Sunday, January 6, 2013

Matthew 2:1-12 - What gift do you bring with you?

Matthew 2:1-12 - What do you bring with you?
This morning’s sermon is a simple one. Let us compare and contrast the attitudes of the Magi - or Wise Men-- and King Herod toward Jesus, and in so doing, consider our own attitudes towards others. Herod believed in the news about Jesus birth. How did he react? Along with the scribes and the pharisees. The Wise Men believed in the news about Jesus, How did they react? they wanted to adore Jesus, offer him gifts, well-being, and love. When Herod set out to find Jesus, what was his intention? [In order to ensure the death of Jesus, he sent his men to kill all the boys in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under.] When the Wise Men set out to find Jesus, what was their intention? Is it a wonder that the three visitors from the east - Gentiles, outsiders - are called wise? What is a word that might be used to describe Herod? At the risk of creating a dualistic image, I want to draw upon these contrasting images of the Wise Men and Foolish Herod and consider our own interactions with others. What do we bring when we go on a visit? What do we bring when we run into someone? What do we bring when we come to church, or go to a place where people are gathered? What do we offer through our correspondence...and email, a phone call, a text message? Joy, Love, Appreciation, even Adoration in our hearts when we knock on the door? Can our presence bring dread? Oh no, it’s so and so...

We might gauge our gifts by how other receive us. Brinca has a good sense of what others carry within. She can easily sense when Trasie or I are upset, angry, worried. She starts shaking. When others come to our house, she initially is on edge... but she senses their level of anxiety... and when it is low, and the person brings joy, she almost immediately starts wagging her tail. When it is a high level of anxiety, she kind of follows them around the house, never wagging, and will even nip at their feet, much to our dismay. What do we carry within? There are the Wise Men, determined to see the Christ Child..bringing joy, love, honor. The Wise men are energized - they travel from far away, They rejoice exceedingly; They are motivated by a deep sense of trust and faith. There is Herod, determined to see the Christ Child...bringing division, destruction, terror! Herod was motivated by fear. The greek word in verse three is ταράσσω (tarassō) - which could mean: - to cause one inward commotion, take away his calmness of mind, - to disquiet, make restless - to strike one's spirit with fear and dread; to render anxious or distressed; His power was threatened. He worried he would lose control. And his emotions have a ripple effect across the city... What about us? We may not be kings, but it is shown that our emotions affect others more than we might think? How might our trust in God, our acceptance of God’s love help us in those areas. What gifts do we carry within? Think about how we are on the road. How do we interact with other drivers or pedestrians? In my exercise regimen--out on a jog or on my bike--I get to observe a lot of motorists and pedestrians. Running this week on Thursday when it was 15 degrees outside, a truck slowed as we approached one another going in opposite directions. As the driver passed me by he flashed me a smile and a thumbs up! Cool! Most of the time, it’s a scowl and a different finger used to share one’s sentiments about me “being in the way” on my bike or on a jog. Which one lifts my spirits? What do we bring with us when we encounter others? My uncle sent me a nice little New Year’s vignette entitled Mr. Moses — by Marian Skott Myhre She writes: A wonderful man, Mr. Moses, lived on the street where I grew up. From as far back as I can remember, early on New Year's Day each year my mother got up and dressed and let me get up with her so that we were ready and standing in the vestibule when Mr. Moses rang our doorbell. Mr. Moses got up at dawn, dressed impeccably in a suit and vest and tie and overcoat and dress hat and started at one end of the block, going to each house and ringing the doorbell. When greeted, he'd take off his hat and step across the threshold just enough so that he was inside. When invited in, he'd decline, saying that he had to keep going but wanted to be sure that the first person who entered our home in the new year brought good tidings and well wishes for all of us. He went to every house, then quietly turned around and walked the length of the long block back to his. In the words of St. Francis of Assisi (1181-1226): “Our job--as Christians--is to lift up peoples’ hearts and give them reasons for spiritual joy!” If we’re aware that when we are going out, when we know we are going to have interactions with others, that we are carrying fear, anxiety, worry within...perhaps it would be a good opportunity to pray, to take a few moments and ask God to replace any fear with joy. As we begin this new year, no matter what it may bring, Let us pray that the light of God may shine in our hearts, The light of God may shine in the sky, even on the darkest nights, And the light of God may shine upon others through our interactions May we be wise like the Magi, following the light, carrying joy in our hearts. So that tails may wag, hearts will sing. Angels will rejoice And we will be known as those in the way of wisdom. Receive these good tidings and well wishes: “I wish you a year of good health, wholeheartedness, increased commitment, strengthening community, shared laughter, new adventures, continual reward, accelerated compassion, faith, and gratitude.” (From Mariam Skott Myhre)

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