Have you gazed at the stars wondering about their beauty and the mystery of what life is all about? As human beings, there is a deep longing in each of us to understand, to connect, to be loved, and to search. Sometimes we don’t even know exactly what we are looking for, yet we are longing for something. And sometimes when we think we find it we get disappointed because it doesn’t fix our problems or give us what we think we need.
Epiphany of our Lord, January 6, 2013; Year C
Isaiah 60.1-6; Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14; Ephesians 3.1-12; Matthew 2.1-12
Pastor Renee Splichal Larson
Grace to you and peace from the One whose light shines in the darkness,
Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The summer after my grandmother died from cancer when I was seven, I
used to go out on the front lawn of my house and lie on my back in the grass at
night and look up at the stars. I can
feel the soft grass beneath me, and a gentle breeze on my face. The only sound I hear is an occasional car
passing by or the sound of my own voice talking to God and my grandma.
I wonder what everything all means and why the stars shine so bright or
even make patterns in the sky. I cry a
little bit because I miss my grandma and I wonder if she can hear me. If I get lucky enough I see a shooting star
or two and am filled with awe at so many things I don’t understand at the age
of seven, yet are part of my reality and world.
These are vivid memories for me because it is the first time I can
remember really paying attention to the sky.
I didn’t know what I was searching for, but I was longing for something.
Today we hear a somewhat familiar story of astrologists or star-gazers
from the East who observe a unique star in the sky and set out on a journey in
search of a person. Having songs that we
sing like, “We Three Kings,” or manger scenes with 3 wise men bearing gifts can
be misleading for us with the story of these mysterious travelers.
For one thing, the story never says how many of them there were…it just
tells us the three kinds of gifts they bring.
They are also never called kings; they are called “wise men.” They come from the East, which is more than
likely the area that is modern day Iraq and Iran.
Often times the wise men are nestled right up to the shepherds in the
manger scene, but we have to be aware that the wise men come along a few months
to up to more than a year after Jesus was born.
In our house, Jon and I have a manger scene and we keep the wise men far
off when we set it up during Advent and we move them closer and closer to the Jesus
figure as the days go by throughout Christmas, reminding us of the great
distance they traveled to see the Christ child who was also born for them.
This story is so amazing because why would star-gazers from the East
care whether or not someone was born king of the Jews? And even greater yet, why would God care to
lead them by a star to Jesus? They are
certainly not Jewish and more than likely practice a different religion(s). And the only clue they have to go by is his star at its rising.
This must have been one special star for them to notice it among all the
other billions of stars around it. But
they were people who paid attention to detail and to the sky. So in faith, they leave their homeland and
seek out an infant in order to bring him gifts and to worship him.
I love this story. I love it
because it speaks of God using things that we see on a daily basis to lead
people to Jesus. The wise men are led by
a star. I also love this story because
it is so inclusive as to whom Jesus is for.
Right away in the beginning of Matthew we hear that God becoming human
reaches to the far corners of the earth, to people who are different and even practice
other religions. There is no limit to God’s
purpose to lead people to the One in whom anyone can find healing, love,
forgiveness and new life.
The wise men, with their treasure chests of gold, frankincense, and
myrrh, realize that when the star stops over where Jesus is they have truly
found their real treasurer…the Creator of all that is in front of them with a
beating heart, breath in his lungs and skin on his bones. Scripture says that they were overwhelmed
with joy and they worshiped him. They
had found what they were looking for.
What might you be searching for these days after Christmas? I was in line at the grocery store last week and
two women in front of me were having a conversation. One of them said, “I’m glad Christmas is all
over! There’s such a build up and it’s
so busy that when it’s over I’m just deflated and disappointed.”
I couldn’t help but wonder what Christmas meant to her and wonder what
she’s looking for in the season in which we celebrate salvation coming to earth
in Jesus for the sake of all people.
Technically there are 12 days of Christmas and they culminate every year
today on January 6th. Today
is what we call the Epiphany of our Lord.
Epiphany is a fancy word for manifestation or revealing. It’s about the light that has come into the
world in Jesus that no darkness can overcome.
Have you gazed at the stars wondering about their beauty and the mystery
of what life is all about? As human
beings, there is a deep longing in each of us to understand, to connect, to be
loved, and to search. Sometimes we don’t even know exactly what we are looking for, yet we are
longing for something. And sometimes when
we think we find it we get disappointed because it doesn’t fix our problems or
give us what we think we need.
The wise men found what they were looking for in Jesus. They don’t even ask him for anything, they
simply worship him for who he is for them and the world. The light leads them to where they need to
When I look back on my nights looking up at the stars when I was seven,
the longing for God and wonder was part of my searching. There was something peaceful about it, not
anxious or disappointing. I have found
that the light of Christ has led me to many people and places, not the least of
which is here to Hope Chapel with all of you.
It has also led me through some incredible darkness and times of sorrow,
and in all honesty, I do not know if I would have survived without it. The light of Christ is like breath, and Christ
wants to lead us into life and through disappointment and darkness.
It is very common that January is a tough month for many people for all
kinds of reasons. Today we read about,
remember, and feel God’s presence in this world and the light of Christ that
leads to wholeness, healing, and life.
In their searching, the wise men are welcomed into the home of Mary,
Joseph, and Jesus. Hope Chapel is also
the house of God where Jesus is real and present in this place in the midst of
all of us together. On Christmas Eve I
read a poem written by my friend, Kalen Barcholtz and I’d like to read for you
Welcome weary, welcome lost.
Welcome regulars, welcome guests,
welcome you, who have been away,
but have been longing in your heart.
Welcome to this storied space of Living Word
where symbol and song proclaim
that God is in our midst.
Welcome you searching,
who as the wise
men did so long ago,
hope to find the Christ child,
hope to find hope,
hope to find a light
that breaks up the
May you find it, and may you be found.