Scripture: Matthew 2:1-12
In my lifetime, which I realize has not been too long; I have had a pretty good run of various jobs. I have worked as an assistant to a soil scientist, where I helped collect and prepare samples for various tests that would be used to help promote agricultural practices in Kansas. I have taught English in a foreign country, I have moved from entry-level positions to a branch manager position in the rental car industry. And I have worked from a temporary position to department management in retail. I say this not because I am beating my own drum, because I am no longer most of those things, because I am still trying to grow up and figure out what I want to do with my life. There is one thing that I have observed in my treks through the various corporate worlds; people are always unprepared.
When I was in the rental car industry those in positions above me would dread visits from their superiors. They lived in constant fear that the regional manager would walk in unannounced and they would be removed from their position. They had a right to fear because most of them were not organized and the reports that they were to keep were not easily found. The location I worked in was a bit different, we did not have a direct supervisor working on site so my coworkers and I have to keep the records for ourselves and make sure that when our direct supervisor would show up the information was ready for them. We created graphs, charts, and lists for ourselves trying to figure out how we could do better because we actually did not know or did not have access to the proper report to get information that was vital to making our location profitable. Because we went above and beyond, because we sought answers and reported to ourselves, when our manager came to the office and asked questions we could readily answer the questions. We could tell them quickly that one body shop provided 83% of referrals and that another body shop’s referrals had gown 25% in the previous 3 months.
Where others in our company were afraid to speak with the managers we were not, because the job we were there to perform we knew and knew it well. The reports that we as lower level managers were to keep were organized and up to date. There were 3 of us in that office, we worked without a manager for almost one year, and because of that when a new location was set to open one of us was chosen, not because we had the greatest profits, but because we approached our job without fear and were prepared.
Fearing a visit from a manager is something that I find annoying. The supervisors I have enjoyed working under are the ones that have delegated tasks, and are confident that they have been done. They have reporting systems that each person checks off and files and when they are visited they and each of us can confidently answer the questions asked and give reasons for any inadequacy that is found. I tend to not work well with the managers that make a mad dash to make sure every task is done at the last minute. That is a personal preference of mine. It is not gospel or anything; in fact there are people that actually work better under the management style that annoys me the most.
This is the image that I get as I began to read this passage. We have a manager; well a king really, then there is an unannounced visit from a bunch of wise guys, and a whole bunch of people that should be able to provide answers. The manager is caught totally unprepared and heads are about to roll.
Wise men from the east come to Jerusalem and they ask, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews?” Just think about this for a moment, don’t think about it as dusty old history or a biblical study, but think of it as a manager making one of those unannounced visits and asking for a report. Knowing when and where a king is born is one of those things that someone should know, especially if this potential king was going to be your king. So these wise men are going around asking where’s the king? Where’s the king? And everyone in the office is saying, huh? They were totally and utterly unprepared.
The office or the kingdom is in trouble, everyone fears for their life because someone dropped the ball. Suddenly the scholars are pouring over the books trying to figure out what they missed but it is too late, they are a step behind, from that point on they are playing catch up. They should have known. They knew the prophecies; they had been looking at them studying them for years. They had people set aside to study and prepare for this coming phenomenon. Yet in all their studies they missed something right before their eyes.
Someone did see. The unexpected saw. We call them the kings, the wise men of the east. The east is a very big place. East of Jerusalem is half of the world, India, China, Japan, Russia, Jordan, Iraq, and Iran. Nearly every nation we hear about in the news today is East of Israel. Meaning that these men came from some ancient culture east of this nation. East was Assyria, Babylon, and Persia. East is the land of exile and from the east the king was seen. These wise men were priests and educated men of another culture, most likely practitioners of another religion even, yet these people saw what all the learned people of Israel failed to see.
“For we observed his star at it’s rising, and have come to pay him homage.” They were looking and observing they not only knew where to go but also had interpreted what the meaning was behind what they saw. The King is here.
The word became flesh and dwelled among us. And the word was the light of man. But mankind loves the darkness. Those of the land of exile saw the rising of the star and those that should have seen it were blind to it. The religious were so caught up in their study of words that they missed the playing out of the very Word of God.
This passage is a story about each of us. Today we celebrate the recognition of the king, the epiphany. An epiphany is a mystery revealed or a great revelation. If you ask me this is a great day! What is being revealed what mystery will we see? We are seeing a new dawn the beginning of a new day a new age. I want to challenge your thinking for a bit. The religious leaders poured hours into the study of scriptures yet they missed the most important event of history. What about us today? We have put such emphasis on scriptures, we have bible studies, bible colleges, and bible camps and yet our churches are filled with people that are biblically illiterate. Our phones have bible apps, our kindles and nooks have access to hundreds of bible translations and yet many of us miss the point. We scour the scriptures for answers to our ever changing culture and it seems as if our culture leaves us behind and we are left fighting for our vary existence.
But what if we are missing the point, what if in all our searching in scripture we are missing the story behind the words? Who saw the rising of the start? Who saw the first glimmer of the light of God? It was not those living outside the temple of the living God, but the magi of a pagan religion. What did they have that those that possessed the scriptures lacked? They were looking and willing to respond to what they observed.
Jesus came and with Him came the Kingdom of God. Throughout His ministry He cried out to all that would listen, “the Kingdom of God is here.” That is a key point; the kingdom is not there it is here. Jesus then set out to heal the sick, feed the hungry. He touched the untouchable and he listened to the stories of the people society rejected. He did all this in the open, many called him Rabbi but his degree was only an honorary degree. He was given this honor because he lived the knowledge, not because he attended a university.
The power of the word is not in the print, but the story held within. That story began with God. God loved so much that He created a world that was filled with beauty and amazement, that world is filled with all sorts of creatures and races. That story was written down and preserved through one but it was not limited to them. It was and still is those outside that often see the clearest. Today even in the deepest persecuted nation people come to God through Jesus even without knowing the proper words. Just this month Christianity today ran an article speaking about the followers of Jesus that are Muslims. Cultural Muslims just as Christian as you or I, yet express their faith differently. I know that it happens because I know people who are among these people. We have heard their stories we have seen their ministries.
This has always happened it happened in Ireland nearly 1700 years ago, it happened in Rome nearly 2000 years ago, it has happened in India, Mongolia, Africa, and Russia. Christ in spirit works in the lives of people before they even know the words to say or the story behind them. CS Lewis called it the natural Law in Mere Christianity, early Quakers called it the day of visitation of the light within. God is working all around us. The king is here.
He is where people are feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, caring for the widow and the orphans. Jesus says the things done for the least of them are done to him. That is the kingdom. It is Here and there; it is in Israel and Persia, Russia, and Iran. Our mission and our ministry is not to beat people over the head with scriptures but to pay homage to the rising start that we see in the story around us. It is there we interact and love God and love mankind. When we neglect ministry to the least we are blinding our own eyes and missing the coming of the king among us. But if we do not study, fast, pray, and worship we also miss something. Jesus says we are no longer servants but Friends because we know what he is doing. It is thought our spiritual life we connect with God and find the direction.
Those pagan priests studied and they saw. They left their homes and brought Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh to place at the feet of the child born to be king of humanity. While they did that all of Jerusalem trembled in fear. They feared because the balance of power was shifting. What the world found to be important the kingdom of God found to be empty and worthless.
The King is here, but are we looking? Are we seeing His rising star or are we caught unprepared for our day of visitation? Let us consider those things as we enter into this time of open worship, prayer, and Holy Expectancy as we commune with God in the manner of Friends.