Rev. George Miller
January 3, 2016
We just heard one of the most beautifully poetic writings in history. An overture that exalts the glory of God and the Good News of Jesus Christ.
The author refers to Christ as the Word, reminding us that it only took a word from God to bring forth the world; a reminder that words have power to transform and to illuminate our lives.
Words, in which so much can rest upon. Words like justice, like humility.
What is kindness? What does it look like? How can kindness be embodied?
Sometimes the best way to answer a question is to tell a story.
As most of you know, my Momma was in town this week. On Wednesday I took her to the Garden Café for lunch.
As we walked in, Lolly the owner waved hello. Her husband greeted me with a handshake. Suzanne from the theater was sitting at a table, so I went over to say hi. I went back to my table to sit down…
…and there’s an envelope with my name on it, perched on the table. Inside is a gift certificate to the Café.
Someone, somehow, someway, knew I was going there with my Momma, and in a generous act of kindness, they somehow, someway made sure our lunch was paid.
A random act of kindness that, like a candle, joyfully shed light upon the rest of my day.
A reminder that it is still the Christmas Season.
So far we’ve experienced the birth of Jesus, heard the angels who appeared to shepherds in a field, and we’ve seen the miracle of the manger.
Although stores may have their Christmas items on markdown, if you’re like me, your tree is still up, your horizontal, sparkly cards with cardinals are still on display, and your waistline is still expanding from all the delicious left-over holiday foods.
Because before Christmas season can come to its official end, we have Epiphany to celebrate- the time when a group of Gentiles, bearing gifts, journeyed to see the baby Jesus.
As Matthew tells us, Kind Herod is visited by wise men who come wondering where is the one born King of the Jews. They’ve come to exalt the child.
They are sent to Bethlehem, following the light of a star, arriving where the light leads them.
Overwhelmed with joy, they kneel down before mother and son and open their treasure chests, featuring gold, frankincense and myrrh.
Then, they leave, going a new way back to life, and back to reality.
This story becomes the basis of why we give gifts to one another and what the 12 days of Christmas are about.
For centuries folk have wondered what the meaning behind these gifts are. Theories abound as to why these generous gentiles would bestow upon Mary and her child a treasure trove of myrrh, frankincense and gold.
But no one really, really knows.
For the past few days I’ve been thinking. Remember the sermon 2 weeks ago on Micah?
Remember the ways in which God invited the people to recall all God had done?
Remember how the people asked what they could give God as a form of thanks?
Remember what God’s response was?
God did not want thousands of rams or barrels of oil or bottles of cologne.
All God wanted was for the people to do justice, to love kindness, and for them to humbly walk with the Lord.
Those were 3 things God wanted.
What did the magi bring Jesus? 3 gifts.
What if, for us, this year, those 3 gifts the magi gave Jesus were symbolic of the 3 gifts God asked the people for in Micah?
What if gold can symbolize justice, because after all, it often takes gold to make sure justice takes place?
Frankincense is sweet smelling, so what if that can represent kindness?
Myrrh has been used to anoint and purify, so what if myrrh represents walking with the Lord?
I don’t know about you, but I think that for now we got the justice part down pat. The Shepherd’s Pantry has become a way to feed the hungry and to ensure that children, widows and the elderly are being cared for.
Other churches may feel the need to write their senators, lead protests and march down a street, but for now it seems like we’re doing our part in our little segment of the world by taking care of food related issues.
If that’s the case than our gold, our generous offerings of money, can be seen as accounted for. (And besides, how many here are tired of always being asked for donations?)
Frankincense is a resin that comes from a tree. When rubbed between your fingers, it smells so, so sweet; a scent that lingers on. With its pretty yellow tones, frankincense has a way of capturing light.
Can frankincense be tied to kindness in any way? How acts of kindness can linger with you; how kindness can be oh so sweet.
On Amazon.com a woman named Kim makes her own candles, each named after a virtue. Her candle called Kindness is made with frankincense.
Intrigued, I contacted Kim and asked her why, and she sent a beautiful response, which I’d like to read.
Kim said “…I wanted to make something special that had meaning. I chose virtues that inspire me. Virtues that I would want to live by and experience in others.
“I believe that kindness is the essence of humankind. It is the beginning of our relations with one another.
“It embodies both compassion and respect…
“...Frankincense for me is the traditional scent of the church…Of all places to experience kindness and compassion, it should be within the church.”
Kim continued, “We are all human…and need to be reminded that we are all the same.
“My kindness candle with frankincense is a small reminder to not judge our brothers and sisters.
“A reminder to lend a hand, to listen, to accept, and to be gentle.”
In the beginning of the message I asked “What is it? What does it look like? How do we embody it?”
I don’t know about you, but Kim just answered it in the best way possible.
Kindness is the beginning of relationships; it is the essence of humankind.
It means to lend a hand, to listen, to accept, to be gentle, and to not be so quick to judge.
I think the Gospel writer of John would appreciate Kim’s comments.
He spoke of Jesus being the light who shines in the darkness. The Word that shined so brightly people could see his glory.
I think it’s fair to say that in 2015 we have accomplished a lot in terms of the justice.
Let’s make 2016 a year in which the sweet, sweet smell of kindness perfumes the air like frankincense, and lingers on.
Let us find ways this year to be kind to one another, to be kind to ourselves, to be kind to our community, to be kind to our little part of the kingdom.
Jesus is Lord; he is light; and he is love.
Like the gifts that were brought by the magi, let justice, humility and kindness prevail and continue the reason for the season.
For where there is kindness, there will certainly be Christ, and the spirit of Christmas.
Amen and amen.