Christmas Day

December 30, 2017


Grace and Peace to you from God our Creator and Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ. Amen

The story this morning sounds so idyllic and lovely doesn’t it? We have this Sunday School image of the three wise men traveling under a dark, but starlit sky, following that glorious twinkling off in the distance. Or maybe, we picture the kids from the traditional Christmas pagent, dressed up as the three wise men, with crowns on their heads and carrying the gifts of gold, frankincense, and myhrr. I hate to tell you this, but many of the stories of the three wise men, are ones we’ve made up and have come from legends or other ideas of who they were, but the truth is, we have no idea how many wisemen there were. Not only that, but they actually arrived about a year or two after baby Jesus was born, so Jesus was a toddler, probably in his terrible 2’s, running around by this point. And they were not really wise men, as we might understand wisdom to be. These wisemen or Magi were pretty much equivalent to our modern day, astronomers, fortune-tellers, tarot card readers. Add the letter “c” to the end of Magi and you get Magic. You see, they were star-gazers and were certainly not believers in God. But, they did know their stars and even Old Testament scriptures and prophecies, enough to recognize that this star was something different. Something compelled them to follow that star.


God chose a very interesting group of people to work through; people whose professions of magic and star gazing actually somehow managed to get them to find the baby, the King, the Messiah. God met these men where they were, in their jobs and daily life, however different and non-conforming to society they were and used them to tell the Jesus story.


But, my guess is, on the way to the baby, which took years, the scene was VERY different. And my guess is, there was a lot of conflict, doubt, wondering, wandering, brokenness, questioning, and drive to find what they were looking for in that star. I’m sure they fought about which way to go and out of exhaustion probably yelled at each other a lot. Stars come out at night, right? So, they have to travel when they are supposed to be sleeping. I don’t know about you, but without sleep, I’m crabby, just ask my kids. For the wise men, they probably felt like parents of a newborn, who are up all hours and the nights last forever. I’m sure as they traveled and stopped to make meals on the go, the wisemen got sand in their food, since they were traveling across deserts, and that probably made things taste really bad and gritty. The camels needed tending to and someone always has to go to the bathroom. It was probably like trying to find a bathroom in Oslo when your kids suddenly have to go. You can never find one, can you?! It is not easy and interrupts the destination we are seeking. Things somehow never seem to go as planned, but regardless, we move forward, don’t we?


The wise men kept going and since they didn’t have a map, they had to rely on their recollection of history and Old Testament prophecies, which naturally told them a king would be in the city of Jerusalem. The star was close to Jerusalem, the Holy City, so that’s where they went. They were off by nine miles, because you see Jesus was really in Bethlehem, just south of Jerusalem. But, it’s not too bad, I don’t think for coming a long way and following a star.


It was a long process, finding the Messiah, so when they arrived, they were filled with joy. Out of that joy, they offered the toddler gifts from their treasure chests, but these were things they used in their magic; gold, frankincense and myrrh. Now, these are not things that you would normally give a baby or a toddler. All of these items in a deep sense, symbolically represent the story of Jesus. First, there was gold. Gold was a sign of honor and is precious metal that lasts forever. You would naturally give a King the gift of gold. Secondly, frankincense was a type of extract that was often used in religious ceremonies to mark the beginning of a spiritual journey. At the time, Jesus was in the beginning of his. Thirdly, myrrh was also an extract and oil that was and is still used for embalming a body after death. We know that this is significant because of what was to come for Jesus in his death on the cross. They gave these gifts out of joy and something happened within them when they encountered the Christ Child. They had an experience that shaped and changed them forever. They came to the King, but more importantly, the reality of who God was, became very evident.


Our Gospel lesson also says they returned home by a different way. I guess we could take that literally and figuratively. They returned home, as different men, transformed, touched, and changed. They weren’t the same people after this lengthy journey. God met them in their ordinary way of life, gave them a star to follow, and because of this travel experience, and transforming arrival, they couldn’t go back to life in the same way, ever again. They had seen the Messiah and the whole world would be changed and shaped because of it.


My favorite part about this story is that God always works in the places and through the people we least expect, using no one particularly fancy or extraordinary. The wise men were imperfect sinners, and yet God chose them to be centrally important to identifying and being a part of the Christ Child story. The Good News this morning is that God chooses us and works through us, even though we too, are imperfect and sinners. God chooses us to be centrally important to identifying the Christ Child for the world in the here and the now.


My hope is that the American Lutheran Congregation is a place where you see the Christ Child, experience his love and your hearts are changed, so, when you walk out those doors, you return home a different way. What does it mean exactly to live life differently after encountering Jesus, the Christ Child? I have been pondering this a lot lately, because I am often with people who are not Christians and have no faith background whatsoever. I know who the Christ Child is and am fully aware of the grace, love, forgiveness, and peace God offers every single day, but how do I return to the world with this knowledge and my changed and tranformed heart? How do I love those, who aren’t interested in faith or who have been hurt by the church and want nothing to do with it, or who think I am really strange to be a Christian?


Living here in Oslo, that is more the reality than not. I don’t have clear answers, but there is one thing I am sure of and that is, just like the wise men, I strongly believe that God will show us how to return home and back out into that world we live in. God opens doors as we live in the daily grind of messy, broken, and imperfect life. We are called this morning to walk out the doors of ALC, with joy in our hearts, to return to our neighborhoods, communities, homes, schools, jobs, butiks, bus and tram stops, and all the corners we live, to tell the story of the Christ Child. Because of that baby, we simply can’t go back to life in the same way ever again. Amen.



Bible References

  • Isaiah 52:7 - 10
  • Matthew 2:1 - 12



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