January 6, 2004 - Epiphany

Matthew 2:1-12

    [1] After Jesus was born in Bethlehem village, Judah territory-this was during Herod's kingship-a band of scholars arrived in Jerusalem from the East. [2] They asked around, "Where can we find and pay homage to the newborn King of the Jews? We observed a star in the eastern sky that signaled his birth. We're on pilgrimage to worship him."

    [3] When word of their inquiry got to Herod, he was terrified-and not Herod alone, but most of Jerusalem as well. [4] Herod lost no time. He gathered all the high priests and religion scholars in the city together and asked, "Where is the Messiah supposed to be born?"

    [5] They told him, "Bethlehem, Judah territory. The prophet Micah wrote it plainly:

    [6] It's you, Bethlehem, in Judah's land,
        no longer bringing up the rear.
    From you will come the leader
        who will shepherd-rule my people, my Israel."

     [7] Herod then arranged a secret meeting with the scholars from the East. Pretending to be as devout as they were, he got them to tell him exactly when the birth-announcement star appeared. [8] Then he told them the prophecy about Bethlehem, and said, "Go find this child. Leave no stone unturned. As soon as you find him, send word and I'll join you at once in your worship."

    [9] Instructed by the king, they set off. Then the star appeared again, the same star they had seen in the eastern skies. It led them on until it hovered over the place of the child. [10] They could hardly contain themselves: They were in the right place! They had arrived at the right time!

    [11] They entered the house and saw the child in the arms of Mary, his mother. Overcome, they kneeled and worshiped him. Then they opened their luggage and presented gifts: gold, frankincense, myrrh.

    [12] In a dream, they were warned not to report back to Herod. So they worked out another route, left the territory without being seen, and returned to their own country.

[The Message]


1. When a question brings forth fear from us we know something is going on in our spirit. We have in some way been caught in an idolatry. We have based our behavior on something not quite true.

In the face of a question there are several choices to be made: 1) get rid of the question/questioner, 2) incorporate the question into a current fantasy - secretly stay the same and pretend nothing has changed, or 3) repent/change.

Questions are - dangerous, manipulable, or blessed.

2. Questions from another paradigm can be expected to be received with suspicion and guardedness. This means the questioner has a choice of being aware of this or naively going ahead. Either way there is the reality to be faced that the question may not be understood and thus the response cannot be trusted or that the question is understood as dangerous and the response cannot be trusted.

This seems to have been one of those times when a question had to be asked even if the response cannot be trusted. It is as though the scholars had concluded that they had reached their destination (generally), the seat of power (where else would a king be born?) and now it was just a question of finishing the journey (specifically, which part of the palace should we go to?).

For good or ill, their question leads them further. Instead of getting frustrated when "here" is not "here," they set off and instead of living in questions they lived in rejoicing - "by turning, turning, they had come 'round right."

3. In a dream they found reality. Their prior question, no matter what their intent, had exposed both them and their quest to danger. Their choices were: 1) get rid of the dream, 2) incorporate the dream into what ever fantasy they had of asking transformative questions, or 3) repent/change their travel plans.

What do you do with the realities of life you are facing?

There is a better scene than the one we are playing. May we work out another route.