January 7, 2018
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In our worship this morning our sermon began with a little handbell concert with narration of the story from Matthew. And the sermon followed.
This is your invitation. You have hereby been invited to join with believers in The Lord of Hosts from ancient times until today in becoming God’s people. From Adam and Eve until today, God has longed to walk with humans. You could even make a case for God creating heaven and earth so that God would have humans to walk with. The earliest stories tell us that God walked with Adam and Eve in the cool evenings. What do you suppose they talked about? What did the humans want to share with God? What did God want to say? One of the famous Rabbi’s claimed that God created humans because God loves stories.
In Abraham and Sarah, God chose patriarchs for God’s people, and man and woman who followed God’s lead to settle a land and from whom God’s people would descend to be a blessing to the nations. In the Exodus, God brought the people back to the land promised to Abraham, and created a nation which was set apart to testify to God’s goodness and the sweetness of life lived peacefully and generously. None of that worked out very well, of course, as God’s people turned out to be as greedy and power hungry as the people all around them. They were carried off into exile and even when they returned to their own land, little had changed. At the right time, God came in person to show God’s people how much God cared for them, and to show them how God’s heart worked: healing, teaching, gathering all people into the promises that had been there all along. And still God’s people were proud and determined to interpret God’s promises to divide and marginalize people. The religious leader of Jesus’ day said you had to be scrupulous in your religion, the child of a Jewish mother, and shun everyone who was not as pure as you were to be part of God’s chosen people, according to the religious authorities of Jesus’ day.
The Christmas stories are not simply sweet sentimentality. They are their own little Gospels in which we see clearly that when God came in person to lead the way to the life God envisioned for all people, God’s Chosen People were the first to reject him. And so it is with our story today. It was not the inn-keeper who wanted to make sure that God had the best suite in which to be born. It was not the authorities who were in charge of the rearrangement of a population for tax purposes who recognized that this baby was the long-awaited Messiah. It was to low-life shepherds that choirs of angels announced Jesus’ birth, and it was they who came to worship and tell the story. And so we hear today, it was a bunch of weird necromancers and astrologers who had been searching the heavens for a sign who journeyed over vast desert territories to come and pay their respects to a new king. These were exactly the kinds of people that God had warned the Jews about – people who used magic and signs in the heavens to predict the future, instead of turning the Lord for every benefit and trusting only the Most High for wisdom and the rules of life. When these foreigners came looking for the child who was to be the King of the Jews, it struck terror into the hearts of the powerful. Herod would stop at nothing to shore up his tenuous reign. And so it was that these strangers from the East showed the world that the Messiah came not only for the Jews, but for all people. God came for us, the outsiders to the promise.
So these are our people, these weird foreigners. When Jesus’ own people hardly noticed the gift the world was given on the night of his birth, the outsiders heard the message loud and clear – something spectacular has happened that has changed the world. This will continue to be the message we hear as Jesus begins his ministry: that his own people were threatened and resisted when God came among them, and the outsiders, the shunned, the poor and the sick, were welcomed and healed and rejoiced that God came to save them.
So the story is that no matter who you are or what you have done or not done, God comes for you. Watch for it. God wants to walk with you. In dark times or joyful times, God’s promises are for you. You don’t have to cross the desert to find Jesus, he is already as close as your own heartbeat, because God wants to be with you. The promise of healing and hope is not just for some chosen people, it is for you. The power of God’s love that even overcomes death is the power that can change your life, too. This is your invitation to new life. You are the one Jesus came to save. Amen.