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The Epiphany of Our Lord                                               January 3, 2016

This Weekend's Readings (click each reading to view the passage)

Isaiah 60:1-6Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14Ephesians 3:1-12;  Matthew 2:1-12

Pr. Christine's Sermon: Three Cats of Epiphany
Pr. Christine's Sermon: Three Cats of Epiphany

Children's Sermon: What Treasure Would You Bring to Jesus?
Children's Sermon: What Treasure Would You Bring to Jesus?

Piano Offertory: Once in Royal David's City

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Sermon Notes from Pastor Christine...
When I was a kid my dad made up a song about three cats...
It was sung to the tune of "We three Kings of Orient Are." It basically went like this:
            We three cats sitting on the back fence,
            Roof, and Dork, and Recompense
            Meow, meow, meow, meow...
            [there were other words, but I just don't remember them all these years later]
Anyway, it was a ridiculous song, but my brother and I loved it. My dad, who is a larger than life kind of character, always had a way of turning the traditional into the unexpected; the predictable into the surprising, and making us laugh and consider the inconsiderable.
Like...domesticated cats prowling about the Middle East looking for and singing to the baby Jesus.
It's utterly ridiculous.
And honestly has nothing to do with what's presented to us from the Bible today; there are definitely no cats in the story of baby Jesus, or reports of cats stowing away with the wise men.
But it got me thinking, what about the 'others?' You know, the other people and animals who saw the star and didn't make it to the edge of the manger. There have to be others, don't there? If this star was so bright, so startling in the sky, and so compelling as to force the wise men to travel over hill and vale; through toil and danger just to find Jesus, then other people (and animals) must have seen and followed that star of wonder too.
Why do we only have the story of the wise men showing up? I don't want to sound sarcastic, and I'm certain it will come across that way, but there is a large part of me that thinks, 'Well, good for them. I'm glad it all worked out.' The wise men went out searching and they found Jesus, right where the angel promised.
Good. For. Them.
But I'm telling you, way more people never make to the manger; never have an 'epiphany;' never know what gift to lay before Jesus, never have an angel point the way.
I think many people got lost. And I don't mean 'lost' in the "Oh, you poor wayward soul... let me bring you to church and save your soul," thereby helping them get 'found.'
No, I mean lost on their way to see the Christ child. Lost with good intentions. Lost trying their darndest. Those stories don't initially sound like the epiphany story, because they aren't remarkable, awe-filled, holy, holy night stories. The shepherds found their way, the wise men found their way... the little drummer boy found his way [Ok - that's secularization, but you get my point].
There are plenty who saw something that night (and many nights thereafter), something which seemed true, right, and full of hope which compelled them to embark on a journey just for the chance to gaze upon the face of God, but then somehow along the way darkness obscured the light of the star, or they made a wrong turn, or their stamina gave out and their hope began to wane....
And they just never made it. Never made it to the manger's edge where the sweetness and peace of God lay incarnate. I believe there are people like this. I know there are. I have been one of those wanderers who saw clearly for a time, lost sight of the star, found it again, took the longer path and tripped over some roots...
While I can and do proclaim and believe that God is in the days of sickness and sorrow, and in the dark nights of pain and deep longings, in the unanswered prayers and lost dreams...
It is inevitably in those days and nights, which can turn into laboring years, that I get lost. We get lost. Others get lost.
Where is that star exactly?
And so when I consider the 'others', I find myself thinking of those wise men and their departures... Their departure from their homeland, risking fortune and reputation and their departure from Jesus' bedside, risking their livelihood and lives.
I find myself wondering about their time away from Jesus, their time in the darkness. Sorta like John says on Christmas Day: We are people who have walked in great darkness...
Typically my faith in God helps me navigate life, but when I feel lost or on the wrong path or abandoned by God, my compass for life seems broken. And honestly, while this will sound bad [but I try to be honest with you] my reaction isn't, "Oh goody, I can't wait to see what God is doing here," but rather, "I hate you, God."
That is my reaction. I'm happy to end up at the manger, not so happy to end up on the cross.
I was a little flippant in the beginning about the wise men and the ease at which they arrived at the manger to make an important point: not all journeys bring us kneeling before manger. Many journeys find us nailed upon the cross.
I know this as a theological truth. You probably do too. But as spiritual truth - it is a hard one to live into and accept, especially at Christmas. I'll journey to see a sweet baby for sure, but have little desire to set foot towards the cross.
I wonder if any sign in the sky, or communication from God, would make me go deep into my fears and pains to discover God there, rather than turn away from any light there might be?
I think God knows we will be able to find him in the quiet of the night and the beauty of the lights, but that He will have to journey towards us in the pain of death and the loss of   hope...

Which is why, from the moment he was born, this sweet baby boy sets His face towards Jerusalem. He journeys towards the cross; towards the darkness; towards the 'others' lost in night...
Towards us...because we won't be able to take another step.
Every wise man or wise woman knows that the story of Epiphany isn't about a star, or the wise men, or even the treasures they brought. Every wise man and wise woman knows Epiphany is about the journeys and risks we take in seeking the truth, in searching for the light, in discovering God.
In the darkness of night it's easy to forget how many times God has directed our path, how many "coincidences" have transpired to bring us to this place, how many times our eyes have cleared and we could finally see the way forward, how many times the pain is replaced by an unexpected hope.
It's easy to forget, so we must remember.
Remember that gift of the manger is 'God with us' - and you never journey alone.
Remember that when your journey leads you to the cross, God is already there.
Remember that each step is a miracle of grace.
Remember that each misstep is a gift of mercy.