Written by Pastor Mark
“I want to walk as a child of the light” the hymn lyric states. It is what I want to do–it’s simply not what I always end up doing. We are celebrating light today. The light can not be contained. In our Gospel reading today a group of scholars from the east find out about what God is doing. They are university professors, astronomers, they study the heavens, looking for signs. We don’t usually think of people who read the stars as people God would speak to. Can you imagine opening up the paper and reading: “Virgo: look for a rising star in the western sky and follow it to witness a light changing event.” And it happens! They do in fact see a great light, and God is behind it!
In this season of Epiphany we are talking about dreams and visions. The astronomers in the Gospel have a dream in which they learn that they are not to not return to Herod. In our first lesson Isaiah has a beautiful vision of light. The light appears, as light usually does, right as things are at their darkest. It is not difficult for us to imagine deep darkness at this time of year. Many of us go to work in the dark, and then travel home in the same state. The sun may be obscured for months behind rain-heavy, dark, all encompassing clouds. We come home and listen to the news which also seems especially dark lately. It can be a very difficult emotional time for many people. The word of hope we receive at such times does not try to convince us that all is well. It is dark in so many ways, and we may find ourselves dropping down into depression. That, however, is not the end of the story. Light is coming into this dark world, and ultimately God will fill every part of creation with light and life.
God invites us to be light. That is a part of what we have just celebrated at Christmas. The light of Jesus has come into the world. Now the bigger question is will that light shine forth in our lives. In the next five weeks we will be presenting new dreams and visions for this place. We hope and pray that one of these dreams will spark a fire within you. Perhaps, like John Wesley, you will find your heart “strangely warmed”. At that particular moment, (listening to a writing of Martin Luther!) Wesley understood that God had taken care of his soul and wiped away all of his sins. It took him some time to figure out how to incorporate that faith into his daily life. That is the struggle we all face. We have some dreams to share with you. How about you? Where do you experience light breaking into your own life?
Quotes for the Week
“Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.” John Wesley
“We can easily forgive a child who is afr67aid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.” Plato
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
“Stories are light. Light is precious in a world so dark. Begin at the beginning. Tell Gregory a story. Make some light.” Kate DiCamillo, The Tale of Despereaux
“The problem with winter sports is that—follow me closely here—they generally take place in winter. Dave Barry
1st Lesson Isaiah 60:1-6 (NRSV)
Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you. 2 For darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the LORD will arise upon you, and his glory will appear over you. 3 Nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn. 4 Lift up your eyes and look around; they all gather together, they come to you; your sons shall come from far away, and your daughters shall be carried on their nurses’ arms. 5 Then you shall see and be radiant; your heart shall thrill and rejoice, because the abundance of the sea shall be brought to you, the wealth of the nations shall come to you. 6 A multitude of camels shall cover you, the young camels of Midian and Ephah; all those from Sheba shall come. They shall bring gold and frankincense, and shall proclaim the praise of the LORD.
Gospel Lesson Matthew 2:1-12 (The Message)
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem village, Judah territory— this was during Herod’s kingship—a band of scholars arrived in Jerusalem from the East. They asked around, “Where can we find and pay homage to the newborn King of the Jews? We observed a star in the eastern sky that signaled his birth. We’re on pilgrimage to worship him.”
3-4 When word of their inquiry got to Herod, he was terrified—and not Herod alone, but most of Jerusalem as well. Herod lost no time. He gathered all the high priests and religion scholars in the city together and asked, “Where is the Messiah supposed to be born?”
5-6 They told him, “Bethlehem, Judah territory. The prophet Micah wrote it plainly:
It’s you, Bethlehem, in Judah’s land,
no longer bringing up the rear.
From you will come the leader
who will shepherd-rule my people, my Israel.”
7-8 Herod then arranged a secret meeting with the scholars from the East. Pretending to be as devout as they were, he got them to tell him exactly when the birth-announcement star appeared. Then he told them the prophecy about Bethlehem, and said, “Go find this child. Leave no stone unturned. As soon as you find him, send word and I’ll join you at once in your worship.”
9-10 Instructed by the king, they set off. Then the star appeared again, the same star they had seen in the eastern skies. It led them on until it hovered over the place of the child. They could hardly contain themselves: They were in the right place! They had arrived at the right time!
11 They entered the house and saw the child in the arms of Mary, his mother. Overcome, they kneeled and worshiped him. Then they opened their luggage and presented gifts: gold, frankincense, myrrh.
12 In a dream, they were warned not to report back to Herod. So they worked out another route, left the territory without being seen, and returned to their own country.
Questions for the Week
What dreams do you have for your life, for this church?
How might you allow Christ’s light to shine in you?
What specific action might you take to bring light into someone’s life today?