|First Sunday after the Epiphany, Year C||January 13, 2019||First Sunday after the Epiphany, Year C||Isaiah 43:1-7, Luke 3:15-17, 21-22|
|➤The Epiphany||January 6, 2019||The Epiphany, Year C||Matthew 2:1-12|
|Christmas Eve, Year C||December 24, 2018||Christmas Eve, Year C||Luke 2:1-20|
|Advent 3, Year C||December 16, 2018||Third Sunday of Advent, Year C||Luke 3:7-18|
|Advent 2, Year C||December 9, 2018||Advent 2, Year C||Baruch 5:1-9, Luke 3:1-6|
|Advent 1, Year C||December 2, 2018||The First Sunday in Advent, Year C 2018||Jeremiah 33:14-16, 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13, Psalm 25:1-9, Luke 21:25-36|
|Christ the King Sunday, Year B||November 25, 2018||Christ the King, Last Pentecost||John 18:33-37, Revelation 1:4b-8|
|Pentecost 26, Year B||November 18, 2018||Proper 28, Year B||Daniel 12:1-3, Psalm 16, Hebrews 10:11-25, Mark 13: 1-8|
|Pentecost 25, Year B||November 11, 2018||Proper 27, Year B||1 Kings 17:8-16, Psalm 146, Hebrews 9:24-28, Mark 12:38-44|
|All Saints, Year B||November 4, 2018||All Saints’ Day, Year B||Wisdom of Solomon 3:1-9; Psalm 24; Revelation 21:1-a; John 11:32-44|
|Pentecost 23, Year B||October 28, 2018||Proper 25, Year B||Mark 10:46-52|
|Pentecost 22, Holy Eucharist II, Year B||October 21, 2018||Proper 24, Year B||Psalm 91:9-16, Hebrews 5:1-10, Mark 10:35-45|
|Pentecost 21, Year B||October 14, 2018||21st Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 23, Year B||Mark 10:17-31|
|Pentecost 20, Holy Eucharist II, Year B||October 7, 2018||Proper 22, Year B||Genesis 2:18-24, Hebrews 1:1-4,2:5-12, Mark 10:2-16|
|Season of Creation 5, Year B||September 30, 2018||The Season of Creation, Week 5, Year B||Isaiah 40:21-31, Psalm 24, Revelation 21:1-7, Mark 16:1-8|
Sermon Date:January 6, 2019
Scripture: Matthew 2:1-12
Liturgy Calendar: The Epiphany, Year C
Epiphany is the day on the church calendar that the mysterious wise men from the East come riding on their majestic camels into our imaginations, as they have ridden into the imaginations of countless people through the centuries.
See their golden crowns gleam and the rich colors of their robes glow.
Listen, and you can hear the methodical footsteps of the camels, and even smell the dust rising from the road beneath their hooves.
Follow them to Bethlehem.
Rejoice with them when the star comes to a stop over the holy place where Jesus is.
Enter with them into the house. Observe them as they kneel and worship, and offer the gifts they have brought to the child.
Open the gifts that the wisemen have brought to you.
Yes, the wisemen come bearing gifts, not just for the child Jesus, but also for us.
These rare and rich gifts, when we open them and use them, prepare us to receive the gifts that the Christ child himself will offer to us as his own story unfolds, and when we use them, we also find ourselves kneeling and worshiping him.
The first gift that the wise men share with us is the gift of observation.
The wise men didn’t just take note of the stars. They observed them carefully. They tell King Herod when they arrive in Jerusalem that they have come in search of the child born the king of the Jews because they have observed his star at its rising.
This sort of observation leads to comprehension that is an intimate knowing, a knowing so astounding that the wise men leave home and go on a journey, not to verify their theories about what the star means, but to act on the what they already have learned by observing—that a child who is the king of the Jews has indeed been born.
The gift for us is to remember not just to take note, but to truly observe—to see in a way that results in knowing, understanding and comprehension—the sort of seeing that leads to action, and that brings us into the presence of God.
Michael Mayne, a priest in Britain, gives an example of this sort of observation that results in action and worship.
“In the 1980’s,” he writes, “Michael Buerk was the first BBC correspondent to reveal the full horror on television of people starving in Ethiopia. He told of working all day and arriving one evening with the camera crew exhausted and hungry in a hut in one of the camps. Someone produced the only available food: six rather stale bread rolls. They sat around a table and looked at their two rolls a piece. Suddenly they were aware that that the doorway and all the windows were filled with starving children, simply watching them. They looked at each other, then at the round staring eyes. Not a word was spoken. They took the six rolls, broke them into fragments and gave them to the children.” ‘And their eyes were opened…..and Jesus was known to them in the breaking of the bread.’”
No matter that these people were not in a church or gathered around an altar that night. Thanks to the gift of truly seeing, they were in communion with God and with their fellow human beings. They worshipped.
What other gifts do the wise men bring?
Now use your imagination for this part of my sermon—I haven’t been hallucinating, just having fun imagining–so imagine with me. Even today, the wisemen travel the world, leaving their gifts for us, so that we too can come and worship the Christ child.
