Thursday, January 2, 2014

Sermon for Jan 5, 2014; Matthew 2:1-12

Jan 5, 2014
Matthew 2:1-12
“Flowering Gifts”
Rev. George N. Miller

(Sermon starts with a reading of the Golden Book Big Bird Brings Spring to Sesame Street while the pages are displayed on the overhead screens)

Today is Epiphany Sunday in which we celebrate the manifestation of Christ to the gentile world via the arrival of Magi bearing gifts.

This means the 12 days of Christmas has neared its end. The time for receiving and giving gifts is over. But before we officially say goodbye to Christmas, we have this one last story to share.

You may be asking “What does Big Bird have to do with the Magi?” Trust me: it does.

As we know, each of the Gospel writers has their own view of Jesus and their own agenda to share. Matthew highly valued the role of church, specifically the church’s acts of service.

For Matthew everything boils down to the care of others as the heart of God’s will for us. For him, the church is not a place that does outreach every now and then, the church is outreach.

Matthew’s Gospel is not so much concerned about grace or righteousness; it’s more interested in what people do. The author doesn’t want to hear you say you love Jesus: he wants to see your love for Jesus through your actions.

Love of neighbor is the litmus test for our love of God. We hear this in chapter 25 when Jesus teaches that whenever we give someone clothes or food, whenever we visit someone or care for a person who’s ill, we are actually caring for Christ.

Or in the case of Big Bird, when you give a flower to someone, you are giving a flower to Christ.

Matthew sees it as that simple.

So it’s fitting that of all the gospels, Matthew is the only one to tell us the story of the Magi who bring gifts to the Christ child.

They are also the first people to have a speaking part in the Gospel: “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews... we have come to pay him homage.”

A perfect summation of Matthew’s gospel: where is Christ so we can give him our gifts? The rest of the book is devoted to showing us how.

On Christmas Eve we were encouraged to symbolically take down the ornaments in our lives that are weighing us down. Last Sunday we were reminded that we’re not the candle, but the mirror that reflects the candle’s light.

Today we are asked: how can we symbolically share our flowers with Christ?

We all have our own bouquet of flowers, our own assortment of talents and gifts that come in an assortment of sizes, shapes and smells.

For some, the flowers they share come through the means of finances and giving to causes they care about.

For others their flowers are acts of advocacy; petals that come in the forms of letters to the editor, local politicians, and participation in public demonstrations.

Other people’s flowers may be their presence: their ability to be with those in need, to visit, to talk with, pray for, and perhaps most importantly, to listen.

Other’s have flowers they offer through crocheted hats and prayer blankets. Other’s offer flowers that contain the sweet scent of home cooked meals and donated items to the Shepherd’s Pantry.

Others offer flowers of the fixing, lifting, mending and moving kind, while others do their best work behind a desk, at a computer or on the phone.

Just as there are many people in our congregation, there are many flowers that we have, flowers waiting to be shared with the community around.

Matthew’s Gospel calls the church to be church by serving others, and it is not always easy.

It can be downright hard.

It requires time, the ability to go outside oneself and be vulnerable, the ability to be like Big Bird and freely give away what you hold dear and desire for yourself.

And yet… sometimes it is in the sharing of our flowers that we get to actually appreciate their beauty.

During these 12 Days of Christmas we have been asked to let go of that which holds us back. We have been reminded that we are not the light, but reflections of the light.

Now, we can start the New Year just like the Magi, asking “Where will Jesus be?”

Instead of waiting for people to come to us bearing gifts, we can go out into the world sharing ours. We can step outside of our nest and share our roses, our carnations and purple iris.

In Christ, we get to be our own kind of Big Bird who can bring spring to others.

And when we do, can look up and down the street and see that we have helped to bring beauty, color and light to this little part of the world.

Thanks be to God who helps us remove the unneeded ornaments from our lives, for Christ who is the Living Candle and for the Holy Spirit who leads us to those we can share our flowers with.

Amen and amen.

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