From Pastor’s Desk: January 2022
TAKING A DIFFERENT ROUTE And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route. Matthew 2:12 In Spain and among many South American countries, the visit of the Three Magi to see the baby Jesus is celebrated with much pomp and festivity than Christmas. There is this wonderful tradition in Mexico associated with the visit of the kings. This is what one blogger says, “there are similar traditions in Mexico where Epiphany is known as ‘El Dia de los Reyes’ (the day of The Three Kings). It’s traditional to eat a special cake called ‘Rosca de Reyes’ (Three Kings Cake). A figure of Baby Jesus is hidden inside the cake. Whoever has the baby Jesus in their piece of cake is the ‘Godparent’ of Jesus for that year.” What an awesome responsibility and honor to be the god parent of the most precious baby ever given to the human family.
This story of the visit of the Magi is part of the lectionary reading in January, referred to as the season of Epiphany. Epiphany simply means a moment of insight or revelation often associated with the heavenly or celestial beings to humans. While theophany is God’s revelation to humans; Epiphany is where God actually catches us by surprise when we least expect it. In some way, Epiphany starts with Christmas when the “Word became flesh and dwelt among us full of grace and truth. (John1:14)” The journey continues when God continues to reveal God self to all especially the Gentiles. Matthew tells this story of the visit of the three Magi’s to alert his Jewish audience and us that this Messiah is one for all nations. There is no way we can stop the revealing of God to all nations. It is God’s prerogative and our only response is humble submission to God’s revealing in the world.
This story intrigues me for the following reasons: Why did these wise men leave the comforts of their life and home to seek a baby, who is only a promise of things to come? Why did they go seeking this baby in a palace? Why was Herod and “all Jerusalem” disturbed with this news? Did Herod actually want to pay homage to Jesus, especially knowing Herod’s brutal dealings with his own family? My interrogation intensified as I read this story multiple times.
The story has a very troubling and disturbing ending because after Herod is tricked, there is bloodshed and deep mourning and wailing because of the “killing of the innocent children”, all around Jerusalem. We often don’t associate with weeping during the time of Christmas, do we? May be, the Christmas of 2020 and 2021 was that time of deep mourning when we lost so many to this pandemic.
This is my main point after this long shot at this story. The amazing thing about this story is captured in verse 12 of Matthew 2. It says having been Rev. Dr. Kamalesh Stephen warned in a dream, the Magi took a different route. Every encounter with Jesus often ends with people taking a different route. Think about the way we have lived our lives prior to the encounter with the Lord and the ways we have responded after having met the Lord. Certainly, for me, the ways have been different – not easy but different. I want to take this a step further with the ways we do church. I have alerted the church on several different occasions and I want to unashamedly say this again.
In 2022, I believe God will prompt us to take a different direction and when that happens what will be our response. The amazing thing about the three kings is their humble submission and simple obedience to the prompting of the Spirit. Probably, they had the plans to return the same way, but things changed. The Magi were simply receptive to the warnings and promptings of the Holy Spirit. The early church only had Jerusalem in mind, maybe Judea, certainly not Samaria but ends of the world was never in their radar. The early church had to take “another route” many times as they simply responded to the call of God. And SO, MUST WE.
In 2022, I believe we are in the cusp of taking a different route. It is my humble prayer to the congregation to wait on God; allow for the Spirit to move; become receptive to the prompting of the Holy Spirit and when it is time to move, pray for God’s wisdom and strength. May the One who has journeyed with us thus far lead us in new direction as we humble at His feet and become sensitive to the leading of His Spirit Blessings on our journey together.