Psalm 72:1-14 #185 “We Three Kings” (vs. 1-3)
Mtt. 2:1-12 #97 “As With Gladness Men of Old” (vs. 1&2)
Rev. Kit Billings
January 9, 2005
The great story of the Wise Men traveling far and long to find and visit the newborn King of Israel is a perfect way for us as Christians to put a “capper” on the Christmas Season and begin Epiphany Season, the season of Light! In fact, I would go even further and say that the journey and meaning of the Magi's great trek gives us an outstanding foundation for entering a New Year together. I say that because in one fell swoop, those three wonderful Gentiles (or non-Jews) helped God to reveal who He was, and also what we need to do to turn the tide on the selfish evil and falsified ways of thinking that created the major problems within humanity in the first place.
Let's face it friends, those Magi seriously got it right, and now we can thank God that His providence drew them across vast deserts on camels (clad in fine cloth and tassels hanging here and there) since now their wondrous journey can now “re-play” within our minds, reminding us of core principles and DIRECTION for a wonderful life in Christ.
They were masters of beautifully ancient wisdom called the science of correspondence, and so they knew that a bright star in the sky would herald the coming of the great King—for light is a living symbol of spiritual truth, and they believed that God sends deeply important messages through the symbolic treasures we find in nature. Our theology informs us that they were also serious students of an Ancient Word of God's that existed before the time of Abraham, which was an oral tradition, one that Moses learned as well, which foretold the coming of the Messiah King. Our church teachings reveal so wonderfully how it was that those ancient Magi, who were not familiar with the written Word of the Lord possessed by Israel, could have known how to find the baby Jesus, lying secretly in a cave in Bethlehem. Those travelers studied the heavens and waited for God to send forth a special SIGN. And when that sign appeared, off they went!
The purity and goodness of their faith and how they lived it out will stand for all time: 1) they were truly wise men because they deeply knew that God is all-important, that the Lord is the one Source of all love and wisdom, and therefore every effort is worthwhile to personally search for the Lord as the Light who lightens our way; and 2) they saw that God had given them everything in Himself through the love entering the world in Jesus Christ, and so they followed suit and gave their VERY BEST back to God, shown in those special gifts they presented before Him.
God is Real and the Source of all Goodness and Wisdom
and deserves our primary love and focus each day we live.
It is estimated that the those kings from the eastern orient journeyed around nine months before that brilliant star brought them into Jerusalem…nine months! Scripture is not sure if there were three or four or more travelers who came to Herod's kingdom asking where the new Messiah King was laid, so that they might worship Him. What is so important here this morning is that the Magi remind us of the core divine truth given to humanity since our presence here on earth began, the same truth given in the Ten Commandments and then echoed down through every prophet in Israel—that God is real, and the Lord is the Source of all love, goodness, truth and bit of knowledge, who intends that we live good and upright lives…the kind of living that allows the Lord to flow through us beautifully and innocently.
The Magi were not concerned with outer appearances. They did not care how long it would take them to finally see and behold the newborn Babe bringing Divine love and light here for all to witness and worship. What they cared about was coming personally into God's presence at His incarnation, feeling the sweetness and goodness of their Savior (who happened to be lying in a manger). They cared about worshipping the One who was to be the Shepherd of Judea, of Israel, of the entire human race! They understood that finding God in Christ, Immanuel, was vital for their own salvation, and in so doing they have lighted the way for all others after them to do the very same.
Somehow, some way, those Magi avoided those terrible evils that had brought humanity down out of our original angelic place, which stole our simple, sweet, innocent and loving way of existence before recorded history began—I think we all know something of those evils, symbolized vividly in the person of King Herod:
a belief that my thoughts and knowledge come from myself, and not God;
a belief that I can do whatever I want to with my body and it doesn't matter if my actions and choices reflect God's purity or not;
and a belief that what belongs to others is okay for me to take, just because I want it or need it.
In short, ancient humanity lost sight of the core meaning and vital importance of God, and that we are here to serve the Lord and His qualities of goodness, which brings spiritual life, instead of spiritual death. Those great Magi understood that God was coming fully in Divine-Humanity into our dark and broken world, and that it is paramount that we each personally choose to crown Christ as King of our spiritual and natural levels of life. And in so doing, we then proclaim that every core quality of goodness manifested in Jesus (LOVE, RIGHTEOUSNESS, HUMILITY, thankfulness, MERCY, strength, faith and FORGIVENESS…and all the truth associated with such goodness…must be the center of our love and concern. This, you see, is what Jesus Christ IS! He is love itself, and this makes Him so wondrously worthy of our worship. He is truth and light! And it is only by being intimately and wonderfully conjoined with the Lord (recognizing that He is our Source of goodness within us and not we ourselves) that we are saved…that we live in God's saving grace and the Light flowing from His holy Word, which must come to order and inspires all of our thoughts, affections and ways of treating our fellow human beings.
These wise men remind us that nothing is more important that seeking God in our lives, and that sometimes the highest effort will likely be needed to find Jesus Christ in a personal, saving way. As we read so poignantly in Matthew 6:33, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” The Wise Men remind us that we will forever and always desperately need God in our lives, for having the Lord in us and we being in the Lord is the only way to find true, eternal happiness.
What we're up against
The many, many inherited evil inclinations and ways of rationalizing and twisting God's divine truth, which get passed down from our human ancestry, work hard to convince us that true happiness lies in the delights we find through our five physical senses, as well as in the power and riches that exist in the material world. But those kings from the orient were not rich from their natural wealth; they were extremely rich because of the spiritual wisdom they had embraced. Our next twelve months of life and beyond, and the degree of happiness we find, rests most of all on how centrally the Lord lives within our greater thoughts and concerns.
