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Faith United Methodist Church

January 8, 2017

Epiphany Sunday

Rev. Kristabeth Atwood

Scripture:  Matthew 2:1-12, Isaiah 60:1-6

Prayer of Illumination:

May we, like the Magi, have a star to guide us on our journey to find the one who will truly set us free. May we draw closer to you, that the good news of the birth of light and love will transform our lives. Amen.

Sermon:  Looking For Our Star      

Any Star Wars fans here? I’m sure I saw the original movies when I was a child. In fact, I remember being in the theater, covering my eyes, as Luke pulled the mask off Darth Vader’s head. I was only eight or nine at the time and that qualified as pretty scary. Apart from that, though, I really didn’t know much about the whole Star Wars thing.

That was until this holiday. Ben and Gary wanted to see Rogue 1, so I decided to tag along. And, I have to admit, it was a pretty darn good story. That, and Carrie Fisher’s untimely death, got me curious about the Star Wars phenomenon. Over the next several days we watched the original Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens. Five Star Wars movies in less than a week left me contemplating good verses evil, the power of the Force and the hope found in giving one’s life for something greater than oneself. It’s not surprising that books and articles have been written about the theological themes in Star Wars.

But we’re not here for movie reviews today. We are here to consider the story of another star….not Star Wars, but the star that that led the Magi ~ the Wise Men ~ to Jesus. Entering into Jerusalem, at the tail end of their long journey, the Magi questioned, “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.”   If you think about it, the story of the Magi and their star would make a good movie……

The story begins with a star shining in the sky that no one can explain. This star grabs the attention of some Eastern astrologers, scientists ~ known as Magi ~ who can’t leave well enough alone. They travel a great distance, following the star, only to find themselves in the foreign city of Jerusalem. The plot thickens when they meet Herod, the King, who at first seems very helpful but is harboring ulterior motives.

Things get more complicated when they finally reach their destination ~ Bethlehem. The star stops and, “…they [are] overwhelmed with joy.” What they find, though, is not a King in the traditional sense, but a baby. This might be the plot twist in the story. Upon seeing the little boy, they recognize him for who he really is and give him gifts fit for royalty. Gold. Frankincense. Myrrh. The plot takes one more turn when, before leaving, the Magi are warned in a dream that Herod isn’t such a good guy after all, and they head home by a different route.

Now, we hear that story and we nod our heads and smile because it is part of the Christmas story we have heard forever. But just think of how strange it must have been at the time. Almost as surprising as the Alliance Fleet taking out the Death Star. Mary and Joseph, with their little boy toddling around, suddenly find themselves entertaining camel riding travelers who wear strange clothes and bear strange gifts.

But that’s the point, isn’t it? That’s the point. The Magi weren’t expected because Jesus doesn’t come to meet our expectations. The Magi were just the first in a long line of those unexpectedly touched by the light of Christ. It seems to me that the Magi have something to teach us. How easy would it have been for them to say, “What a pretty star,” and then go on with their business? They gave significant time ~ years perhaps. They stepped outside of their regular lives. And they risked their very safety traveling through foreign lands all because they sensed something amazing was happening ~ something had changed in the world ~ and they wanted to be part of it.   That takes guts.

This Epiphany Season ~ over the next eight weeks ~ we will be considering the question, “Who Are You?” This is a question we spend our whole lives answering, and one we often reconsider at the beginning of a New Year. What is my mission in life? How can I be a better person? Am I truly living my passion? In Star Wars Luke spent the original three movies trying to answer that question. The Magi followed the star that God set before him and were overwhelmed with joy. Perhaps if we follow our star we will move toward our fullest and best life, discover who we are truly called to be and, like the Magi, experience great joy.

Think, for a moment, about what brought you here? What star did God put in your path that brought you here to worship this morning? Maybe you’ve been worshiping here for years, so it was a well know path that you followed. Maybe you are new to this community and took a risk by following your star? And where will your star lead you when you leave this place?

The prophet Isaiah tells us, “Arise, shine, for your light has come…” Your light has come. Over these next weeks how might you follow your light, your star, to find the joy? To become the version of yourself that God calls you to be? To find out who, and whose, you are?

Gary reminds me that I still haven’t seen the three prequels, so I just might have another Star Wars themed sermon in me. You’ve been warned! What I do know for sure, though, is that the Magi weren’t just actors in a movie; they were participants in every sense of the word. And we are not simply viewers of these events either. We are called to take part. As one preacher put it, “…for those who have seen the star, it will not easily fade away.” Look for it. Where is God’s light beckoning you? Follow Your Star.