Epiphany Sunday, A, 1/2/05

“They Fell Down and Worshiped Him”
Matthew 2: 1-12

atthew's Gospel calls the Wise Men wise because they were wise: They chose to travel the thousand mile caravan around the Fertile Crescent following the edge of the Sahara Desert, from their home in what is today Iraq, to Jerusalem where they met with Herod the Great, whom the Roman occupying forces had given the title, “King of the Jews.”

However, it was not King Herod that they sought; they knew that this new king was much more than a powerful human ruler. Back home the “Three Kings” were rulers in their own little lands. But they longed for much more. They were seeking an epiphany in their souls; an illuminating discovery, a new grasp of the essential nature of the promised one that would save them from their sin and sense of alienation from God.

There is a ruins of an ancient house of worship in Iran which archaeologists say was originally Zoroastrian, and was modified to be Christian. Zoroaster was a legendary prefigure of the Christ who was said to have promised salvation, but they were seeking more than a legend. Old stories say that one, or more, of the Wise Men became true believers when they first “ fell down and worshiped him. ” (v. 11) Our hope is that all three kings not only found the Christ Child, but also found a Savior.

T.S. Eliot, one of our great poets from the last century expressed hope for the wise men in his poem, “The Journey of the Magi.” Eliot describes what must have been a hard journey, and that they did not know really what to expect. “Were we led all that way for Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly, we have evidence and no doubt...” Then Eliot describes their spiritual epiphany, “We returned to our places, these Kingdoms, but no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation, with alien people clutching their gods…”

Eliot is speaking autobiographically, for he also found a spiritual epiphany in mid adulthood when he forsook the skepticism of his youth, and was baptized as a member of the Church of England, accepting the orthodox vows which confess Christ as Savior. Eliot's father had been a graduate of Harvard Divinity School , and a Unitarian minister, who did not believe in the divinity of Jesus Christ, or that persons could find salvation through Him. Yet, T.S. Eliot longed for more; much like the Magi.

Might we remind ourselves that the only hope for the salvation of the precious people in the world is Jesus! Our hope in Him is not only spiritual and other worldly, but it is the present and real hope of unifying the world brotherhood of persons currently divided by race and geography. Ours is also a hope that all humanity might soon share in the great strides made in, technology, science, medicine and education. The arrival of the Wise Men at Bethlehem signals the hope that the whole world might one day know the Good News of Salvation that the Messiah came to proclaim. Indeed, it is God's hope that everybody everywhere will one day fall down and worship Him.

The whole world has been shaken this week by the deaths of over 150,000 precious souls in Southern Asia . The Japanese word “Tsunami” (with a silent “T”) was new to most of us. One of the few good things that hopefully will result from the horrendous natural disaster might be the unifying of people everywhere as we are graphically faced with the piles of corpses and the destruction that will possibly never be repaired. Perhaps there is a shiver, an opening for sharing of the Good News of this Epiphany Sunday, which can bring new hope to millions of impoverished people living in spiritual darkness.

Georgia had a similar tragedy when a path of destruction was torched from Atlanta to Savannah at the end of The Civil War. Thousands of innocent adults and children were massacred in the wake of fire. Yet, Atlanta , and the South rose up out of the ashes experiencing a great epiphany of renewed hope in Christ. With God's help we survived.

One hundred years later, in the late 1960's other southern cities were being set on fire due to the turmoil and hatred associated with racial desegregation that had to occur. It was forty years ago when Mayor Ivan Allen's words brought calm as he said, " Atlanta is a city too busy to hate!" As many of us remember, not everyone in Atlanta agreed, but the idea caught fire. Instead of our buildings catching fire, the metropolitan region was caught up in a hopeful and positive vision. Soon, world wide companies heard about our spirit of unity amid diversity, and they began to move their headquarters and employees here. Today, we are over four-million strong and have made enormous strides toward the Christian ideals of welcoming the stranger, loving our neighbors, and the recognition that every human soul represents a person for whom Christ came to save.

The Wise Men, Magi, were of a hated foreign, racial group. These wise men were of Persian descent and had once held the Hebrews in slavery. Their becoming players in the drama of the Nativity was a moving representation of the hope of eventual mutual respect among the array of folks living on this globe.

And, the Wise Men were wise. They followed the Star and experienced a spiritual epiphany in their hearts. They went back home as evangelists, sharing the story of the Savior that they fell down and worshiped in the little town of Bethlehem , and so can we. Let us all work and pray for the day when the whole world will bow down and worship Him as Lord of all!

a sermon synopsis by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor
Epiphany Sunday, A, 1/2/05