Christmas Eve Homily , 2019, St Petri
After viewing Come Away in a Manger – Wise Man https://skitguys.com/videos/away-in-a-manger
Matthew 2:1-22 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi[a] from the east came to Jerusalem 2 and asked, ‘Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.’ 3 When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. 5 ‘In Bethlehem in Judea,’ they replied, ‘for this is what the prophet has written: 6 ‘“But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.”[b]’ 7 Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. 8 He sent them to Bethlehem and said, ‘Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.’ 9 After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshipped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route. https://stpetri.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/20191224_message.mp3
They came looking for royalty, looking for beauty, for answers, for truth. What have you come here for?
They went where royalty is usually found – a palace, a king with fine robes and much political power….They went to Herod. They did not know that they were looking in the wrong place for the wrong royalty.
And yet, it was not just them. It wasn’t that they themselves were searching for beauty and truth and royalty, they were also being led to find THE royal one.
Finally, they were led to the real royalty with the real truth, real answers, real beauty. They instinctively knew he was worthy of their highest honour.
You may be searching this holy night, but you are also being led this holy night.
Silent night, holy night!
Son of God, you are love’s pure light
Radiant beams from your holy face,
Brings the dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus Lord, at thy birth,
By your Spirit make us alert
We hear from these witnesses that the first night of joy eventually gave way to another night sometime later that was to be a night of terror. Herod had all the boys under the age of two murdered as a result of hearing of these eastern astrologers were in town looking to pay their tribute to this rival king.
So, Matthew tells us of two kings; one a trickster and one the Truth: one the real deal, the other a temporary impostor: one operating in the darkness of secrecy, and the other just put right out there in the light; clear and true: one paranoid and fearful, the other innocent and new.
Friend, there is an opportunity to let your heart be filled with wonder for one as you find yourself rejecting the other.
You’d think this would be an easy choice. No one wants to be lied to, imposed upon, tricked or misled as those Magi were. Everyone wants to find the truth, the joy, the light the freedom.
But the reality is that often, the two kings are not so easy to choose between. Finding joy and wonder in the Promised One is often elusive.
That is not so much because of the kings, but because of us. Within us there is this tendency to not be able to see the light and the shade clearly. We are not perfect people. Sometimes we even chase the darkness believing it to be the light we think we need. Sometimes we trick ourselves as we follow the trickster, believing he is the truth-teller.
The wise man said that he had been searching for the star, the sign of the Divine, the light in the dark, the humility, the honest to God truth of things. He and the others must have wanted the truth badly. Why else would you search the stars, plumb the depths of known science theory, travel so far and so long?
Is this us still? Is this you now? Are you wanting the truth here? Have you been searching? Are you still searching? What if you found the truth, and the truth was a person? Would you receive him?
People search for truth and hope in their own way. We all want to make sense of the pain, the fear, the confusion, the injustice, the loneliness, the threats to our life on planet earth we feel. We all need to know that what we are doing counts for something bigger than just ourselves.
But it seems that we in the West, at least for time being, will search for hope and light anywhere but in this shed with a baby under a star. He’s ‘old hat’ now.
We seem to have mostly thrown this baby out with the bathwater. We are now searching for a replacement hope and future, be it in Eastern many gods, Western no gods; in our technology, the science, taking action on every cause to prove to ourselves that we really can be everything we need to be now WITHOUT this baby.
But here we are still: griefs, sorrow, injustice, damaged planet, shaky environmental future, living in the land of fire and flood, drought and plenty, still dying, still arguing, still fighting, still searching, still needing that star…..
And here he is again. A baby just being a baby. But a baby with a long-told back story. This boy is the long-awaited culmination of a nation, a planet, a human race. He is the delivery of the stories of promise for generations looking forward to this moment that is foretold in such detail across a thousand years, with such beautiful images of hope.
In the end any searching person has to draw near to this silent night scene in some way. No one wants Herod kingship, so what about the other king and his kingship?
Here he is named “Shepherd” king. This King will not lead you down the garden path to destruction but will shepherd to good water, good grass. He will protect, serve, lead you to replenish you; tend you.
How can you trust this good news? He has a forward story too. He will go on to serve you and tend you at the cost of his life. He will rule by giving everything. He will rule by serving those who do not deserve to be served by a king. He will serve by losing himself to find you. He will use his divine power for healing and life, not murder and power. He will bless the children, heal the broken hearted and win back the prisoners from their self-made Herod type cages.
So which king is it this holy night? More of the same or quiet and full wonder at the good news love in this boy of promise?
I don’t believe I got myself here or that you just got yourself here to the king’s shed tonight. I was led. Same for you.
I have been led to discover that this Jesus is the One; He is light, not dark. He is truth not trickery. He is joy, not fear. He is freedom to be open and honest in the light, not scratching around in the dark trying to hide everything. He is open invitation and welcome, not manipulation and power preservation.
As he enters your space and lays down his life for you; as he gives you everything he has so you can receive everything he gives, surely the only response to that in your heart is give your heart to him; just like those Easterners – marvelling at the beauty, truth and promise of this baby King and the rejection of the other one.
Open your treasures – not the cash or the card or the credit; the gold, frankincense and myrrh. No, open the heart to the boy in the box; He has given you a new life to be every day not by silver or gold, but by his precious blood.
He is God in the flesh. He will receive your gifts and give you much more. He will give you, you; a new you for a new life.
Jesus recreate you this holy night in his holy light.