Homily, Christmas Eve, Sunday December 25, 2017
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi[a] from the east came to Jerusalem 2 and asked, ‘Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.’
3 When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. 5 ‘In Bethlehem in Judea,’ they replied, ‘for this is what the prophet has written:
6 ‘“But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.”[b]’
7 Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. 8 He sent them to Bethlehem and said, ‘Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.’
9 After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshipped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
What Child is this? That is the question tonight. It has always been the question. It is the question of all wisdom seekers, truth searchers and life livers. It is a critical question for being you – worker, partner, child, parent, grandparent citizen, human being. Everyone from everywhere living in every calling has to at some point seriously ask this question of this Jesus.
It was obviously the driving force behind the journey of these Arabs from the East; these star gazers and seekers of mystery. Is it still the driving force of your journey or has it long receded into the back ground to be replaced by many other questions that seem more important?
However it is for you tonight, this search for life and hope and love we all pursue in one way or another is very human. We believe around here that this question of this child is no fool’s errand as many might think in our 21st Century secularising, Christianity-dismissing culture.
Whether it is or is not, the way to respond to the question, “What child is this? is clear. We are to speak less and listen more and only then see more. But beware, the question leads to the child and the child is a comfort to some and also a threat to some: a comfort to those who are aware and willing to admit their need for wisdom, their need to search, their willingness to listen, admit their limitations and put themselves at the foot of this manger as these wise guys did. But this child is a threat to those who have no such intentions tonight; who really remain quite closed off to his voice, his possibilities, his story, his presence; his appearing and his call to invite the question, “What child is this – for me?”.
It seems that these eastern camel desert people were not threatened by this child. They seemed to have found an end of human searching for what they, and we most need – the gifts of peace for the soul and for the relationships, joy with which to live, hope to stand well when the tide is against us, humility with which to serve, generosity from him by which we give ourselves to others.
They seemed to have found true and complete forgiveness; forgiveness for our wayward idol making and chasing heart that looks for his hope, this peace and wisdom with which to live life in places that only look like they will deliver these gifts but actually can’t – not for very long anyway.
These easterners seemed to have been open to the possibility that this boy in the shed would deliver these precious commodities of the mind, body and soul in full in the wood and wind and the wisdom of the cross.
What child is this? That is still the question. But to ask it raised the threat, or at least a question tonight: “Will you be a king of your life tonight and continue to protect your throne as Herod did, or will you let this king depose you and rule your life? Will this child be the greatest comfort of life and love will he be life, will he be wisdom and peace for you, or will he remain a stranger, a threat to your throne?
We are praying that you let the Servant King knock you off your throne tonight! Why? Because;
- For many, he is the one to put me back together again after that loss, that breakdown, that crisis.
- He is the one who will rise above all the evil and darkness we know and feel and make things right.
- He is the one who will call me to give my life away in the service of friends and strangers, allies and enemies, and make something of me.
- He is the difference between my ego that imprisons me more than I know, and true and full freedom that brings lasting comfort and joy to my soul.
Whoever he is; whatever he is, you don’t deserve him. You have not earnt him either. Same for the wise guys, shepherds, Mary, Joe and the sheep.
He is pure undeserved gift. That is why he is so good!
“…..they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshipped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts.
He is gift and the gift he seeks most from you is you.