Sunday, January 2, 2011

Take care of the poor, and don't be a jerk!

The Christmas Cards, and Creche’s picture a full scene. Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, sheep , camels, oxen, cows, some have elephants, turtles. And something unusual. The Magi. The magician or wise men from the East. Now Matthew is the only gospel that has the Wise Men in the story. The only one? Did the other three just decide it wasn’t that important? Or was it written for a certain audience a certain purpose. It is said that Matthew was written to an audience who was familiar with the scripture of the Old Testament. It was written for the Jewish population at the time.

And this story of the Wise men is shared to show that EVEN THE GENTILES RECOGNIZE JESUS AS THE MESSIAH. These wise men, these gentiles, Who follow a Star to Jerusalem, to find a child they do not know. Of a faith they do not hold. It is proposed by some that these Wise men, are seers from Babylon, who were part of the sect that learned of the Messiah from the Prophet Daniel while Israel was in exile in Babylon

There are of course speculations, and wild stories of what the Star was, an alignment of planets, a comet, a super nova, even a flying saucer. But the basic truth is that these learned wise men from the east, interpreted the appearance of a star that a king was to be born in Judah. And they decided to travel to acknowledge this happening. So what is unusual about them being in the Manger scene for us is that they didn’t appear then. We like to think that they were there with the Shepherds on that night, but that’s not what the gospel says.

You see I think that the Star appears at the birth of Jesus, and then it goes away. That is until the Magi finally set out from Jerusalem to go to Bethlehem. “…and there ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at it’s rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was”
They offer their gifts, and then when warned in a dream they leave for their country, by another road, not returning to Herod.

What happened to the Magi, afterwards?

If these magi, returned after paying homage to Jesus, it seems that they did nothing to truly spread, the word that the messiah was born. Perhaps even though they arrived to pay homage to a new king of Israel, they didn’t truly understand what Messiah means? Their interpretation was that this was simply another king.
In his book “Lamb: the gospel according to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal” Author Christopher Moore, reintroduces the magi who visited Bethlehem upon Jesus’ birth. Making use of what happened to Jesuus’ during his teenage years, and his proposed, travels in the East, Moore has Jesus and Biff visit a monastery in modern day Afghanistan to learn the secrets of the Tao from Balthezar, continue to China where they learn the ways of the Buddha from Gaspar and finally journey to India to learn Hindu mysticism from Melchoir. Along the way, Jesus learns these Eastern philosophies he will bring back to his homeland to use in his ministry. He will also have his first cup of coffee, and his first taste of bacon!

Over the course of the novel, Moore reveals the minor secrets of Jesus’ ministry (how and why he walked on water) as well as the major ones (what the H. stands for in Jesus H. Christ (it stands for Hallowed. You know.. “hallowed be your name”)
It is hilarious, fiction but it does offer a bit more about the Magi, and what their purpose could have been in visiting Jesus.

I like to think that the Magi had some other contribution to the story something to have given here, other than to get Herod all worked up, to slaughter the innocents.

That to me is most disturbing is that this new king who was born, and announced to the authorities, by the magi, brought FEAR.

Fear to Herod, and according to Matthew, all of Jerusalem with him.

Why fear? What about a toddler is so fearful?

Loss of power. Loss of the Status Quo. Herod and the rest of the power authority in Jerusalem, must have known what the arrival of the Messiah must mean. Change. Change is coming to them and to the world they knew.

That seems to be the theme of Jesus’ life here. Jesus overturns authority, and teaches a new way. No longer are our lives dictated by laws and patronage from those in power. But we realize that we gain even great gifts from God, by doing those things that are not normal for the time. Heck it is not really normal for our time. The least shall be first. Love your neighbor as yourself, take care of the poor.

This is not what we are told to do in our lives, by this secular world.
Looking out for number one, a definite sense of egoism is among us. We measure our lives in what we have won for ourselves.
Certainly in our current elections mean-spiritedness rules the tv airwaves.
It’s like the ancient world is back among us. Charity is short. Favors and patronage is what seems to rule the day. Especially when we read about Political deals being wrought in order to secure continued unemployment benefits, or continued middle class tax cuts. It’s like the Herod’s are back. You do me a favor and I’ll do one for you. No one seems to be looking out for the common good. We need to remember the lessons that the birth of Christ teaches us. That Christ comes into the world to change the world. The world and all of creation are transformed.
How we normally go about things is not the way God’s wants us to be.
We need to be nicer to each other. To be nicer to those around us. Start seeing the poor among us. There are more than you realize, in this downward economy.

We are not to work for rewards here, on earth, to do those things that bring us recognition and fame. We are only to do those things that glorify god. How are we to know what that is?

It has been summed up by many people, and it comes down to this. Take care of the poor and don’t be a jerk.

It is time to use our gifts to love, heal, bless, evangelize, and share his words and his reality with new people each week. Go. Feed the hungry and comfort the hurting. Where is your heart drawn to help others, renew love, and make Jesus real to people? Is your heart drawn to making miracles happen, blessing others, teaching, supporting your church and its people? What gifts do you have to offer? What gifts do you want for the journey of sharing your witness and Christ’s love, words, and reality? Pray for those gifts. It is time. This new year begins a time of a greater commitment to Jesus and the journey of faith. It will take humility. Look to Mary. It will take courage. Look to Joseph. It will take faith and love. Look to Jesus.

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