But we need to be aware of how challenging this seemingly simple goal in life really is. The entire biblical story symbolizes the typical spiritual situation going on within each one of us. It is common for we humans to find ourselves in a similar situation as Israel was in during Christ's Advent into our world. Our natural human spiritual heredity often passionately enjoys having another kind of king on the throne of our minds. Instead of allowing the Lord to be king of our thoughts and aspirations it can feel ever so good to have a “symbolic King Herod” selfishly, and with some serious paranoia, using the throne of leadership in our minds.
In fact the passion with which our natural mind wants to hang on to the throne of leadership in our minds is revealed by how King Herod plotted to destroy every newborn male child from the age of two on down. Again, we find tremendous symbolism that helps bring light upon our own spiritual journeys. Infant and toddler boys likely symbolize young truth trying to grow and mature within us, which could be some form of biblical truth found in the Lord's Word or some form of personal, intimate truth about us and how God wants us to grow right now. The historical King Herod who furiously ordered the death of all those little boys in and near Bethlehem represents the passionate tendency within the human mind to want to “kill off” some form of vital new understanding about God, others, or ourselves—and it is very likely that it will center on the Lord or ourselves.
After the offering is given you will be offered a few minutes to think about what possible kinds of vital truth your own mind may be tenaciously trying to destroy before it can grow to gain authority within you.
The Magi gave their very best!
The Magi also revealed their mastery of the science of spiritual correspondence (that every natural thing on earth represents some higher spiritual quality or perception) once again by what they gave to the Lord when they came to worship Him. They gave gold, frankincense, and myrrh. These substances were the highest quality substances they could give, and they correspond to each of the three major forms of goodness which the Lord cares so deeply about that we each may offer Him, in response to all that the Lord gives us—and they are respectively: the highest (or celestial) good which is love for the Lord, then spiritual goodness which is a love for having faith in Him, and lastly natural goodness which is living a good life for Christ and giving to others in many different ways. The Magi “got it” that God gave us the finest Christmas gift of all, Himself…wrapped in the most external form God could come in, a finite human being.
Giving. It's one of the most fundamental things the Lord loves to do. Isn't it tremendous how every day of our existence the Lord LOVE TO GIVE from Himself!! Think about that. Every moment of your life you are being given to in hundreds of ways. The Lord gives you your life; He gives you a beautiful planet to live on; He gives you warm sunlight to brighten and feed our world; He gives us a thirst for living and adventure! Yes, my friends, we are blessed with a God who loves to give.
(…story about Christmas…)
It was the day after Christmas at a church in San Francisco. The pastor of the church was looking over the crèche when he noticed that the baby Jesus was missing from among the figures. He hurried outside and saw a little boy with a red wagon, and in the wagon was the figure of the little infant Jesus. So he walked up the boy and said, “Well, where did you find your passenger, my fine friend?”
The little boy replied, “I got him from the church.”
“And why did you take him?” the pastor asked.
The boy said, “Well, about a week before Christmas I prayed to the little Lord Jesus and I told him if he would bring me a red wagon for Christmas I would give him a ride around the block in it.”
Herod was a power-hungry ruler whose actions reeked of evil. And despite our best efforts to create an atmosphere of cooperation and kindness, it is unrealistic to think we are going to eliminate from the face of the earth divisive, rude, evil people. Our only choice, unless we want to give in or give up, is to work around the evil, just as the Magi did. Yes, this is an imperfect world, but that does not relieve us of our responsibility to work for what is good and right. If anything, the evil present in our world only accentuates the need for us to do something.
Someone wrote a short piece about rejecting the nay-sayers and
higher road. They titled it "Anyway." Here it is:
People are unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered. Love them anyway!
If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Do good anyway!
If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies. Succeed anyway!
The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway!
Honesty and frankness will make you vulnerable. Be honest and frank anyway!
The biggest people with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest people with the smallest minds. Think big anyway!
People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs. Fight for some underdogs anyway!
What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight. Build anyway!
People really need help but may attack you if you help them. Help people anyway!
Give the world the best you have and you will get kicked in the teeth. Give the world the best you have anyway!
Epiphany does indeed light our way into a spiritually good and substantive way of living into this New Year and in the years beyond. The Magi help to summarize the best pathway that leads us toward heaven. The wonderful examples given us by the story of the Magi remind us of some things that promise true happiness and peace—a commitment to searching for the Lord Jesus wherever God's truth reveals Him living in His holy Word (even when that search bumps us up against dangerously destructive tendencies within us, that love to destroy new truth); and an ability to give back greatly and on three different levels of our humanity, including my love for the Lord Himself, my love for prayer and faith and trying to enjoy understanding with my neighbor, and an outward life living according to the principles of goodness and decency brought forth in the literal pages of God's holy Word (summarized in the Ten Commandments, as well as in Jesus' Beatitudes).
The Magi were seekers and they were givers. They made time in life for simply worshiping their Lord. May this Season of expanding Light be one of hope and illumination for you as you grow and make your way toward mature heavenly character. May we all rely faithfully upon the great example shown us by these blessed Wise Men of old who followed their star and led them to Bethlehem. Amen.
Will You fill us so full of Your love that there is no more room for intolerance? As You have forgiven us much, will You enable us with Your strength to forgive others even more? Will You enable us through Your abiding Presence among us, communally and individually, to live our lives in a manner worthy of the great Name we bear...the Name of “Christian”? Please Lord, work hard with us to replace a bad king on the throne of our minds, like King Harod, and instead let You sit on that inner throne and let You truly be our King. Amen.