Kings Journey (Matthew 2:1-12)

Angel Announces – Mary Sings – Joseph Prays – Shepherds Come – God with Us – KINGS JOURNEY

I have observed that there are two kinds of people in the world: people who think there are two kinds of people and people who do not.  It is in our very nature to divide between us and them, winners and losers, insiders and outsiders, State and Carolina, ECU and any ACC or instate school, rich and poor, those born below the Mason-Dixon line and those born above the line, etc. (help me out with your divisions of the world).  Just one more observation, if you are worshiping with us on this one of the lowest attendance Sundays of the year, you are the ultimate insider.

(North Point Community Church outside of Atlanta does not have worship celebrations on the last Sunday of the year to give their 1000+ volunteers a break.  When I brought this up with my staff they thought this would be a great model to follow, but others disagreed.  Most of the dyed in the wool Christians I know consider cancelling Sunday worship a heresy, excepting for snow or others “acts of God.”  I mean if its Sunday then we are … playing some football right?)

I bring this to our attention because most the lessons about Jesus’ birth are about establishing his insider status among God’s chosen sons and daughters.  The “Scandal of Particularity” is that God became flesh and blood and moved into the backwater towns of Bethlehem and Nazareth, in the backwater province of Judea on the edge of the mighty Roman empire.  If God were planning to transform the whole world (see John 3:16, “for God so loved the world …), then the plan seems inverted.  Wouldn’t have made sense to have God’s child show up in Rome and born within the emperor’s lineage?  If God is going to transform the world, don’t we need the assistance of those insiders on Wall Street (financiers), Pennsylvania Avenue (politicians), and certainly K Street (lobbyists)?

This was brought back to mind this week, when Leonard Sweet’s text message came across my phone’s screen this week.  Len’s tweet was Where are the Wise Men? Are they disappearing from Xmas story? Particularity=Jewish Messiah. Magi open us to Universality: Savior of World. That’s right I thought, without the Magi (and the shepherds) we outsiders do not have a chance at this flesh and blood Savior born among us.

So let’s hear those familiar words that cause us to hum “We Three Kings” as they are read:

2 In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, 2 asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” 3 When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; 4 and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. 5 They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:
6 ‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a rulerwho is to shepherd my people Israel.’ ”
7 Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. 8 Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.” 9 When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. 11 On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.

The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version, (Matthew 2:1-12). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1989.

Let’s pay attention to this question today:  “what barriers are you willing to put aside in order to welcome those ‘seeking the one born king of the Jews?'”

The question for me is rooted in the remembrance that those of us “insiders” gathered here for worship today would have been considered “outsiders” by those surrounding Jesus.  We celebrate Jesus’ particularity and we should celebrate our own particularities as well (or peculiarities if you are talking about somebody else).  Particularity is what makes Jesus and us real to the world, but the way of salvation is not in others adopting our particularities in order to meet Jesus.  God’s design, to say it again, is to show love to all the world, not just those who are circumcised, who profess the right creeds, bow at the right moments, and show up to worship on low attendance Sundays!

So again, let me leave you pondering “what barriers are you willing to put aside in order to welcome those ‘seeking the one born king of the Jews?'”