Today's Lectionary Text
In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “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.” When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:
‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.” When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.
Across the street from our home in Kansas City is a church and ½ block of green space that includes a play area for their vibrant preschool and kindergarten program. When I take time to stop and observe, it’s a blessing to watch the children at play.
Well, this last week I saw a wonderful event unfold. Three at a time the children had bright colored robes and golden crowns placed on them and they were pointed toward the gazebo – which was obviously named as Bethlehem where the baby Jesus could be found. What happened next “will preach.” I noticed as each group of children took their turns being the “Magi” they didn’t walk to the gazebo – they ran. I could just sense their excitement as their young bodies ran, even trying to outrun each other, to the baby Jesus. I could sense their joy, and the moment brought me joy as I watched through our kitchen window. After all, the Matthew 2 story states when they magi arrived at Bethlehem they were “overwhelmed with joy.” In fact the Greek uses five words in this verse literally stating the magi “rejoiced with great joy exceedingly.”
So, here’s how what I saw with the children “will preach.” What would happen if we adults could recover our childlike spirit and have “great joy exceedingly” in our faith that’s centered on and in Jesus? What would an “excited” faith look like and do and say? What if we did more than walk but would actually run to worship with a joy that includes great expectations in encountering the spirit of Jesus (even in a gazebo)? And what would a congregational culture that moved beyond fear and control to overwhelming joy and excitement feel like?
As we move into 2022, we have choices about how we live and witness to our faith. Will it be another year of fear, division and distrust that wears us down? Or can it be a new year where our faith is energized, our discipleship is motivated and our spirituality is filled with excitement and joy as we express our Christ based faith. The Message paraphrase states that when they arrived at Bethlehem the Magi “could hardly contain themselves.” We know we have that ability to “hardly contain ourselves” at sporting events and dear family gatherings. How about we do that with our faith and when we gather as congregations. After all the spirit of Christ may be waiting for us to run and meet this year.
And by the way – after the children ran to the gazebo they also ran back to their home base where they started. “That will preach.”
Kansas City, MO
Prayer for Reflection
O Spirit of God, we pray with openness to you. May you help us in this coming year to be more childlike so that we may experience the joy, the freedom, and the slipping away of our adult controls and inhibitions. Then may we receive more energy in our spirit. And may we live our faith as runners, filled with excitement.
Let it be so. Amen.
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