Second Sunday After Christmas – Matthew 2:1-12
Sermon – Emily Cardwell
St. John’s Episcopal Church, Corbin, KY
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable to you O Lord, our Strength and our Redeemer. Amen.
Good Morning! It’s wonderful to be here again at St. John’s. You gave me such a warm welcome last time, that I’ve been very much looking forward to this second opportunity to be with you. So, “Thank you,” Mother Rebecca for another invitation to come and preach.
Invitation is a word that I feel fits well with our Scripture readings today – and over the last several weeks. We are all familiar with what an invitation signifies – someone wants us to share something with them. Some invitations we’re happy – even thrilled to receive: a surprise birthday party, a baby shower, a wedding invitation, a Super Bowl party. Other invitations we’re not quite as thrilled about: an invitation to help someone move, to be on a committee, to be part of an intervention, or possibly being invited to a birthday party, baby shower or a wedding. Often, it comes down to who is doing the inviting as well as whom else will be there, when it comes to deciding whether we accept or decline on the RSVP.
But –we get to decide.
The last several Sundays we’ve been following the Holy Scriptures as they tell us the story of God’s plan for humanity. This plan, alluded to in so many Old Testament prophecies is the Incarnation – the Word becoming Flesh, the promised Messiah – Jesus.
When we look to the New Testament and the progression of events that lead to Jesus’ birth – invitations abound. We of course know, that Mary was “invited” to be the mother of our Savior. A young, teenage girl was asked to be a part of God’s plan. She could accept or decline. Joseph was “invited” to trust that Mary hadn’t been unfaithful to him and to keep moving forward with his original plan to marry her. He could accept or decline. You could even say, that Joseph was “invited” to go and register in Bethlehem. He could have declined, though maybe to a perilous fate. And quite possibly, aside from the weariness of traveling, this registration was an opportunity, to see family that Joseph may not have seen in years. Invitations do have pluses and minuses sometimes. And when Mary and Joseph came to the stable as their only option, someone presumably “invited” them to use it. Upon the birth of Jesus, who are the first to be “invited” to come see Him? The shepherds – they could accept or decline this incredible offer from the angels.
Now to the Wise Men, from today’s Gospel reading. Some scholars think that these wise men were Jewish kings from possibly Persia, Arabia or even India, who were very practiced in Astrology. Not astrology as we think of today, but when it was considered a highly regarded science. You’ve also probably heard them called “Magi.” Regardless of where they came from, these learned men as well, were “invited” to pay homage to the newborn king – and their invitation was a star. As he did with the Wise Men with their interest in the stars, God uses our interests to invite us to join in His purpose. The Wise Men could accept or decline.
It’s interesting to ponder, here they were, strangers to Jerusalem and Bethlehem, yet they knew and understood the star’s meaning. Were they surprised that no one seemed to know anything about the prophecy? The Gospel tells us they ask, “Where is the child who has been born King of the Jews? For we observed his star at it’s rising.” Surely Jerusalem, the center of Jewish faith, the location of God’s temple on earth, would be aware of this once in a lifetime, incredible event and be able to point them to the child. Yet we find out that not only do they not know, but Herod and all Jerusalem are frightened by what they hear. Why are they frightened? Maybe they worried that they weren’t living as God expected his people to live. Maybe they feared relations would get worse with the Roman government. Sometimes, invitations are not convenient with our current plans. Certainly, fear and fright were not hopeful expectations of the promised Messiah.
Fear and fright can stop us from accepting an invitation to be part of God’s plan. Fear that our comfortable life might change, fear that it might take too much time or money, or fear that we wouldn’t be the “us” we’ve come to know anymore – if we listen for God’s call. Our Collect at the beginning of the service asks God to “Grant that we may share the divine life of him who humbled himself to share our humanity.” Share. That’s an invitation.
An invitation to us – each of us, to come to God and be a partner in his plans. We are told that He chose us… has destined us for adoption. We can accept or decline. The parts we have to play, may not be as grand as Mary and Joseph and the Wise Men, but they are important nonetheless because we are important to God and he has a use for every one of us.
If we accept any invitation, we understand that it’s customary to bring or offer a gift. Mary gave herself, Joseph gave his name and protection, the innkeeper gave use of their stable, the shepherds gave their witness, and the Wise Men gave their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. God gave his Son. Jesus gave us his life.
What can we give? Ourselves. God will show us what he has need of from us if we only ask, but Micah 6:8 enlightens us:
And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.
I believe that if we aspire to follow this Scripture we will receive the blessings St. Paul asks on our behalf in today’s Epistle, as a church of believers:
I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you.
And then, when we accept God’s invitations, just like the three Wise Men – and all the others in Scripture, we will be overwhelmed with joy, at what we discover about our Savior. Amen.