In December, the wise men came riding down William Street in Fredericksburg on a cold, rainy afternoon. People watched this procession with amazement. The wise men stopped at Kybecca. They dismounted, went in and left a gift on the bar. Just as quickly as they had entered, they left, climbed back onto their camels and went on through the gloomy afternoon, but those watching could have sworn they observed light shining on the street as the wise men passed on by.
Meanwhile, Calvin Roberts, the bartender, came in to work and found the gift on the bar. Full of curiosity, he opened it.
In it, he found the gift of listening. Calvin was quite taken with this gift, and immediately put it to use.
Now, thanks to this gift, he sees the people who gather at the bar not just as thirsty people who want a drink, but he also listens carefully to them, and knows that they are really seeking connections.
He uses his gift of listening so well that he was recently featured in The Free Lance- Star in its “A Wish for our World” series.
In the article, Calvin talks about how he has put his gift of listening to use. As he listens to their conversations, he can tell that the people who come to Kybecca are seeking connections and common ground in addition to a drink. The bar has no TV, so people can talk to one another without distraction.
Calvin has built up a rapport with the people who come regularly to the bar. So, when two people with common interests show up at the same time, Calvin gets then talking to one another—his ultimate goal—to help them connect with one another.
He also has a group of people who come in with the intention of having conversations with strangers, and they rely on him to get the conversations going.
And he has a group of regulars he calls the “Cheers” group. This group has developed friendships. People in the group specifically plan to come to the bar at the same time during the week to gather and connect.
Calvin says that during this season, people are lonely. “The days are shorter.” During this time of the year people feel “more of a need to be with other people.”
And so he uses his gift of listening—and helps his people connect to one another. Because Calvin has heard them, and has come to know them deeply, they too have received the gift, and now they can know one another and are connected to one another more fully because they listen to one another.
Jesus said, “When two or three are gathered in my name, there I am in the midst of them.” Maybe the people in the bar have not gathered in the name of Jesus, but as this saying goes, that Carl Jung had carved in Latin over the front door of his house, “Bidden or unbidden, God is present.” When people gather and connect, God, whether called or not, is present, and God rejoices in our connections.
After the wise men left Fredericksburg, they turned their camels northward, creating a huge traffic jam on I-95 as they traveled to Washington, DC. Their destination—the houses of Congress.
Arriving late at night, they came to a halt in front of the Capitol building. Before the Capitol police could figure out who on earth these strangers were, and stop them, the wisemen processed into both chambers and placed gifts on every desk for each and every Representative and Senator. The gifts of observation, and the gifts of listening, beautifully wrapped, sat waiting for everyone to arrive the next day.
And then the wise men slipped out, quickly mounted their camels, and before rush hour began, got out of the city.
I’m sad to report that in their flurry of activity the next morning as they arrived and began work, no one in Congress even saw the gifts on the desks. It’s as if the gifts were invisible. None of them were opened. Listening to one another, truly seeing one another as human beings who have been elected to listen to one another and to connect for the common good—well, we can only hope and pray that someone there will discover the gifts that the wisemen have left and open them and put them to use! Miracles do happen!
The wise men made one last known stop on this particular journey. After leaving DC, they traveled south again on 301. Early last Wednesday morning, passing through the mist rising over the Rappahannock River, they crossed over the bridge, well under the 35mph speed limit, and entered the town of Port Royal.
The wise men turned left on Water Street. The town cats scattered when they see the camels pacing down the street. The camels made another left into our drive and came to a stop at the Parish House. When the wise men dismounted, the camels gratefully helped themselves to the grass in the parish yard.
Meanwhile, the wise men, finding that someone had left the parish house unlocked, entered in. They placed a large and beautifully wrapped gift on the table in the dining room and helped themselves to the chocolate there on the table. And since they still had a way to go, they checked the refrigerator and much to their delight, found some fanciful and delicious cookies and egg nog too! After indulging in these treats, they went out, summoned their camels, and headed out of town. Only the cats were aware of this early morning visit.
And then we arrived for Bible Study.
Because this gift that the wisemen left was a mystical one, we didn’t see it. It unfurled its joy as we arrived and that joy spread throughout the house, and we breathed it in. And our hearts were thrilling and rejoicing because we had received the gift of joy!
It was as if the star itself had stopped over the Parish House, because we were overwhelmed with joy and laughter.
The new year had come, and we were once more gathered in his name, and Jesus was in our midst, to help us once more truly see God’s hand at work in the world around us, to feel a sense of joy and wonder in all of God’s works, and to rejoice in the company of one another, to be able to truly listen to one another and to love one another as God has loved each of us.
No one knows where the wise men will stop next. If they come to your house, run outside, flag them down, and welcome them in. Rejoice, because they come bearing the most wonderful of gifts—for you. Amen.
The Free Lance-Star, “A Wish for our World: Helping People Connect,” as told to Adele Uphaus-Conner, Monday, December 31, 2018, page A1.
Mayne, Michael, Alleluia is Our Song: Reflections on Easter and Pentecost. Edited, with an Introduction, by Joel Huffstetler. Norwich: Canterbury Press, 2018.