Matthew 2:1-12 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
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 ruler
who 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.
Looking in the night sky has taken on a whole new meaning the past few days. People are standing in their yards with their necks craned towards the heavens. Every news agency whether it be TV, radio, print or social media has been reporting it. There have been some amazing reasons or conditions as to why they are appearing. Everyone has a theory and many involve a conspiracy of some type. Many are becoming obsessed and they believe it is an invasion of their personal property. People are arming themselves and threating to shoot. Warnings are given by local law enforcement to not take matters into your own hands. Justice must fall on the perpetrators.
Of course, I am talking about the drones of NE Colorado. It’s a phenomenon that has garnered national attention. Some folks have even managed to get some pictures of these objects lighting up the night sky. If I would have known about all this excitement before I left for AZ, I would have changed the sermon title to something with drones. According to one post there is a company that says that they use drones to fly over their power lines to make sure they are all in place, but they were a little sketchy as to whether they did this at night. And what better time to have this event taking place than during the time of Epiphany?
You remember Epiphany right, the time when the Three Dudes looked in the sky and saw a star and said, hey that’s something new let’s follow and see where it leads. They searched the ancient writings of the prophets and found where Isaiah wrote: Arise, shine; for your light has come,
and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.
2 For darkness shall cover the earth,
and thick darkness the peoples;
but the Lord will arise upon you,
and his glory will appear over you.
3 Nations shall come to your light,
and kings to the brightness of your dawn. (Isa 60:1-3)
The Magi loaded up their camels and filled their knapsacks with presents and began to follow the new star in the sky. They wanted to meet the new king. When they got to Jerusalem, they met a guy named Herod, who was a governor of Israel. He was Jewish. Now Herod was appointed by the emperor of Rome. He believed that he was the reigning king of the Jews. When the Magi arrived and asked him where to find the king of the Jews—he started freaking out. Yes, it was only a child who had just been born, but was there a line of kinship that might usurp his power? He ran out of the room and summoned all of his Magi or seers of the day. He demanded to know who they were talking about and why he was the last to know what was going on. The Magi of Herod’s court told them about a star that had appeared and seemed to stop over the town of Bethlehem.
Herod goes back and is not sure of what to make of it all, but asks the foreigners to return and tell him about what they find. The light in the sky leads them to the backwater town of Bethlehem, the place where David was a shepherd as a child for his father Jesse. The same David who everyone of the day, including Herod knows was the greatest king of all times.
Do you understand why Herod is freaking out? This event was sprung upon him and he is reeling. Who are these people? Where did this star come from? Why are they in his province? Do they have some one else backing them? Is this child born a direct descendant of David, and will he inherit the throne because he obviously is politically well connected but not of the same lineage of David?
Herod is threatened. He wants answers and he want assurances that no one is going to take over his position of power. He does not see this as a blessed event like the wise men do. He says he wants to pay homage, but in reality, he wants to eliminate the chance of being overthrown. There are some similarities between the feelings of the star appearing in the night and the appearance of the drones.
We too feel like we are being threatened. We believe that not only do we own the land we live on, but the air and space above it. Flying machines are not supposed to invade our privacy, our entitlement, our position of authority over what dutifully belongs to us. We want answers and we want to know how come this phenomenon is being allowed to take place. I am not saying that God put the drones in the sky, but what should we get excited about? Where should our focus be? How we deal with a “new” situation tells us a great deal about who and what we trust.
The Magi came and honored the child born of Mary and Joseph. They did not allow the paranoia of Herod to take control of their lives. The great Herod was concerned and we should be also, to a certain degree. Knowing who is responsible for them is important. Just as knowing who was responsible for the star in the sky is important as well. The star was placed there by God. The sign of where the Messiah was being born and reminding the world that God is still in control of God’s creation. The focus gets blurry when we let our priorities out of whack. Finding the star and searching for God today is just as important as it was when the Magi first appeared.
Do you remember the star gifts that I gave you last year? You know the star shaped piece of paper with a word printed on it. Do any of you still have them? I have been in some homes the past year and actually seen them on the fridge. Here is a quick reminder, the star gifts are words that are printed on a piece o paper in the shape of the star. In a few moments I will ask the ushers to pass the offering plates around that have the gifts in them. Please take one and check to make sure that you don’t get the same as last year, because if you are siting in the place as last year well you know the rest. Anyway, take a gift from the same plate that you will be putting a gift in later, and receive your “word” for the year. Keep the gift and put it someplace where you will see it every day. Keep it for a year, to remind you of what God is inviting you to focus on in this New Year. Look the word up and see all the other synonyms for that word. Look for the word in scripture during your daily devotional time. Make it a part of you.
Our lives are complicated and we see so many things that make us become skeptical and worried. Yet, we also need to receive things that bring us peace and joy. May we find some of that this year with the star gifts. May we grow in the gift and may it remind us of the greatest gift ever given, Jesus the Savior of the world. Amen.