The Visit of the Magi
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Welcome to Sunshine Cathedral, a congregational mission of Sunshine Cathedral in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Today we celebrate commemorate the visit of the Magi to the baby Jesus and his parents. We consider how our own spiritual journey cultivates wisdom in our own lives. Whether this is your first time at Sunshine Cathedral or you attend regularly, know that you are called here today to journey with your friends toward a life of meaning and fulfillment.
The Call to Worship
The Magi waited and watched, knowing something wondrous would be happening.
ALL: We waited for the birth of Jesus; now something wondrous is about to take root.
The darkness that invaded all lives was banished by the light of that star.
ALL: The darkness what surrounds us is gone!
Let us celebrate the bright shining of God's love in our lives.
ALL: Let us become those who will bring the light of God's love to others.
God of Promise and mysterious Light, be with us this day as we journey in our faith; to meet your Gift. Give us courage and hope along our way, as your light will continue to glow brightly in our path, leading us to service and discipleship in Jesus’ Name. AMEN.
Arise! Shine! Your light has come;
divine glory has shone upon you.
2 Though darkness covers the earth
and gloom the nations,
God will shine upon you;
God’s glory will appear over you.
Matthew 2.1-5, 7-12
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem…during the rule of King Herod, magi came from the east to Jerusalem. 2 They asked, “Where is the newborn Jewish king? We’ve seen his star in the east, and we’ve come to honor him.”
3 When King Herod heard this, he was troubled… 4 He gathered all the chief priests and the legal experts and asked them where the Anointed One was to be born. 5 They said, “In Bethlehem of Judea, according to the prophecy…”
7 Then Herod secretly called for the magi and found out from them the time when the star had first appeared. 8 He sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search carefully for the child. When you’ve found him, report to me so that I too may go and honor him.” 9 When they heard the king, they went; and look, the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stood over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were filled with joy. 11 They entered the house and saw the child with Mary his mother. Falling to their knees, they honored him. Then they opened their treasure chests and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12 Because they were warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they went back to their own country by another route.
In these human words God’s voice is heard
All: Thanks be to God.
Reflection by Rev. Dr. BK Hipsher, Virtual Chaplain, Sunshine Cathedral
Our gospel lesson today is the story of the Magi on their journey to find and pay homage to the child Jesus. This story is a bit misleading. What we most often concentrate on is the end of the journey. We often concentrate on the image of the Magi kneeling at the feet of the holy family, presenting the gifts they bring to the child. Today we will consider the journey to that moment and the journey that lay ahead of these wise ones as they returned to their lives.
During the Christmas season we often see depictions of the birth of Jesus represented by small figures displayed on our mantel, a table, or even on our lawns or the grounds of churches all over the world. We’ve all seen a crèche. Here’s the definition:
Simple Definition of crèche
- : a set of statues that represents the scene of Jesus Christ's birth and that is displayed during Christmas
- : a place where young children are cared for during the day while their parents are working : a day care center
There’s something very curious about many of crèches. They often depict the baby Jesus with his parents in the stable, the baby lying in a manger surrounded by shepherds, animals, angels, and the Magi. But the Magi did not arrive until much later, when Jesus was already a toddler, long after his parents had returned to their home from their journey to Bethlehem for the registration at the time of his birth. Many scholars believe that the Magi may not have arrived until Jesus was nearly 2 years old. The Magi did not arrive for the first Christmas Day. In fact, their journey may have only begun when the baby Jesus was born in that stable in Bethlehem.
Today I would like to concentrate not on a destination or a goal, but on the journey of the Magi as a lens through which we can see our own journey through this life and beyond. The 17th century Chinese poet Matsuo Basho said,
“Every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home.” As we look at the journey of the Magi, let’s consider these
- The Magi did not know where they were going but they set out together.
- They did not trust someone else to tell them where they should be going.
- Their journey did not end at the destination, it continued as they returned home.
The culture in which we live seems to demand that we always know exactly what’s next. If we don’t have a clear goal in mind, we are tempted to judge ourselves. We are not allowed to go on a journey and follow a star to an unknown destination. But this is precisely the circumstance where we find our Magi. They see the sign of new birth in the east. This is symbol of a new age dawning with each new day. And they choose to follow the star, not knowing where it will lead, and not knowing how long the journey will take.
This is a perfect metaphor for our own spiritual journey. It’s important to learn to be open to the leading of the holy Spirit. And it’s equally important to journey with others. One of the greatest spiritual truths that I know is that it is vital for me to journey with other spiritual seekers, to check out the direction I think I see the sign, to travel on my spiritual journey with trusted seekers who I trust to “see” the signs.
The Magi also model for us the fact that although they did not know their end destination, they did not allow Herod to convince them of where they should be going. In fact, Herod’s certainty that they should be going to Bethlehem made them suspicious. They continued to follow their own path on their journey. Herod represents the forces of the world in our story, those who are so sure they know where we should be going and when we should get there. The Magi visited Herod, they heard his directive, but they continued to follow their own path, they continued on the journey to which they were called.
When the Magi arrived at the home of the child and his parents, when they had delivered their gifts, they did not quit. They continued on. Their journey did not end at the destination. They continued on their journey home. They were not afraid to return by another route. They didn’t simply retrace their steps, their journey home gave them a look at other places where they, no doubt, met other people and had other experiences on their way home.
The journey of the Magi is a great pattern for our own spiritual journey to wholeness, our great journey of life that eventually leads us home to be with God, reunited to our source. I suspect that we all know, deep within our eternal spiritual selves, that the journey of life and our commitment to it, is what makes us whole. What tears us apart is the conflict we feel between our spiritual selves who are content to journey through life, enjoying the people and experiences along the way, and the constant oppressive drumbeat of the world that demands we know exactly where we are going and dictates how long it should take to get there. In other words, the world around us attempts to define what success is and pushes us to accomplish these material goals in a certain time frame.
The reality is, just as Matsuo Basho said, “Every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home.” We are called to view our life as a journey to wholeness, a path to life, not a road to death. When we choose our companions carefully for this journey and endeavor to travel in relationship through our lives, we find fulfillment as we go. Our lives become an expression of our eternal spirit. We begin to reflect the love of God into the world in all that we do. We humbly bring our gifts to the service of spreading the love of God in the world for we can do no other.
May we journey together here in this virtual world, toward the fullness of our own spiritual home. May we depend on one another, comforting and encouraging each other. May we resist the easy answers of the world around us that attempt to reduce the miracle of human life to materialistic goals achieved on a time table. May be reject the world’s idea of failure and trust our own call to journey toward a connection with the creator and continue that journey home.
This is my prayer for all of us today as we journey into 2016. May peace, health, and prosperity follow us. Thank you for being my companions on this journey to wholeness. Amen.