Thursday, January 10, 2013

Don't Forget to Look Up!

You can understand why Herod was afraid of a new king being born.
It would threaten his power.
And we know from other stories of Herod that he did not like to give up his power.
The question is why are all the people of Jerusalem scared with him?
What do they have to fear?
Perhaps they thought that it was better to live with the devil you know in Herod then be ruled by the one you don’t.
This morning I would like to offer a different idea.
The good religious folks of Jerusalem had forgotten to look up.
They had forgotten what had been foretold to them through the prophets.
That a savior would come, that even among the darkest of times God would still be at work offering comfort and hope.
They had forgotten to look up and therefore they missed that new brilliant shining star in the night sky.
The star that the magi had seen, that they had traveled perilous nights and days to follow, was missed by the people of Jerusalem.

For if they would have seen it then maybe they would have noticed that God was up to something new and miraculous.
They would have remembered the words of Isaiah, “Arise, shine, for you light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.”
This is what happens when we forget to look up to search the sky for the signs of God.

It is true that the land is filled with darkness.
We know from Matthew’s story of the magi that the world that Jesus was entering was filled with darkness.
It was filled with people trying to keep power, and willing to do anything to keep it, even killing.
We think of this story as a nice kid’s story, but really it is filled with lots of adult themes.
It is filled with a world where darkness seems to reign.

Until we see that star.
The star that first attracted the attention magi from the east to make that long hard journey, the star that led them from Herod’s palace, the star that stopped over the house where the baby Jesus was, the star that shown bright and led the way to the place where our savior lay, that star is still out there for you and me.
It is the light of Christ that refuses to be put out by the darkness.
It is the light of Christ that shines even in death.
It is that light of Christ that Matthew Jr. receives today in his baptism.

The greatest gift that parents can give their children is the gift of faith.
It is the gift of being able to still look up and see that star shining, because there are going to be some tough times ahead on our journeys.
We are going to get side tracked.
We are going to get lost sometimes.
There will be dark times when we are threatened with violence.
There will be dark times when it seems that all we have is a bad administrator, who thinks he has lots of power, to help us out.
The people of Jerusalem had given up on God and instead given their lives over to Herod.
They thought he could protect them from the Romans.
They thought he could help them out of their financial ruin.
In fact, Herod brought them more heartache.
It will be Herod who will order the killing of the first born sons to protect his little power.
It does indeed seem like dark times.
I don’t this morning have to remind all of you of the darkness that we face in our own time.
I don’t have to point out the sin and violence that we experience in our world today.
All of it might lead us to despair.

But as long as we remember to look up we can see that light shining for us in the distance.
We can see the star pointing to Jesus who is there for us, who gives us joy.
That is what the magi felt when they finally found Jesus joy.
They knew they found something precious.
And they left profoundly changed by the experience.
That is what Matthew and Heather can give Matthew Jr. a faith that is always pointing towards the star in the distance.

I know parents will often tell me that their children will ask them questions that they don’t know the answer to.
My sister and her husband knew a woman who was young, and died of cancer, she left behind a husband and a couple of kids.
My nephew wanted to know why bad things happened to good people like that.
It is a weighty question.
It is one that we all deal with for most of our lives.
My sister, my brother in-law, and I all had the same answer, “We don’t know”.
As a parent it is ok to say, “You don’t know”.
We don’t have all the answers.
What you can say is that we can explore the answers together, that we all are on a similar journey to that of the magi.
We are wondering around this big world not sure what is at the end.
But we follow the star in faith.
And perhaps this is what else we can do as parents is point our children to the star.
We can say, “I don’t know every answer, but in faith I believe that God loves us and saves through his son Jesus.”

It is not just kids of course who believe this.
We as we get older need to believe in this even more.
I hear this all the time.
I hear it when someone loses someone they love.
They will say, “Well at least they are at peace.”
Or, “At least they are with Lord.”
They are not answering why their loved one died; they are looking up to the heavens.
In faith they believe that the star leads to something better.
A more peaceful and loving place.

I believe it is part of human DNA to believe in something greater.
We have to because the journey of the world is hard and complicated.
In Newtown, every family that lost someone had a religious service for their loved one.
In times of darkness we turn to the night sky and look for the light that points us toward God.
I was reading in the NY times this week about the humanist’s response to what happened in Newtown.
Humanist believes that there is some kind of innate goodness in people.
They did some great things.
They collected money and sent to a fund for the victim’s families.
But what they couldn’t do was point the grieving hearts to hope and joy.
Only faith could do it.

I believe in the goodness in people too.
But I believe that comes from the light of Christ.
I believe when we do good it is because God has given us the gifts, passions, and ability to do it.
When we say to Matthew today, “let your light so shine before others that they may see you good works and glorify your father in heaven.”
We are saying that Matthew will do great things.
He will wish upon stars, he will love greatly, and give generously.
But when he does those good things it will not be for his own glory, but to point others toward the star in the sky pointing to the love of God that illumines all lives with joy.

As we journey in this life.
As we go through the darkness, over hills, and valleys, nights and days.
As we encounter the darker parts of life in this world, let us always remember to look up.
To see the star that points us to Jesus so that we might have hope, joy, love, and know that we are saved forever.

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