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Sermon For The Epiphany of Our Lord - Year C
Isaiah 60:1-6; Matthew 2:1-12
"Towards The Light - By The Word"

READING:  Isaiah 60:1-6; Matthew 2:1-12
SERMON :  "Towards The Light - By The Word"

Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
c-epipse.y-c 402

   The following is a more or less complete liturgy and sermon
   for the upcoming Sunday.  Hymn numbers, designated as VU are
   found in the United Church of Canada Hymnal "Voices United".
   SFPG is "Songs For A Gospel People", also available from the UCC.     

The journey of the magi by the light of a star to find the one
born King of the Jews is a part of the Christmas Story,

In fact, the day of their arrival in Bethlehem,
   The 12th day of Christmas,
   is for almost half of the world's Christians the day
   that they celebrate Christmas.

I don't know about you, but for me many of my favourite Christmas
Cards feature a picture of the wise men travelling by camel
through a star lit night, one star dominating the sky, arriving
on the crest of the hill overlooking Bethlehem.

I have always found that image very special - 
I can see it so well in my mind:
     the journey is almost done.
        it's been a long trip, 
            fraught with peril and yet full of hope, 
     and now the town of Jesus' birth,
        and the stable and manger,
            are just a few more hundred yards away,
     and I can imagine the cold crisp air,
        and the beautiful sky,
            and the feeling of peace and satisfaction that the
               magi must have had as they looked down from the star in
     the sky to the building lying below its light.

For most us the story of the wise men, the magi,
    is dominated by the part of the scene I have just described,
    it is dominated by the star,
        and by the wonder of how it pointed the way to Christ,
            for the three kings - the three wise men.

It is a good image to have
    it helps make the whole story of Jesus' birth
    and his unique place in the plan of God even more special.

The Rev. Doctor John Moses once pointed out to me that the wise
men were not just led to Jesus by the star that they saw in the

In fact, he said, the Wise Men did not find the one they sought,
they did not discover Jesus and worship him, until they had done
one other very important thing --
    until they had consulted The holy Scriptures,
          until they had asked Herod, and Herod had asked the chief
          priests, and teachers of the law, where the Christ was to
          be born.

John said to me that he had read the story of the magi hundreds
of times - but never really taken in, or thought about this part
of the story for the longest time.

Then, the thought came to him that the same thing that was true
for the wise men, is true for us:
    - we may know the way to Christ, what direction to travel in,
    and we may have a general idea of where he lays,
    but until we, like the wise men, consult the scriptures
    or those who know the scriptures well,
    we cannot find Jesus and worship him as we would like to.

I confessed to John that this part of the story of the wise men
had not really penetrated my consciousness before either - yet,
now that it had been pointed out to me, it seemed very obvious
and very significant

It is the word of God that leads us to God,
    as much as it is the light that God gives for guidance,
        be it the light of a star, or, more commonly, the light
        that shines through another person's life - the light of
        peace, joy, hope, and love.

Two things, in other words, are required, if we are to make a
connection with our Lord,
     - the willingness to track down the light that God gives to
     see where it leads,
         - and the willingness within that tracking down, to turn to
         the Word of God, and take the advice it gives about how to
         find and how to follow the Lord.

The hymn we sang before the sermon -- Shine on Star, 
    which is mainly concerned about the star, 
    or the light of God's presence, 
alludes to the linkage between God's light, God's guidance if you
will, and the scriptures when it says in the language of prayer: 

                    LET GOD'S WORD GIVE LIFE TODAY.

It's a good prayer to pray,
    Let God's word:
    the Word made flesh - Jesus our Lord
    give life today,
         Let God's word, the word of scripture - the inspired word,
         give life today.

We need the word to find Jesus today, as much as we need the
light that is cast by faithful disciples and witnesses to Jesus
Christ, our saviour and our Lord.
My experience and that of Rev. Moses shows something that I
believe is true of us all - it shows that it is easy to miss
things of importance because we are looking at other things or
concentrating on other issues.

We easily overlook things of importance,
   things that help us become happier, more faithful, and more
   fulfilled  -
while at the same time focussing on things
   that make us unhappy, less faithful and less fulfilled.

It seems that we all operate a bit like Sherlock Holmes, who
once, when asked why he could not remember a certain event
replied: "because my dear Watson, the my brain can contain only
so much information, and whenever I learn something new,
something old must go.".

As you start this New Year - my prayer is that you will get rid
of any old things that are holding you down and preventing you
from discovering the abiding presence of God in your life.  

