Dec. 31, 2016
My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
Greetings in the precious name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
As we start our journey as Christians in the new year, I want to reflect on one thing that always fascinates me – the journey of the Magi as they travelled to find their anticipated newborn king. This trip was initiated in response to a star they had observed. It was a response perhaps stimulated by their astrological curiosity.
Though I have preached many sermons on this great biblical story in Matthew 2: 1-12, it was only last year when someone challenged me to look at the works of biblical scholar Walter Brueggemann that I learned something new and fascinating.
My sister in Christ was correct! Looking at it again, I was reminded of the new light on this passage he offered in his sermon “Missing by Nine Miles.” I shared his analysis of the familiar story of the Magi during my General Conference sermon last May. Brueggemann determined that the Magi were off course by nine miles, and would have missed their visit with the Messiah altogether had they not heeded the advice of Herod’s biblical scholars.
As I discussed in my 2016 sermon, Matthew describes the visit of the Magi, replete with gifts and their question, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews?” (Matthew 2:2).
Herod, disturbed by the arrival of a new king, asks his scholars to explain the prophecy. Their view is that this new ruler will not be a typical ruler, but someone who will rule like a shepherd over his sheep. Instead of referring to Isaiah 60 as many scholars had done, they referenced Micah 5, which says the Messiah will be born in the village of Bethlehem – nine miles to the south of Jerusalem.
Herod shares this with the wise men from the East; they make the journey to Bethlehem and find their king. Then, having been warned in a dream, they change their plans and route, and do not return to Jerusalem.
The wise men needed to listen to scholars to find the baby Jesus, but they also needed to listen to the voice of God to avoid returning to Herod. Because of this wisdom, they were able to share the Good News of a Savior with the world.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we start our journey in this new year, the world is in a state of confusion, pain, and uncertainty. Yet, as baptized Christians and followers of Jesus Christ, we are called to bring Epiphany movements to the world around us! These are very challenging times for the Church, but it is also a time to be God’s hopeful messengers.
We cannot do it on our own; we need the grace of God, the love of Christ, and our constant dependence on the power of the Holy Spirit.
When we depend upon the grace, wisdom, and knowledge of God, we, like the Magi, become open to the Word of God, even if the source of our knowledge is a place or person we may think is unworthy of consideration.
Perhaps God constantly challenges us to go the extra nine miles to the south or the north or the east or the west. In these moments, we have to set aside our personal GPSs and depend only on God’s GPS.
It is my prayer that in 2017 and beyond that we will all take a second look at our own Christian pilgrimages and learn from the Magi to listen to what God has to tell us, so we may become a powerful movement of God, filled with the compassionate love of Christ, and the power of the Holy Spirit.
Prema joins me in wishing you and your loved ones a happy and blessed New Year.
In Christ’s love,
Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar