Long ago the prophet Isaiah wrote this…
You shall be a crown of glory in the hand of the Lord! A royal diadem in the hand of your God!
But to whom was he addressing such fine words?
Your Christmas cracker goes off with a great big bang, and there amidst the frilly paper, the useless toy and the terrible joke, lies the paper crown.
I wonder what you tend to do with that?
Never wear it if you can help it and hope it finds its way into the recycling bin as soon as possible.
Open it out somewhat nervously and see what the others round the table will do. And maybe you will put it gingerly on your head for a while, but then take it off as soon as the moment of frivolity passes.
Or do you put the crown on your head with something of a flourish, but then forget that its there and only when, hours later, you are finally overcome with sherry, the crown slips over your closing eyes as you doze happily in a corner and you here someone say “Look at the king over there, only a mother could love it”
Is the paper crown inside its cracker to you just a bit of fun, or do you ever think, as you look down at it and then hold it in your hands, this is where I come into the nativity story. A king after all.
There is a harsh expose to make about the three gentlemen whose arrival at the manger is at the heart of this morning’s great festival.
They probably weren’t kings as we would understand the term and they may not have been especially wise.
They were more like star gazers and fortune tellers, the sort you might find in a small booth on Brighton Pier.
Such characters were pretty common in the days of Jesus actually, and they were inclined to make a nuisance of themselves going about from place to place and making wild predictions for the future.
Our three, if there were three, seem rather like this. We find them blundering about the streets of Jerusalem asking where the king of the Jews might be found, akin to Laurel and Hardy plus one perhaps, asking for directions to his palace – when towering over the place was Herod’s enormous and imposing residence.
Eventually they crash their way in there and blurt out before Herod, the whole story about the star and a new born king, who is certainly not the king now standing before them.
Despite his grandeur, Herod is an easily threatened individual and he is infuriated by this news of another king, and he demands the details, he summons his advisors and puts on a front before our bewildered visitors and then somewhat simperingly – like a pantomime villain not yet got into his stride:
“And when you find Him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship Him”
Now despite the star, which, according to most of our Christmas cards, was the size of a giant searchlight, and despite the stir these characters cause in the palace precincts and down in the streets of the town, no one is inclined to go with them to Bethlehem. The people all stand rooted to the spot, stuck in their own lives, content to wait for news.
So off they clutter, these travellers, treasures clanking in their luggage. They come to Bethlehem and burst into the stable where the Christ child lies.
But then, then, when they encounter Jesus lying there. When they stop and really see Him, there is only one thing they can do – they bow down and they worship.
The Epiphany moment comes upon them then. They recognise Jesus for who He is and they see themselves as they are – in relation to Him.
Only when they stop and worship do they become wise. Only when they stop and worship do they become kings.
“Crowns of glory in the hand of the Lord, royal diadems in the hand of their God”
They do not bring their wisdom and their kingship into the stable – rather they discover it there.
They’d got nearly everything wrong until then and the consequences of their blundering about Jerusalem resulted directly in the high tragedy of a chain reaction whereby a terrible slaughter of the innocents ensues and the holy family have to run for their lives into Egypt.
I guess that would have hung over them for the rest of their days.
But they had bowed down and worshipped and that is enough for their transformation – their Epiphany.
And here is where our stories cross theirs
So much foolishness.
So much blindness.
So much talking without thinking.
So much acting without considering the effects on others.
But in the place of recognising Jesus and in the worship of Him. Everything that is good becomes possible in us.
And we see that goodness not in terms of the trappings of Herod’s palace any longer, but in Bethlehem’s stable.
A crown of glory in the hand of the Lord . A Royal diadem in the hand of our God.
This is what we can be… if only we will cast ourselves before Him and Come and worship.
Come and worship – Christ the new born king.
ISAIAH 62: 3