. But remember, to truly be a star that shares the light of Christ, you need to be humble, compassionate, and kind, focusing on your faith, and knowing that the light that you carry is not your own, but it is the light of Christ that shines from within you.

Now I know that we all come from different places and we have different struggles and needs in life. But I also know that when we only worry about ourselves and our own difficulties, we can become overwhelmed by them. And like Herod, we become filled with fear, and jealousy, and hate. That’s why last week, we talked about sinking our fears and floating our hopes as we step into the new year!

Friends, here in Oldtown we are a hard-working church; there is no doubt about it, and we have had to be just to make ends meet. As you know, we rely on our pledges and the money that comes into our offering plate each week, and we work hard on our fundraising events to keep our sanctuary heated and the lights on because this church supports itself. We don’t get funding from our denomination or from any other outside source. It’s all up to us. Now because of that, we could worry and stress over the fact that we didn’t make quite make our budget this year and it looks as though next year will be tight as well. Or we can let the light of Christ shine within each of us, showing us new ways to be the church and uncovering things that we might need to start doing things a little differently than we have in the past. But by the grace of God, we will make it through, I know we will!

Now you may be thinking to yourself: if money is so tight here in Oldtown, then why are we collecting baby items for needy parents in the area that we don’t even know? Or asking for more donations for the food pantry? Or looking for ways to reach out and serve our community? Why don’t we focus on balancing our budget and building up our savings? Isn’t that a more responsible thing to do?

Folks, this is one of those situations where our faith and the world’s understanding don’t always agree. You see, during the season after Epiphany, which begins next Sunday, our liturgical color changes to green. So I’ll start wearing my green stole, and we’ll have a green antependium on the pulpit. And as many of us know, green means what? Yes, green means GO! Especially during the season after Epiphany, we are called to go out into the world to love and to serve and share the light of Christ with others.

Now during Epiphany, we tend to focus on the light–the light that came from the star as it led to Magi to Jesus. Jesus, the light that has come to shine in the midst of our darkness. And you and I as stars, we are called to reflect the light of Christ, not bringing attention to ourselves but helping to shine the light for others.

Friends, on Christmas Eve, we always have a candlelight service here in Oldtown. And from the one single candle, the Christ candle at the center of our advent wreath, we can light a hundred other candles without the Christ candle ever losing any of its own light. My friends, the good news is when we go out into the world and share the light of Christ with others, our light doesn’t dim, it only burns brighter!

So, brothers and sisters in Christ, as you go out into your busy week ahead, instead of just talking about your faith and then worrying about what you don’t have, I encourage you to live out your faith! Be the star of the day, not worrying about yourself but carrying with you the light of Christ as you love and serve others. For it is only then that you will begin to know the true gift of God’s grace in your life.

My friends, may it be so. Thanks be to God, Amen!


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