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Ben Fleming: Epiphany, Matthew 2:9-12

January 3, 2023

Audio Recording

Advent
Ben Fleming: Epiphany, Matthew 2:9-12
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Sermon Transcript:

:00 You're listening to a live recording from Westside Church in Bend, Oregon. Thanks for joining us.

00:06 This used to be the easiest day to preach and then, the, the production team was like, let's make it like an obstacle course today, , we do believe in the promises of God that they are good, that they are for today, I do believe, for a wonderful year for us collectively as a body. But the thing that I choose and I believe that we're choosing to celebrate this weekend and at this time as we reset the year, and I don't know if you do resolutions or make decisions or whatever, I think that's a good thing. By the way. I think it's good that we have a time built into our calendar where we reevaluate where our lives are going and what we want to do. The biggest thing that I choose to celebrate today is that we have each other to continue to walk through this next year together.

00:48 Because the honest truth is as a community, we will experience some of the lowest lows that you can experience in life, as well as some of the highest highs we'll experience loss and will experience miracles. But the greatness of the community of the church is that we can gather around Christ together and we can gather around each other. We have this beautiful network, this thing called the church that God has called us into. And I was reminded of this truth this last week as I spent time with my parents. My mom came over to our house and my mom retired from a lifetime in school districts as a teacher, as well as administration. She was a principal of a high school in elementary school for a while. she retired and then of course she be, she opened her own charter school to serve some of the underprivileged kids in her area.

01:33 And she said, Ben, I've been thinking about the idea of poverty and there there's so many people living in poverty where she lives. She said, and a lot of times that becomes a conversation about finances, which is important, she said. But the biggest thing that we deal with in poverty is groups of people that have gotten to a point where they have no network and no community. They've lost family, they've lost friends, they've lost jobs. And all of a sudden the greatest, most overwhelming form of poverty is this loneliness where you have nowhere else to turn. So I believe in 2023, it's West side's job. It's your mind's job, to create and build community and network for people that have lost that, that have experienced the depths of that poverty and continue together to celebrate all the miracles and the victories that we'll find together.

02:17 And we'll be able to lament well and care for each other in the lowest of the lows and the biggest of losses. That is the job of the church. Amen. Amen. And this leads us to really what happens on January 6th. I'm gonna talk about the epiphany of Christ. So if you look at the church calendar officially, the Christmas season begins on Christmas and goes through January 6th. That's why there's 12 days of Christmas in the song. So you can go ahead and get those Christmas trees back out from the curb. you know, I love how post-Christmas looks like a big mob hit on all the trees. You know, we celebrate and we decorate, and then we just throw 'em outside when we're done. You can go ahead and, and maybe get some more gifts, huh? Some of the kids in here might want some more gifts can jump into all that. Really what I miss most after Christmas is being in stores and watching people walk in that are almost transported to a different planet. Like they're, they're Indiana Jones walking into a temple and they, they, they, they're looking for something, excuse me. Can I find a micro sb mini USB to a lightning thunder cable? And they talk to the retail help and they, they guide them along with their treasure map.

03:30 A new year can do a lot of things, for us and to us. A lot of predictions happen around New Year time, a lot of hopes and dreams and wondering, I found somebody that I follow on social media's name is Paul Ferry, who posted a series of little excerpts from newspaper articles written in 1923 that were predictions about the year 2023. and it says, Dr. Charles Stein Mets the electrical expert, believes that the time is coming when there will be no long drudgery and that people will toil no more than four hours a day owing to the work of electricity. He visualizes an amazing transformation of life. In 2023, every city will be a spotless town that is the work of electricity also, this, this person, her name is Savannah, that's the only name that they give in the, in the article says, good night, we should worry. It's now predicted that by the year 2023, men will have curly hair and also maidens may pronounce it the height of style in personal printing to blacken their teeth. Won't we be so pretty ?

04:43 This is one of the best ones actually toward the end of this thread. This is by 2023, there'll be no mail between New York and San Francisco. Pittsburgh and London. Concerns will record, will record on taking films orders from merchants in pecking and a and a thousand mile an hour Fire freighters will make deliveries of goods before sunset. Watch size radio telephones will keep everybody in communication all the way to the ends of the earth. Wow, not so bad actually everything from worried about men having curly hair all the way to the actual Acura prediction of communication phones and watch size radios. The beginning of something new can give us a lot of things to think about, to worry about and to contemplate. I wonder if this year we allow ourselves as the body of Christ again to gather around Christ and each other and having done so, we give ourselves the opportunity to fear less and to embrace the gift of Christ more.

