It’s Christmas time, so what’s on your mind? Are you excited about the holiday? Nervous? Unsure? Feeling like you have too much to do and not enough time to do it?
Are you worried about gifts? Affording gifts? Or maybe the concerns on your heart as we approach the Christmas holiday have to do with things much more serious. I’ll let you fill in the blank for those. If you watch the news at all it doesnt take long to see stories that remind us that we live in a dark world. And yet…and yet…a light, a glorious Light has come into the world.
Luke reminds us about this “Light to the Gentiles” through the testimony of Simeon given to Mary and Joseph shortly after the birth. Matthew shows us what it looks like in the story of the wise men. We all remember the wise men, right? Something stirred their faith and called them to follow the star. They were not Jews, but Gentile men who sought to honor and worship the newborn King. You can read the story from Gospel of Matthew here.
The wise men were on a journey. A journey where, like Abraham, they did not know where it would end. They went to Jerusalem – thinking, no doubt, that Israel’s capital would be a good place to find Israel’s future king. With Herod’s help (!!), the wise men were put back on course. And, through the divine leading from the star, were granted an audience with the Messiah.
What happened when they reached their destination? What does the text say? “…they were overwhelmed with joy.” When was the last time you felt you could say you were overwhelmed with joy? Those are rare moments. Moments we remember well.
Afterward, the text says the men receive a warning in a dream and so leave by another road. Catch the significance here for just a moment.
The wise men, after a long journey of faith, come into the presence of the Messiah and experience overwhelming joy. They then find themselves taking another road back to their country. In a sense, do we not share a similar story? One where, for many of us, the journey we are on is changed irrevocably by the presence of the Messiah?
When we see Jesus, we are often called to take a different road. It inspires us to see the world in a different way. It inspires people to do things they may have never considered before.
Like that of Geralyn Wolf in her book “Down and Out in Providence”. Geralyn was a minister in her church in Providence. The church was struggling to understand how to effectively minister to the homeless in her city so she takes a huge risk and volunteers to make herself homeless – as much as she can – for 30 days. She does this so that she can return to her church and give them a picture of how to minister to and nurture the homeless community.
What inspires people to do these things? What calls them to sacrifice and to take risks like these? I think it is because of the presence of the Messiah.
Let me put it this way: John 1:14 “The word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” This text speaks on more than one level. Not only does affirm the very human existence of the Savior, but also makes a powerful statement about the way God works in the lives of his people. I hope others see Jesus in you…dwelling in you… every day. He is visible in the way we live, in the way we behave toward each other, and visible in our commitments to church life and ministry. Our lives become a testimony of faith so that, as the text says in Galatians, “It is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me.”
We can make this claim today because of the beautiful world-changing birth of the Savior so many years ago. That assurance of his presence in a dark world – just as the wise men witnessed – should bring us abundant joy. It may even ask us to take another road.
[click on Tissot painting above for artist information]