Sermons



Rev. Rosemary Webb
3rd January 2016
Four Lessons the Wise Men Teach Us

I often wonder how much we lose through being so dependent on computers, I am told, for I am not as computer literate as most, that on Christmas Eve it was possible to track Father Christmas’ journey towards this country. We certainly couldn’t do that when I was small. So I wonder if the Wise Men had had a computer what message they would have got? Would they have still followed the star?

Would they have expected God to somehow put a message on a website or would they still have felt it was something compelling?

For as we read in the Gospel these pagan astrologers had seen a bright star in the east and followed it for they knew it was bringing them a special message, they knew it was a sign that the Messiah, long waited for by the Jews, had been born.

From the moment God sent the Angel Gabriel to tell Mary she was to be the mother of Jesus, he has used the most unlikely people to spread the Good News. Certainly not what the Jewish people expected – remember – they thought the Messiah would come in power, but more than that he would come for the Jewish people not for gentiles, he would be special to the Jews.

The first we read of these wise men is when they arrive in Jerusalem, the Jewish capital, asking ‘where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.’ Not only did they want to find the baby but they wanted to worship him.

God didn’t choose people who would think that he had chosen them because they were special in his eyes, he chose people who were purely responding to his message. Yes, God has and still calls the most unlikely people to proclaim the message.

So what can we learn from the Wise Men. I don’t believe it was coincidence that they were the ones to come seeking Jesus. God had used a star, a sign of light, but a sign which would have a particularly significance to these men, academics of their time, astrologers, despised in the Jewish faith. They may not have known the scriptures, they didn’t obey the commandments, but they were open to the message that the Christ child had been born.

Whereas, Herod and the religious leaders in Jerusalem were horrified, they felt threatened; it wasn’t how they thought it should be. If they had seen the star they hadn’t understood the meaning, they had missed the birth of their long awaited Messiah. Somehow, they were so convinced they knew how it would happen, so prejudiced, they missed it, just as they missed seeing Christ as the Messiah through his whole life. They were so concerned with judging people that they missed God in their presence. And surely that is still a danger for believers today; we mustn’t think we know all the answers.

I wonder if Herod had gone with the Wise Men whether he would have understood, or was he far too convinced his own views were right. Was he scared that he would have a bow down and worship a baby, rather than an almighty king?
Did he think that God would never use a non-Jew to proclaim the Messiah to the Jewish people?

The Wise Men may have been gentiles, non- believers, but they knew how to worship a King for they brought with them the finest gifts they could. Gold, symbolising royalty, Christ the King. Frankincense symbolising Christ’s priestly office, the divine Christ and myrrh an ingredient in oil used for anointing but also believed to be prophesying Christ’s persecution and crucifixion.

God is never afraid of using unlikely people. I wonder, three years ago, how many in the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church thought that their new Pope would be some fairly obscure bishop from South America. Or, indeed, those in the Anglican Communion who thought their next Archbishop would be someone who had spent time in ‘big’ business, in oil? All forms of prejudice can blind us to God’s will. I personally believe these two men have a greater awareness of diversity in society, of the need for diversity in the church, of the problems facing those we should be aiming to reach out to.

It surely teaches us that every one of us is a child of God, a child he loves. God doesn’t have our inhibitions about who is suitable, for he loves without barriers or boundaries. We need to remember how hard it is for those without a church upbringing to understand church language, to understand God’s call, to understand that he really does know us each individually.

God understands it can be hard, that is why he came to live among us, Christ came to earth to show us what God is like, and like the early disciples we are called to be disciples to explain the Gospels, to spread the Good News.

There must have been times when the going got hard for the Wise Men, it was a long journey, perhaps they did wonder if it was worth journeying on, but they kept faith and followed the star. And this of course happens on our journey through life, it gets hard, it seems complicated, but we know in our heart of hearts that God is loving and guiding us that he will never leave us for we are his child.

Worship is not an optional extra, as Christians we are called to worship him , just as it was the first thing the Wise Men did when they reached Jesus, just as the shepherds had already done, our main duty each day must be to worship Christ and also to listen to him. The Holy Spirit guided the Wise Men, told them not to return to Herod, so we must let the Spirit guide us as to which path to follow.

But there is another thing we are called to do – the Wise Men took with them Gold, Frankincense and myrrh, we are called to give generously to God’s work but more importantly we are called to use the gifts that God has given us to his greater glory.

God will never leave us, he will guide us and sustain us however long the journey, like the Wise Men we just need to follow the light with a true and lasting faith.