Text: Matthew 2: 1-12
Yesterday morning I wondered what on earth is there to say this morning in light of Friday’s disturbing news. Of course the news is always disturbing … but somehow the massive raging fires in Australia with no end in sight, and the next unbelievable Trump-ian move that puts so much life at risk --what to say this morning to us who proclaim hope for the world … who come looking for hope. What to say that isn’t pretending these things aren’t happening right now. What to say that bears these things not only in mind, but in our hearts also?
What to say?
Little did I know from last Sunday, that the Black Angel -- do you remember the black angel? … the one who is called upon to speak the words of Joy, for pete’s sake, so that the pageant can go on, when the one whose role it is to speak it isn’t able to-- little did I know she’d be called upon so soon!
“Remember the Black Angel” I heard myself saying now and again during the week … “I must remember the Black Angel,” thinking of some future time. Not knowing the future is NOW, today.
“Good news of great joy for all people … a saviour … born for us.”
Well if that’s so, then what’s with all the chaos and violence? That’s how the argument often goes … even in my own mind. If love is more powerful yet, where is it now? Where is God when the drama turns ugly?
Sometimes it helps to come back to the bible, to the stories we have, the stories we belong to. Even this morning’s story … maybe especially this morning’s story. You heard how it begins:
“In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem” … You see, there it is! Jesus arrives into a world inhabited by cruel and unusual people … people who because of whatever has happened along the way are possessed, driven, by hurt, anger, shame, fear.
King Herod, it turns out, is one such person.
We get a sense of it right there in today’s portion of the story.
When the Magi arrive wondering “where do we find the new born king of the Jews, for we have come to honour him,” Herod is frightened, and all Jerusalem with him, we’re told. How does a whole entire city suddenly become frightened? Perhaps because they know the man … knowing that you don’t pose a threat to his ego, his status, his hold on power without massive over-reaction, without untold suffering. In his efforts to protect the illusion of himself, his place, his privilege, he keeps a tight hold -- so tight, his constricting pressure squeezes his fear out into the world and it descends on it like sludge.
It is into this world, in the very midst of these sinister energies that Jesus is born.
So there goes the argument that insists there can’t possibly be a God of love if there is such suffering in the world. Jesus is born into a sin-sick world. It is into such a world that God comes!
It turns out that while these sinister forces are real and devastating, that isn’t all there is. There are these wise men from the East … astrologers, some translations say … Zoroastrians from Persia (Iran!) so the story goes, who from a long way off, saw a star and knew somehow, in that way of knowing, that it was significant. They couldn’t let it go … or it wouldn’t let them go. So compelled were they, that they dropped everything to follow it.
By the time they arrive in Jerusalem where we meet them in the story, their journey has taken them many miles, maybe even 2 years. We can imagine that there were nights when the star was veiled by clouds. We can imagine that there were days when doubts and difficulties, misgivings, weariness dampened their spirits, weakened their commitment. But they kept going, without really knowing their destination or who exactly they would find there or what would become of them, what this would mean for the sake of their lives.
Which is the way it goes sometimes … how we are drawn on … without knowing … and yet we give ourselves to the Mystery because … well … that just seems to be what is being asked of us.
It’s no wonder this star became for them more like a magnet than merely a sign, for it was love that met them there in that Jesus child. It’s no wonder they were so compelled … Love does that. Even and especially love amidst Herod’s madness. For is it not staggering that in response to the human wickedness that brings about so much chaos and suffering, God comes, not with guns blazing to annihilate the enemy, but with love! Not some saccharine sentimental feeling that has no gall or guts … but the way someone would go to the wall for love of you, for the love of strangers.
Or the way someone chooses to expend their energy, their time, their money with no guarantee of success, or payback.
Or the way someone risks looking foolish or naïve or unprincipled by standing in solidarity … standing up for life.
Or the way someone persists in giving their all to a cause, in the face of resistance or threat, knowing the fruits of their labour might never be recognized, not in their life-time. Or the way someone is bold enough to challenge another to be more honest about themselves, more truthful about their need or their shadow. Or the way someone becomes a channel of unimagined forgiveness, setting another free to begin again.
You see it can’t you -- in any and all of these ways of love, the way of Jesus.
This is the love that takes flesh in Jesus … in Herod’s time.
This is the love God pours into our hearts even now, amidst our own mad time.
What does it mean to step out in the dark, in the dark hour of this time, with all the witness we have of Jesus' life, his love?
For the Magi there was a decision to be made.
Having been warned in a dream not to go back by way of Herod to inform him of the child’s whereabouts, but to go home by another way, what would they do? Would they heed this intangible warning (was it really real?) or would they do what they were told by Herod, who helped them out after all, and who, by his authority, they ought to respect?
For the Magi there was a decision to be made …
As there is for us.
It’s one thing to affirm that in Jesus, love has been borne into our world in a new way, here to stay. But so what? What do we do with that? What does it mean for us? How will that play in us?
Do we dismiss it? Reject it, this love? Do we embrace it? Receive it?
Do we protect it, nurture it, live in the light of it?
Do we let ourselves be moved by it, taken by it into places we don’t know? Become a means for this love to spread, to transform us and the world around us?
For the Magi there was a decision to be made …
As there is for us.
And of course, it’s not a once and for all decision. It’s a moment by moment, encounter by encounter decision.
AND not just a decision.
What we’re talking about is realizing the companionship of Christ … for his presence knows no bounds since this love has burst the grave!
So indeed there is good news of great joy for all people …
God in Christ has come to stay …
to dwell among us … to abide within us …to be for us. Love is with us -- this love that burst the grave!