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Sunday's Sermon and more

It is a cold day here in Southern Iowa.  I am sitting in the office with my coat on and no incentive to take it off.  My hands get cold while I type so I occasionally place them over a candle flame to get warm.  It is that cold!

I told Sherry I was coming here to put last Sunday's sermon on the blog and she asked me if I ever put jokes on it like I do in the sermon.  I said, "Sometimes, why?"  She said, "because they're funny, you should do it."  So, maybe I will. 

Here is the sermon with the reading from Matthew.

Matthew 2:1-12

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. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. 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. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.

Now after the wise men had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, "Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him." Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, "Out of Egypt I have called my son."
When Herod died, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, "Get up, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who were seeking the child's life are dead." Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And after being warned in a dream, he went away to the district of Galilee. There he made his home in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, "He will be called a Nazorean."

January 6th is the Epiphany. It is the time when we read the story of the visit by the magi to the baby Jesus. These magi were very wise men. In fact we call them the wise men don't we. They were wise in several ways. They were not fooled by that very bad man Herod. I can just hear him saying to them in a kind of sneering voice. “when you find him, let me know where he is exactly so I may honor him as well”. Of course we know that honoring this future king was not what he was planning on doing at all.

We believe these wise men had at least one astrologer amongst them because they were following a star. That is about all we know. We always say there were three but we don't really know that either. Maybe there were five or six. Or two. We may have gotten the idea of three from that old Epiphany song, “We Three Kings” I think it goes something like this... We three kings of orient are' looking for Jesus in our car'. 

They were probably pretty rich because they brought the child Jesus some very rich gifts of Gold, Frankincense, and myrrh. All three were very expensive. It does not seem to be the kind of gift you would give to a baby but it is a powerful message about how important this child was. There is a theory that if the magi had been women it would have gone a little differently. They would have been on time for the birth because they would have asked directions. They would have helped deliver the baby. They would have cleaned the stable. One of them would have brought a casserole and they would have brought practical gifts. 

The magi very wisely returned to there home by another route but this baby Jesus was not out of trouble yet. Herod was still going to try and track him down. Of course this is only the beginning of the family story.

You will notice that a lot of communication between God and man occurs in dreams. Dreams were considered very authentic sources of information to the people of the first century. The magi were warned in a dream and Joseph was warned through a dream as well. Then lastly an angel tells Joseph he can return to Israel.

Matthew frequently attempts to make connections between the prophesy of the old testament and Jesus as the messiah. Jewish scholars challenge a lot of these connections the new testament authors make. For instance the prophesy referred to in Matthew, “Out of Egypt I have called my son” is taken from the prophet Hosea chapter 11. The first two verses read, “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son. The more I called them, the more they went from me, they kept sacrificing to the Baals and offering incense to idols.” 

Jewish scholars argue that the old testament prophets wrote for the time they were in and not about something that would happen centuries into the future. I am no biblical scholar and never plan to be and I am not so sure how much of all this applies to us today. 

What does seem clear is that Jesus and his family were faced with danger most of his life, at least the life we know about. Why is this important to us today. I think it is important that we know the story. Stories connect us and they teach us at the same time.

I believe it is important that we know each others stories as well. I don't mean spill your guts sharing but I also don't mean “my life has just been the rosiest thing you could ever imagine and if you want proof, just check my Facebook page”. Balance is always important and I think that we will have a deeper understanding of each other in the end. So if you wish, maybe we could explore this idea. I will write mine 500 words or less and share it with you as part of my next sermon and we will see where it goes from there. I have a fairly checkered past so a few things may be left out for those with a weak heart.


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