And it is my prayer that you will replace these things by a
careful examination of the word of God and a long hard look at
the stars in the sky - for when you do this you will find the
Christ in your midst.

This is what the magi did when the followed the star, and when
they consulted the scriptures and the wisdom about them held by
the chief priests and teachers of the law.

They focussed on the right stuff,
they listened to the right voices,
and they consulted the right sources
and they did this while actually dealing with a man
who had nothing but evil upon his heart - King Herod...
and so they ended finding Christ
and were able to bless him and be blessed by him.

Which just goes to show, my friends, that for the righteous,
even the words of evil people can point the way to God,
and to the Christ whose spirit lives in our midst.

Can you find the good in the midst of what seems to be all bad?
Can you find the light of God in the world around you and the
presence of Christ in the people you meet?

A while back I read an article that helps illustrate the
importance of having the correct focus in how we look upon the
events and the people in the world around us. 

The article was on RAP MUSIC and was titled "Media and Parent
Expect Worst, but Rap has Positive Message."

The point of the article was very simple.  

It was that while RAP music is accused on filling the heads of
young people with garbage, it also can fill the heads of young
people with virtue.

The author of the article, a young man by the name of Todd
Simmons, points out that if anyone really listens to RAP, they
would quickly discover that while some of it is full of violence
and openly encourages racial discrimination and sexual bigotry,
other RAP music, in fact a great deal of it, has exactly the
opposite content.  

While 2 LIVE CREW have actually gone to court on obscenity
charges, their songs and performances are so bad -- artists like
BPD and Queen Latifah helped create a STOP THE VIOLENCE MOVEMENT
and have participated musically in anti-drug campaigns and have
encouraged in their songs environmental awareness and caring
human relationships. 

Todd Simmons states 

   "if you believe that people who listen to violent rap
    artists are more likely to become violent, then you should
    also believe that people who listen to rap artists who
    project positive values will be less violent and show
    positive values in their everyday lives - sort of like
    monkey see, monkey do."

In other words, it is not the entire RAP musical scene that is a
problem - it is what individuals chose to listen to and
concentrate on within the RAP world.

In the same way it is not the world outside that depresses us and
makes us feel that there is little hope for the future -
     nor is it the world that makes us feel that God is not
     present with us and that Christ's spirit is not dwelling with
it is what we chose to look at focus on in the world that creates
those problems and makes it seem to us as if the faith of others
is nothing but a misguided delusion.

Everyone knows about "self fulfilling prophecies".

We know for example if a child constantly hears that he is
stupid, he will most likely act stupidly and that if he hears
that he is smart he will most likely act in a smart way.

In the same way, my friends, if you constantly think about
negative things or believe that only negative things are going to
happen, you will become a kind a emotional black hole, a person
in which all good things quickly vanish without leaving a trace
of joy behind, and from which nothing good can escape or be seen,

By what you choose to look at,
    and what you choose to listen to,
    you determine whether you end up being
a vortex of despair,
or a radiant star in the heavens of God.

Those who expect the economy to get worse,
    will not invest in it,
    and the economy will indeed get worse.

Those who believe Canada is doomed as a united country
    will likely tell this to all their friends,
    and thereby create an environment wherein any positive
steps that are taken by others are belittled and doomed to failure.

Those who listen to the those who claim it is futile to
    give food to the hungry and aid to the oppressed,
          most likely will provide any help themselves,
             and so in fact help hunger and oppression to continue.

What you expect is most likely what you will get;
What you believe about yourself is mostly likely what you will become;
    And what you think God is doing for you and the for world
    is all that you will mostly likely see him doing.

If you feel trapped, alone, and have little hope in your life,
it is time for you to develop a new view,
and look at new things and listen to different songs.

As you go into this new year remember this,
    many, many, good things are happening all around you,
         and that good things lie in store for all those who
             believe that good can and will happen,
                 and that good is always triumphant over evil.

God is present to support and guide all those who listen
     to his word and who look for the light he gives in the lives
          of his saints and in the stars of the heavens themselves.

The wise men found Jesus,
     because they watched for the signs of God,
          and listened to God's word.

Praise be to God for his word, and for his light, 
and for the gift of faith which allows them 
to work in our lives.  AMEN

copyright - Rev. Richard J. Fairchild - Spirit Networks, 1998 - 2006
            please acknowledge the appropriate author if citing these sermons.

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