|Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A||February 16, 2020||Sixth Sunday after Epiphany, Year A||Sirach 15:15-20; I Corinthians 3:1-9, I Corinthians 13: 11-12; Matthew 5:21-37; Psalm 119:1-8|
|Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A||February 9, 2020||Epiphany 5, Year A||Isaiah 58:1-9a, [9b-12];Matthew 5:13-20|
|The Presentation||February 2, 2020||Presentation of Jesus in the Temple||Luke 2:22-40|
|Third Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A||January 26, 2020||Third Sunday after the Epiphany||Matthew 4: 12-23, 1 Corinthians 1:10-18|
|Second Sunday after the Epiphany, Congregational Meeting||January 19, 2020||Second Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A, Congregational Meeting||Isaiah 49:1-7; John 1:29-42|
|First Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A||January 12, 2020||First Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A||Matthew 3:13-17|
|➤Epiphany, Year A||January 6, 2020||The Epiphany, Year A||Matthew 2:1-12|
|Christmas 2, Year A||January 5, 2020||Christmas II, Year A||Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23; Ephesians 1:3-6,15-19a; Psalm 84|
|Christmas Eve, Year A||December 24, 2019||The Eve of the Nativity||Luke 2:14|
|Advent 3, Year A||December 15, 2019||Advent 3, Year A||Isaiah 35:1-10|
|Advent 2, Year A – the Rev. Deacon Carey Connors||December 8, 2019||Advent 2, Year A||Matthew 3:1-12|
|Advent 1, Year A||December 1, 2019||First Sunday of Advent, Year A||Isaiah 2:1-5, Psalm 122, Romans 13:11-14, Matthew 24:36-44|
|Last Pentecost, Year C||November 24, 2019||Last Pentecost, Christ the King||Luke 23:33-43|
|Pentecost 23, Year C||November 17, 2019||Pentecost 23, Year C, Proper 28||Luke 21:5-19|
|Pentecost 22, Year C||November 10, 2019||Pentecost 22, Proper 27, Year C||Job 19:23-27a, Luke 20:38|
Epiphany, Year A
Sermon Date:January 6, 2020
Scripture: Matthew 2:1-12
Liturgy Calendar: The Epiphany, Year A
“The Adoration of the Magi” – Quentin Massys (1526)
To whom or to what do you pledge your allegiance?
From the beginning of Matthew’s gospel, the kingdoms of this world and God’s reign conflict with one another.
Because there is only room for one King, and for one allegiance.
Herod is not about to sacrifice his power to any King of the Jews—because he believes that he himself is that king.
And so he is frightened, as Matthew puts it, when the astrologers from the East show up and ask about the new born king of the Jews.
We know from yesterday’s scriptures that Herod then goes to great lengths to eliminate this potential “pretender to the throne.”
The early Christians, who were expected to give their allegiance to Caesar and his minions, instead had made the decision to give their allegiance only to Jesus Christ, their Lord and King.
And so, no wonder that The Day of the Epiphany was a major celebration in the early church,
the day on which Matthew’s gospel makes clear that Jesus is not only the King of the Jews, but also the King of all of heaven and earth, the day when the wise men come from afar to pay homage to the child who was born to be a King instead of giving their allegiance to Herod.
God, who said, “Let there be light,” at the beginning, and hung the stars in the sky, has heaven itself announce the coming of this king by the rising of the star—not a natural phenomenon. This is a star that led the astrologers to Jerusalem, waited there until the astrologers had spoken with Herod, and then led the them to Bethlehem, where it stopped over the place where the child was.
This cosmic light shines because God, creator of heaven and earth, takes action in a visible way to lead people from a distant corner of the earth to Jesus, the King, to worship and bring their allegiance to him.
Jesus isn’t just a king like people would expect, meant for one nation, who will overthrow Herod and Caesar, and then reign over an earthly kingdom, which as all kingdoms and countries do, will someday pass away.
Jesus is King for all people, for all of creation, and for all of eternity.
The Epiphany defines this kingship and makes it visible to those who are searching for a place to put their allegiance.
Like many writers in the New Testament, Matthew believed that the end of time was near, that time was running out, and that every decision that people made had eternal consequences, not only for their own souls, but for all of creation.
And so he wanted people to know—Jesus is Lord—give Jesus your allegiance.
So many things today, both good and bad, beg for our allegiance—but an allegiance to any of these things alone will be fleeting, because all things pass away—except for God.
As Christina Rosetti writes in the poem that we know as the second verse of the Christmas hymn “In the bleak midwinter,”
“Our God, heaven cannot hold him, nor earth sustain, heaven and earth shall flee away, when he comes to reign…”
The story of the Epiphany offers us the challenge of considering our allegiances and remembering that each of these allegiances will pass away.
A quick example of allegiances that will pass away can be found locally at Chatham—a mansion that sits on the banks of the Rappahannock and was the mansion house of a thriving plantation before the Civil War.
Go there sometime and visit the house and read the history of the people who have lived there. The allegiance that the Civil War owners of this mansion gave to the Confederacy passed away with the end of the Confederacy. They lost everything. Their allegiance to a way of life built on slavery was in the end a worthless allegiance.
The only allegiance that ultimately matters is our allegiance to God, and the truer our allegiance is to God, the closer we will come, even in this life, to God’s reign on this earth, both individually, and as the community of the people of God.
Like many other stories in the Bible, the story of the astrologers has no final ending.
Having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road. We don’t know what happened to them after that.
I like this ending because it is so open ended. This ending speaks to our own lives.
Once we know that our true allegiance is to Jesus Christ our Lord, we won’t go back to our old allegiances, just as the astrologers did not return to Herod.
Instead, this story of the Epiphany challenges us to start back to our ordinary lives by another road, a better road, the Way of Jesus, even though we can’t see where this road will take us in this life.
But even though we can’t see where the road will lead, as we travel on The Way, giving Jesus our total allegiance and following only him, we live in and pass through the here and now, with all its mysteries, treasuring the fullness of God that our lives and this earth already hold.
God places the boundless riches of Christ for the world in our hands
and we can receive these riches fully when we open our hands to God and let go of our allegiances to everything else.