Scripture of the Day   January 3, 2021

Isaiah 60:1-2

Arise! Shine! Your light has come;
    the Lord’s glory has shone upon you.

Though darkness covers the earth
    and gloom the nations,
    the Lord will shine upon you;
    God’s glory will appear over you.

Matthew 2:1-12

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in the territory of Judea during the rule of King Herod, magi came from the east to Jerusalem. 2 They asked, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We’ve seen his star in the east, and we’ve come to honor him.”
3 When King Herod heard this, he was troubled, and everyone in Jerusalem was troubled with him. 4 He gathered all the chief priests and the legal experts and asked them where the Christ was to be born. 5 They said, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for this is what the prophet wrote:

You, Bethlehem, land of Judah,
        by no means are you least among the rulers of Judah,
            because from you will come one who governs,
            who will shepherd my people Israel.”[a]
7 Then Herod secretly called for the magi and found out from them the time when the star had first appeared. 8 He sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search carefully for the child. When you’ve found him, report to me so that I too may go and honor him.” 9 When they heard the king, they went; and look, the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stood over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were filled with joy. 11 They entered the house and saw the child with Mary his mother. Falling to their knees, they honored him. Then they opened their treasure chests and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12 Because they were warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they went back to their own country by another route.

Reflection/Sermon:

I.      I was in Goodwill the other day, just last week, with Annie and her friend Kaitlin.  Did you realize going to Goodwill is cool now?  It’s called “thrifting.”  You used to go in there and find people struggling to make ends meet — but now it’s become kind of upscale.  It was so crowded in there — all the parking spaces were taken!

II.     Anyway — Annie and Kaitlin like to go there every few weeks and often I’m the one driving — so I’m shopping too — I look at the dvd’s and the books usually.  Because you never know when God’s going to be trying to talk to you, through a person, an experience — often God talks to us through books.

I found one called “the pocket Thomas Merton.”  It looked new, no creases, pages still crisp.  I took it home and just yesterday morning opened it and read a little.  The epigraph of the book is something Merton wrote in his 1962 book: New Seeds of Contemplation.  Merton said:  “The purpose of a book of meditations is to teach you how to think and not to do your thinking for you.  If you pick up such a book and simply read it through, you are wasting your time.  As soon as any thought stimulates your mind or your heart you can put the book down because YOUR MEDITATION HAS BEGUN.”

I read that yesterday — didn’t even get to the table of contents — didn’t finish the epigraph.  I was already in meditation mode.  Sometimes just a word, or a few words will spark a fire in our thinking — like God talking to us, a burning in our minds like the bush on fire that met Moses at Mt. Horeb.   This probably happens to us every day — do we realize we’re meditating and God is trying to reach us?

III.    We just read a passage loaded with — messages — Jesus’ birth, King Herod’s interest — magi from the east  — a star., Mary holding Jesus, gifts of gold and incense.  Is there anything here to spark a meditation?  Then the magi are warned in a dream to avoid Herod and so  “they went back to their own country by another route.”  That’s it.  I put the book down…my meditation begins.  It flows into a song:

Come down off your throne and leave your body alone
Somebody must change
You are the reason I've been waiting so long
Somebody holds the key
But I'm near the end and I just ain't got the time
And I'm wasted and I can't find my way home
Come down on your own and leave your body alone
Somebody must change
You are the reason I've been waiting all these years
Somebody holds the key
But I'm near the end and I just ain't got the time
And I'm wasted and I can't find my way home
I can't find my way home
And I ain't done nothing wrong
But I can't find my way home

IV.     Look — WE HAVE FOLLOWED A STAR — to Goodwill on Dixwell Avenue.  It led us to Thomas Merton’s book, and to an epigraph about teaching us to think on our own.   It taught us how we meditate — how God speaking to us.  The star guided us to SONG ABOUT HOME, AND FINDING A KEY, AND CHANGING —  A MESSAGE ABOUT BLIND FAITH. There’s the key to unlock our reading — which is ABOUT FOLLOWING A STAR.
        The magi did not find Christ using their own guidance systems — a star guided them.  AND WE ARE ALSO GUIDED.  Sometimes the star is a book that jumps out at us at Goodwill.  Maybe the star from the east is our daughter saying, “Dad, would you take me and Kaitlin to Goodwill” and I say no — but change my mind.  Like the song says….“Somebody must change….”  Maybe it’s a song about being lost — and then found — because “someone holds the key.”
        But whatever particular it is — THERE IS A STAR THAT GUIDES US, JUST AS ITS LIGHT GUIDED THE MAGI THOUSANDS OF YEARS AGO IN BETHLEHEM OF JUDEA.  We call it the holy spirit or Jesus Christ or grace.  But we are guided as surely as the magi were guided to Jesus Christ. 
        And when we’re feeling lost and can’t find our way home — that’s ok, because God will show us the way. Through a book, or a word from someone, or a thought that seems to come out of nowhere.  Like the magi, we are guided by star in the east. 
        And we can be assusred, says another song — that Grace will lead us safely home.