Sermon for January 3rd, 2021
There are two types of people in this world that are looking for Jesus:
Those who want to worship him and those who want to eliminate him.
There are those who in true humility are seeking a divine saviour, who are searching for and following light in a dark world. In our gospel this morning we hear the familiar story of the magi, the wisemen, most likely Persian astrologers traveling from the East. They are looking for Jesus. They don’t know is name. They aren’t sure exactly where he is (they aren’t Jewish, and they need the Hebrew prophets to give them some direction), but still they have been observing the universe with a keen eye and in that universe they found a star, a light, that has led them in this direction. These wise men are looking for mystery and truth and revelation, they are looking for the miraculous, and when they find it, they are prepared to give it everything they’ve got. They offer Jesus their most precious possessions.
But they aren’t the only ones looking for Jesus in the gospel today. Herod and his centurions want to find him too. These men, who me may call clever, but dare not call wise, are looking for the exact same child that the magi are, but their intentions could not be more different. To these men, this child is a threat to their way of life and their view of the world. Herod wants complete control over his kingdom, over his own decisions, over his own life. Herod cannot stomach a divine saviour that rules the universe. Herod wants to be the judge and jury. He doesn’t want some peasant child telling him that he needs to reprioritize his life. Now Herod can put on a good show. He partners with the wise men and makes out like he is looking for Jesus just like them, like it is a shared quest, but we know that his intentions couldn’t be more different:
The magi want to worship Jesus; Herod and his centurions want to eliminate him.
This is the world that our Lord was born into. We could have made the gospel reading shorter this morning by picking one passage or the other; we could have cut parts of this story out, but I think in order to really appreciate the implications of Jesus’s birth we need to hear the whole story. We need to see these two responses to his birth side by side, because as different as these two types of people looking for Jesus are, sometimes they look an awful lot alike. Even the wise men assumed that Herod’s motives were good, until they were warned otherwise.
There are still two types of people in this world looking for Jesus:
There are still those who are looking for a sacred force to worship and respect, and there are those who see Jesus as a tool to be used or an opposition to be eliminated. The question for each of us is: which one am I? Am I looking for Jesus because I am looking for real truth and meaning that has the potential to completely turn my life upside down? Or am I looking for a prop that will simply endorse my already formed opinions that I can them eliminate the moment he becomes a threat to my way of life?
It is far too simplistic and naive to suggest that those inside the church represent one type of person and those outside the church represent another. The story of the magi should remind us that the world is filled with people that are genuinely searching for Jesus and don’t know his name. There are people seeking truth and meaning and revelation and they are willing to give it everything they’ve got when they find it. Maybe they just need a little direction. And sadly, there are plenty of people within the church that talk a lot about following Jesus, but either just use him as a prop for their own gain, or simply strip him of all his power and authority the moment he asks them to do something, give something, or truly change.
Take a close look at today’s gospel reading and when you do, pay attention to these people that are looking for Jesus. Herod is looking for Jesus, but his quest is motivated by fear and ends in rage. The wise men are motivated by wonder and their journey ends in Joy. The people who find joy in this gospel are those who seek Christ to worship him.