4.1.14

Be wise (Three wise ones)

Time does funny things at this time of the year. 

Christmas was last year but just a few days ago. 

We have done church on Wednesday and many times over but many didn't 'church' at all but began preparing in October! 
Confused? 
Don't blame you.  

And here we are in Epiphany... already...when in actual fact our foreign star-gazers would not have made it to Jesus for at least another eighteen months.

Every year in our house we enact the same tradition, my husband keep placing the wise men in the nativity scene and I keep moving them to another part of the room because they're only on the way... I return to find them back near the manger and move them again and so it goes on.

Confusion's expected. Our nativity sets contain those wise men and usually just three.... so we should settle that too - there were three gifts but probably many more men. There were three places but possibly also some women. Psalm 72 has them hail from Tarshish, Sheba and Seba - today Africa and somewhere in the Indian Ocean! But then - the ends of the earth!

This Jewish Messiah is Messiah to the ends of the earth and with many visitors from afar. 
There is no confusion that Epiphany presents a Messiah with a mission to reach the whole world for himself! 

Matthew, writing for a Jewish Christian audience, knows their biggest temptation is to keep Jesus to themselves, to stuff him into a box. We know this temptation too. It happened then between Paul's Gospel of Grace and those reducing it again to rules and regulations and it happens now, every time the church insists, that those new to the faith, worship Jesus in the way he's always been worshipped; every time the church puts barriers in people's way.

To help us get this, Matthew chooses the most unlikely characters to be amongst the first to worship this Jewish Messiah - priests of the Persian religion! Our wise men! God being God, who always had a plan, exposes these Persians to his promises long ago. By their conquering and capturing the Jews centuries before, they'd heard these Jew's stories of their Jewish God and his promised Messiah. The culture then to which our wise men belong have known of God's promises all along. They know the stories just like we do.

They know the stories, but they insist on encounter. They literally journey towards it. Knowing stories is not enough. And we'll pray today for encounter so that we might know Christ in the power of His Spirit for His 2014 mission.

The wise men come determined not unsure, full of conviction, not hesitantly. They come to create chaos, not to conform to the service plan. 
We are to know then that it is not always tidy, this call to be church.

From Herod's point of view, they hail from a land that is a great military enemy. Herod's Empire could have expanded further East if it weren't for them. 
When the three wise men come then, they threaten heavenly and earthly borders, this is the chaos they bring. 

Might we like them come determined. 
Might we like them come full of conviction. 
Might we like them expand Jesus' empire in our area, claim territory for him in our workplaces and claim borders for Jesus.

When Matthew says that Herod and all of Jerusalem are in uproar, he wasn’t kidding! 

This rival power comes to bear witness to the legitimate and real God-ordained King - Herod wasn’t even Jewish! 

This rival power comes questioning Herod's authority. 
Are we placing our trust in the right places? 
Has anyone or anything usurped Christ's place in your life in 2013? 

Rival powers will try and we are called to put Jesus in his rightful place again as King of our lives this coming year.

As the Magi pay Jesus homage and worship him, they offend the sensibilities of both the Romans and those Jews who had thought the promise was theirs alone.

Stories of a Messiah; promises of a Messiah, the person of the Messiah is not the exclusive property of the Jews! The Magi aren't just messengers, they're missionaries as they bring the first wave of the incredible news that God’s grace is for all.

And so what ultimately has this visit of the wise men to teach you this Epiphany? 

Stories of a Messiah; promises of a Messiah, the person of the Messiah is not our exclusive property either!

The Magi aren't mere observers, just visiting a stable scene or a church for Christmas.

The Magi aren't just recipients of a story passed down in their culture... with a Christian claim on a census form or an electoral roll. 

The Magi are intent on encounter. They disrupt their own history and the history of the world to worship and serve Jesus and take his message to the ends of the earth.

Are we willing to have our lives disrupted by Jesus?

Are we prepared to cause a little chaos around here when things become safe and secure?

Are we prepared to take the message of Jesus not even to the ends of the earth but just to the ends of the road?

These wise men are not the people of a cute nativity set and neither are we. 

The love they model is costly. 
The grace is outrageous. 
The actions of these wise men brought chaos and confusion for those who had become too safe and secure. 
Are we prepared to climb out of the nativity box-set and take up our part in the real God-drama?

2014?
Well, this star summoned them and it summons you now, to participate in what God is doing.

Your ministry this new year, people, is to those who think they're outsiders, to anyone who tells you they can't ....because they do not know their bible stories.

If the wise men began with a few handed-down tales, your mission is to those who think they don't belong – Jesus says they do. 

Your mission is to tear down any barriers here and cause a little chaos.

...the tree and the decorations have been put away but the good news is that God has plans for us and they are not put in storage. 

If Epiphany means a sudden revelation .... of Christ's mission to reach the whole world for himself... let's join with the Wise Men in worshipping and proclaiming but let's insist on encounter and let the chaos begin. Let's pray.  

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