Homily for Epiphany Jan 5,2014- Finding Christ
We see the face of Christ Who Is for all of us in our “Three Kings”
Sometimes the beauty and simplicity of the Holy Scriptures is both moving and confounding. Such is Matthew’s account of the visit of the Magi. (“Magoi” means wise or learned men, or scholars or astrologers or even magicians, some say kings or priests of another religion perhaps Zoroasterism. Some see them as hailing from Persia (Iran), Babylonia or just “the East”. One later tradition has them coming from China and Africa). The writer of Matthew whose community is Jewish Christians, masterfully crafts a story that has the newborn king, Jesus, belonging to the Jewish tradition as fulfillment of Messianic prophecy (Isaiah 60; Psalm 72; Micah 5:2 ) and also bringing light to the gentiles (Isaiah 60). Through the journey and adoration of the Magi, the infant Christ also belongs to all the known world and all of creation.
The writer of Matthew crafts a story of inclusion, a both/and story that establishes Jesus as the fulfillment of Jewish prophecy and yet as belonging to strangers, outsiders as well-to those who seek the Christ. Indeed the rejection of the Jewish people is forecast as the news the Magi gave the insecure King Herod about the newborn king “greatly disturbed” Herod and “all of Jerusalem”. The Magi find the Christ child while following a star, or perhaps it was a comet, a great light in the sky. So Christ is revealed through nature and natural phenomena and to people very different than the religious Jews of the times who would not have approved of astrologers, or worshipers from neighboring countries who once ruled them, or representatives of other religions-all of which the Magi may have been. Probably the testimony of the poor shepherds who were Jesus’ first visitors also guided by a great light or star according to the writer of Luke, would not have convinced the religious leaders either. But for Matthew, like Luke, the bottom line message is: this newborn king is here for everybody! Christ is for all people and for all nations. Now that is truly good news-no one will be left out.
The account raises the question how do we find Christ now? What can guide us as we seek the Christ?
In our time when people struggle with historicity and scientific proofs we can hitch our wagons to the stars, speak in lovely abstractions and miss the wonderful messages of the Gospels about inclusion. Luke starts off with animals and poor shepherds as first visitors and first evangelists. Matthew has foreigners bearing the first news of the Christ to Herod and to the religious establishment who are very unhappy about the news. The Magi recognize the Christ and give gifts worthy of a King (gold and the expensive Myrrh and Frankincense), a Deity (Myrrh that also connects God and earth, and can accompany in death) and a Healer (Frankincense and Myrrh). (These are also used for healing today for everything from skin diseases to colitis and cancers to asthma, anxiety and stress). These strangers are given a sign in the skies that they can understand as star gazers and they also understand who this baby is. Their gifts are prophetic and the gold was also just in time for a poorer family that has to flee into Egypt.
So how can we who seek Christ today find Christ? Perhaps first we have to allow ourselves to seek and to acknowledge that we are seeking. We are seeking love that is unconditional and all inclusive. We are seeking true community. We are seeking justice especially for the poor and outcast of this world. We are seeking the reign of God characterized by love and justice when both are sometimes very hard to find. We are seeking peace in our hearts, in our families, in our communities and in the world. Each one of us is different. Some of us will find Christ through seeing and listening to the stories of others. Some of us will find Christ in the faces of the lowly shepherds of our times, the homeless and the hungry,the children and the elderly, those who share their gifts and the serially unemployed. Some of us will find Christ in serving with them and in listening to and responding to their stories. That is how I find Christ. When my heart is moved I know Christ is speaking to me and asking me to help my fellow seekers.
But the Magi found Christ through natural phenomena, or even spectacular natural phenomena. Some of us will find Christ through our connections to the astounding beauty of the natural world-the sky, the mountains, the sea, the creatures of the earth and sea. That is another way I find Christ. Looking up at the night sky, feeding the fish, turtles, ducks, ibis and coots on my little lake, watching a pod of dolphins play, witnessing a frightened person, dog or cat respond to loving ,patient feeding and talking, experiencing the loyalty of both human and furry friends, I experience awe and a quiet deep joyful belief in God’s love.
Experiencing the wisdom of others through their heartfelt stories, writings or film or art I find the living Christ. Some find Christ in grasping the discoveries of science. I am in awe of this. In the love of friends and family I find Christ. In the eyes of one who was hungry and feels full, I find Christ. Watching others respond to love and grow in faith is clearly seeing the living Christ at work. When one of our teenagers reflected that she finds love at our church, I remembered when I first felt loved through the church of my youth. I knew that Christ was with us and thanked God for the miracle of Christ with us in one another.
You may fix cars or computers, you may heal people or animals, you may write, you may sing, you may carve wood or make great works of art, you may sell commodities or stocks, and you may be in deep trouble and have nothing at all to give to the baby Jesus but your love. Christ will find you where you are, and in ways you can recognize, that make sense to you. God will accept the wonderful gifts that only you can bring and, if you seek love and justice and peace, you will find it. You will find Christ.
Rev Dr. Judy Lee, ARCWP