Follow the Star

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Matthew 2:1-12 (New Revised Standard Version)
In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:
‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who is to shepherd my people Israel.’ ”
Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.” When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. 11 On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.

Devotional Questions from the ELCA Book of Faith Initiative:

What scares, confuses, or challenges me as I read this text?

What delights me as I read this text?

What stories or memories from my own life do I remember when I read this text? 

What do you think God is up to as you read this text?  What is God calling you to do or to be because of this story?

“Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews?  For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage” (Matthew 2:2).  During the Advent season, the theme for the worship of the parish has been this verse.  With the children, we have watched the star rise as we waited for Jesus to come among us.  Now, with the advent of Jesus’ birth on Christmas, we have arrived with the wise men to see the new baby king.  It is not surprising that the wise men weren’t exactly sure where to go; after all, they were looking for a king.  They went first to the most obvious place:  a palace.  Little did they know that their questions would lead to fear, and fear to weapons, and weapons to the slaughter of all the male children in Bethlehem, in an effort to contain the threat.

Whatever the circumstances, their footsteps finally led to Bethlehem.  I love this line in the story: “When they saw that the star had stopped, the were overwhelmed with joy” (Matthew 2:10).  Why were they joyful?  What were they expecting?  Were they glad to finally be at the end of a long journey?  Had it begun to feel like a wild goose chase with no payoff at all?  Or were their hearts full to bursting at this once in history event, that they were about to witness for themselves?

Whatever the source of their joy, their footsteps led to a house, and in the house a child and his mother, and in the child the salvation of the world.  The wise men knew this; it is reflected in the gifts that they brought to honor him.  Gold, for a king.  Frankincense, to worship him as God.  Myrrh, to prepare him, even now, to die to save us.  Precious gifts.  Lovely gifts.  An act of worship from foreign believers who had the faith to cross the entire world to see him for themselves.

And then, once the wrapping paper was set aside, the wise men dusted off their knees, turned around, and went home.  By another road.  To give Jesus and Mary and Joseph just enough time to get away before the army showed up.  By another road.  So they could tell the story of their marvelous journey to a whole new audience, and the word would begin to spread, not when Jesus was grown up and ready to take on the tasks of his ministry, but when he was just a child, fleeing for his life, a vulnerable human creature with a ruler bent on his extinction.

Where is the road to Jesus leading you?  Where are you on the journey?  What gifts can you bring to honor him in your life and your work, in your relationships and your Sabbath time?  God bless you on your journey!

In Christ, Pastor Breen

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