Who Are You Seeking?
Sunday, January 3, 2016
Rev. Mark M. Vickers
Matthew 2:1–12 New International Version (NIV)
The Magi Visit the Messiah
2 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi[a] from the East came to Jerusalem 2 and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”
3 When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. 5 “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:
6 “‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler,
who will shepherd my people Israel.’[b]”
7 Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. 8 He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”
9 After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.
We come this morning hearing the story of what we have always known as “The Wise Men” story. Those men who brought the three gifts traveling from the East to pay homage to the new born Christ the King! My friend and colleague Rev. Curtis Goforth tells the story of growing up in his father’s church. When on a Sunday following Christmas or surrounding Christmas, the church put on a Christmas pageant. He and two of his friends, age 9 or 10 at the time, were slotted to be the Wise Men. As 9 and 10 year olds did, they were slightly excited about the part of being “wise” and having their part at the end of the story, which only made for the “wise ones” to become a little more unsettled! A little rowdy in today’s culture. Well, Rev. Goforth (Curtis’ dad) went to the end of the pageant line and said to the three wise boys that who ever could find a Bible and read him the story of the three wise men would receive the crisp $100 bill he took from his wallet. Well, the boys took off like rocket sleds on rails. It was his son, Curtis, who found the first Bible, located the reading in Matthew, and began to read it aloud and proud! But much to Curtis’ chagrin, when he came to the part about the wise men, there was no number! Not three, not two, not one, not one hundred. All that it said was “wise men!” Curtis later confessed to me that his dad, a Duke graduate, would no more offer a $100 bill up for grabs than the man in the moon. But it was his way of bringing the boys to a moment of what I call “great learning!” You see, the Bible never says anything about thre wise men, it only says there are wise men from the East. If you read the Greek correctly the masculine plural form of this word could also include a group of women. In Greek, if you have a group of 100 women and only one man, you must put the word in the masculine plural.
You see, what we learn here is that we must read the Bible carefully! The assumption has been made that because there are three gifts, then there are three “carriers” of the gifts! Hence, three wise men. But the wise men are not the only part of the story. There is also King Herod, the slow methodical king who would do anything to be “the King.” He was slow for reproach but his bite was mighty. Massacring of children, war, pestilence—Herod was not going to yield his power to anyone, especially a lowly Jewish boy born in a manger.
Therefore our question becomes very serious in this text. We cannot just read what we want to read and be satisfied that there were wise men who came bearing gifts because they were not the only part of the story! King Herod was the one who put to the them the question, “Who is this child and where is he to be born?” King Herod was curious but also extremely scared!
In hearing this story unfold, we as “new Christians”—since the dawning of Christmas and the successful journey through Advent—must ask ourselves the question “Who do we seek?” Are we seeking the Christ child that the wise men sought bringing gifts from the East? Or are we seeking the Christ child that will put a “kink” in our lifestyle because we do not want to turn things over to him? Are we seeking the Christ child who will be our King in our lives or are we seeking the Christ child whom we fear will dominate our lives and we refuse to give all of our life over to?
My friend reminds us, “Don’t you dare look down on Herod, until you acknowledge the Herod inside of you. We shouldn’t scoff at Herod until we recognize that there is a little bit of Herod in each of us.” (Rev. J. Curtis Goforth, O.S.L. “A Wise Choice” Epiphany C-December 31, 2006).
That, my friends, begins the struggle of the Christmas and Epiphany seasons! You see, we are starting all over again and working hard at the process of being a faithful Christian. Herod didn’t want to yield his possessions and certainly not his kingship to Jesus, and if we are deeply honest with ourselves, we have difficulty in giving what we have to Jesus as well.
So our question is posed, “Are we more like Herod or more like the wise men? If we are honest with ourselves, we have the choice. Because I firmly believe that there is a little bit of Herod in each of us and a little bit of the wise men in each of us! It is up to us to choose wisely. We can either try and rule our life on our own and not allow Christ into our life, or we can allow Christ to be the wonderful ruler and King He came to be in this world and in our lives.
Therefore, let us be nourished and filled with the body and blood of Christ that sustains us to make that wonderful and holy choice. In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit! AMEN.