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Another Way!


Passage: Matthew 2:1-12, Isaiah 60:1-13

Speaker: Rev. Dr. Stephen Graham

We’ve come to the day when those mysterious travelers from the East arrive to find Mary and Joseph and the baby. These who “Did the guiding star behold” are thought by tradition to be three in number and are named in an apocryphal writing, Melchior, Caspar, and Balthazar. Who can think of the birth of Jesus without thinking of that star and those who followed it? One star out of billions of stars, but it was enough to speak to them of his birth.

Faith is a decision to follow the epiphanies that are revealed to us. It is the courage to journey. It is a decision to trust and the action which follows, for how much do you truly believe in something if it doesn’t change your direction in some way? Frederick Buechner characterizes faith as “that area of human experience where in one way or another one embraces mystery as a summons to pilgrimage.”

They go on pilgrimage to see this child born to be king. They are included in the story! That is the good news! The gospel is for all people, everywhere on this planet. Even those who come by different routes than we have taken. God gives signs of new birth.

But the birth of Jesus had set Herod on edge, and the Magi are warned in a dream. Having seen now for themselves, they are to go back by a different way. “They departed to their own country by another way.” Because a voice spoke deep within them, as deep as the star had been within the sky, they returned “by another way.” Ernest t. Campbell put it like this, “The road back was not all that was different. The travelers were different, too! The scenery without was not the same. But neither, and much more importantly, was the scenery within.”

As with gladness these have come, and now they will go. The star that captured their attention was impressive; impressive enough to send them on a journey. Now they have seen, and what the star has led them to see is more impressive still. They have been to Christmas and can never be the same again.

Christmas was different for them. They knew well the stars in the sky and the ways of the world. It wasn’t simply the old, old story for them. The journey they had taken offered them a new, new story.

The old story said, “You get what you want by power and might.” When Herod would discover that he had been fooled by the wise men, he was furiously angry. He issued orders, and killed all the male children of two years and under in Bethlehem and the surrounding district (Matthew 2:16). When power issued orders of death, the wise men found a lowly baby and discerned a new story unfolding.

The old story taught that success is found in riches, in the pursuit of money. But the new story is about this one who had no place to lay his head. When they saw the little child with his mother Mary, they fell on their knees and worshiped the infant lowly.

The old story encouraged the pursuit of the spot light; of recognition and fame. But the wise men had found the Savior born in an obscure village. It is this new story that included even them.

The old story was convinced that happiness was found in pleasure. The new story leads us to find happiness through servanthood.

The old story argued that competency came through knowledge. The new story establishes that competency comes through the heart. As John would say, “There is grace in our lives because of his grace. Love and truth came through Jesus Christ.” (John 1:16-18).

The wise men had seen his star in the east. Grace had been extended to them. They now “depart to their own country by another way.”

Very much the same as now. The sights and sounds of this Christmas season are showing us something more than the same old, same old. The hope for the new year is discovered when we behold the light of a guiding star that leads us on a journey; a journey that reveals a new story is unfolding. The new story of grace and truth sends us by another way.

We have all had similar experiences on a smaller scale.

An avowed racist hears Martin Luther King’s Washington speech, “I Have a Dream,” and is never the same again.

A teenager from a posh comfortable suburb, cuts his finger in a soup kitchen, but is never the same again.

An affluent executive sees the conditions of ghetto children without decent housing and is never the same again.

A Nazi guard lingers near the cell of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and hears him in his final hours praying for his enemies. And is never the same again.

And when we read even the briefest article about those whose lives are being taken and those whose lives are in peril in on this good earth, even now, we are never the same again.

From all such experiences we go back another way. For having been there we are forever different. 

What have you seen?

“Rise! Stand up! Shine! For your light has come! Your new day is dawning. The glory of the Lord shines brightly on you. The earth and its people are covered with darkness, but the glory of the Lord is shining upon you. Nations and kings will come to the light of your dawning day!” (Isaiah 60:1-3)

See what has come. A new, new story is still being told. A theologian is right to show us, “To take the incarnation seriously implies not that God once dipped his finger into history but that God became totally immersed in it, made it home, took personal residence, found an everlasting abode.”

We may be overwhelmed with the ways of this world, but we must not forget: we are a God-loved people living in a God-loved world. God does not stand “over against” us. God is for us. God speaks a “yes” to our world, to our lives, encouraging us to become all that the new, new story invites and intends for us to be. Once we have knelt in Bethlehem, we can never be the same again, for now we know the secret worth of all people including ourselves. The brutal ways of this world lose their grip upon us. There is another way to be, another way to become.

We tell old war stories of our gains through might. “Might has rolled up some impressive achievements over the years.” (Campbell). But we know now of a different way. “It is not by might nor by power but by my spirit, saith the Lord.” (Zechariah 4:6). And the new story tells us that God’s spirit is the spirit of love! Love is not just one of many aspects of God. Love is of the very essence of God.

The American Indians were wise in their telling of the Twenty-third Psalm. Instead of saying, “He makes me to lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside the still waters,” they tell it like this, “God throws me a rope, and the name of the rope is love, and God draws me to where the grass is green and the waters not dangerous, and I eat and lie down satisfied.”

We who have knelt at Bethlehem know that the abiding, invincible power of life is the power of love.

What difference will this love make in our lives?

“And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.” If you’ve been there, you can never be the same again. For you have been discovered by the way of love. That secret will send you a different way and will burn in your soul until you bless God for it and shape your life around it!

We pray together:

Lord, let us be open and sensitive to the gentle expressions of your love in this harsh world. Help us to see the Christ as another way, a way of truth and of life. Amen.