Reflection for Sunday – January 2, 2022
Readings: Isaiah 60:1-6; Ephesians 3:2-3a, 5-6; Matthew 2:1-12
Preacher: Irene Goodwin
We have been told that the Magi were of a priestly caste, people of above human intelligence, astrologers or kings. Why would these gentile foreigners journey to find a new King of the Jews? We read that a star in the sky told them something new and important was happening. Was it possible they had read of a promise of a better day for Israel in the Book of Isaiah? Or perhaps they read Micah and how a Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. Like so many throughout history were they looking for a leader who might create a brighter future.
Whatever the reason they followed the star and found Jesus. They did not return to give Herod the news. They returned a different way. Did they sense that this poor child could not be the king they were looking for and that he was no threat to Herod? Or, did they sense something very special about the child?
In the late ‘80s my husband read an article in The New York Times about a group called Women Against Nuclear War. They were looking for people to write to citizens from the Soviet Union. My husband, Bob, was connected with a man named Alex. This young, communist, atheist wrote to my middle aged, democratic man who spent most of his free time in Church. They communicated for years, sharing everything about their lives. Alex was hungry for magazines from the United States. It was a turbulent time as the Soviet Union was breaking up. Bob knew he had to be careful what he sent.
There were times when Bob would not hear from Alex for months. Then, on a dark and dreary day in early December there was a postcard with a church on the outside. Alex’s note said, “I went in this Church today and lit a candle for your birthday. It will be funny to hear the name ‘Robert’ spoken in a Russian Orthodox Church.” In a difficult time, it brought much light to our lives. We had great hope for Alex and for the Russian people. They continued to write for years and Alex shared about their new freedoms. Occasionally through travelers, Bob was able to get Alex American money to help him in his life. One year Bob even visited him, but they rarely communicate today. Alex does not share much of his life. Russia has a new leader and things are not the same.
In the United States we also have a new leader. Remember the joy we felt a year ago at President Biden’s inauguration? Remember him praying for those who had died from Covid and singing On Eagles Wings? Things are not the same for us either and while many things are better, many are not. We continue to look for a Messiah, a leader that will make everything perfect.
Leaders come and go. Some make progress with human rights. Others move us backwards. Most do some good and some bad. However, we have a leader who showed us the way. A child born far from home in a manger. He grew to be a man who traveled his country teaching us how to live. He did not make rules or condemn people. He preached that the reign of God is present among us. When it was time for him to leave this world, he told us his spirit was within us; the reign was in our midst and we were left in charge to make it present and available to the world. Our political leaders can only do so much for us. We always have a light to follow that leads us in a different way. Where does the light lead us today? We ask ourselves, “Am I on the right road or do I need to take a new path?” Some have powerful voices like Greta Thunberg who consistently speaks out to power concerning climate change. Also, Malala Yousafzai who at a young age fought for the right of women to go to school in Pakistan. Some are able to run to places like Kentucky or go to faraway nations to help victims of storms. Some are service men and women, police, firefighters, doctors, nurses, teachers, or caregivers in nursing homes. Some serve customers in stores and restaurants. Remember the teenage autistic girl who climbed through a McDonalds window to save a woman who was choking? We all take care of our families and look out for our neighbors. Each day we face opportunities to put into action what our God has taught us. We show the world what it means to be a leader by following our God and choosing the better way home.