05:57 something that happens, especially in our culture today is that it is, financially prudent for many, many people, whether it's on social media or even our friends and sometimes family members or news productions, to sow a seed of fear inside of all of us because it's so profitable of people that are worried will buy the products that they're being sold to, of people that are fearful will create enemies and they'll purchase things and they'll create a lifestyle that ins insulates themselves from what they believe to be the bad and the good. But here's the beauty of this ancient story of Christ, is that Jesus in his birth arrival on this earth, men's together, the old Jewish tradition with the Gentile people who have been as of that point, left out of faith, there's a uniting that happens at the birth of Jesus. And now we gotta be careful as we head into this new year and people begin to try to grab our minds and grab our attention and try to create enemy out of people that God has said that we should consider friends.

06:57 We have to understand and be very, very careful that God has created hi His faith, this coming to earth so that the whole world might receive from his love. For God's so love the entire world that he gave his only son. Not just one people, not just one group, not just one idea, but instead the entire world. And that's evidence on epiphany Sunday in this story about the Magi. So it says in Matthew chapter two in verse nine, after this interview, these men, the wise men the Magi had had seen Herod the ruler Har, who wanted to destroy Jesus. They had a conversation with him. And then it says after they went on their way and the star had seen, they had seen in the east, guided them to Bethlehem and it went ahead of them and stopped over the place where the child was.

07:42 And when they saw the star, they were filled with joy. They entered the house and saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him and they gave their treasure chest and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense and merr. And when it was time to leave, they returned to their own country by another route. For God had warned them in a dream not to return to hero. This is not just a story of maybe three wise men, as is kind of the popular belief. It could be as many as 12 some believe maybe more. We don't know if there were kings exactly what they were, but we knew that they were drawn by a star and they believed that this baby that had been born was indeed the Messiah. This is significant because it is the first entrance in this entire story of Jesus, of God putting skin on and coming to earth.

08:32 It's the entrance of this story of a gentile people, not a Jewish people, into the story of God. Now if you don't know that is you and me today, we would be considered gentiles. We're not of the Jewish lineage. We didn't grow up in that culture and in that tradition we would be considered outsiders. And this is the entry of us into that great tradition as well. And this fulfills the prophecy that Isaiah had spoken of in in chapter 60, in verses one through six he says, arise Jerusalem, let your light shine for all deceive for the glory of the Lord rises to shine on you. Darkness as black as night covers all the nations of the earth. But the glory of the Lord rises and appears over you. All nations will come to your light. Mighty kings will come to see your radiance. Look and see for everyone is coming home.

09:22 Your sons are coming from distant lands. Your little daughters will be carried home. Your eyes will shine. Your heart will thrill with joy. For merchants from around the world will come to you. They will bring you the wealth of many lands, vast caravans of camels converge on you. The camels of Midian and Ifa and the people of Shiba will bring gold and frankincense and will come worshiping the Lord. Incredible prophecy. So these gifts that they bring are significant again, not only because of who brings them, but because of what they are. The magi gifts are not just a demonstration of wealth. They convey a deeper meaning. The gold actually represents Jesus' kingship. This is the magii acknowledging and saying, we believe that you are the one true king. The frank sense represents Jesus' deity in the Old Testament, frankincense was traditionally burned in the temple as an offering to God by bringing this gift.

10:24 The Magi affirmed Jesus was no ordinary man, but both fully man and fully God. Now the third one is an interesting one and may be prophetic in and of itself. Of course me is what was Jesus? What Jesus was embalmed in at the time of his death. You see that in John chapter 19, verse 38 through 40 that Nicodemus brought Mer at the time of Jesus' burial three gifts that acknowledge Jesus' kingship as well as his full deity, that he is God. And of course that Jesus's death would bring about salvation for us. All I wonder in order to achieve this low panic, low fear form of the Christian faith, that I believe that God is pushing us and moving us into this year. Now, that's not to say that we're not concerned with the world's trouble and issues around us. It's not to say we're not to continue to help and engage with the culture and the people immediately around us, but it is to say that we can have confidence in the promise of God.

11:38 And so I want to encourage all of us to do today is make this acknowledgement as we finish up this service and we go our separate ways. I wonder what would happen to our souls if we acknowledge and revisit again this promise that God is king, that Jesus is king in our world and in our lives today, that he is fully God and fully man, that he died on the cross for our sin so that we would receive salvation. And that isn't just a promise for a small group of people, but instead it's a promise for the world.

12:17 We begin this journey together in 2023 and the holiday season, by the way, is such an interesting thing to define. Again, the church calendar's 12 days of Christmas, some of us, it really feels like Thanksgiving begins, or even Halloween begins this entire thing. I've decided that the Christmas season actually begins for me when my son wakes me up at four 30 on Christmas day and then my dog keeps me up until one 30 on New Year's day for fear of the fireworks. A poor little border Collie was trying to sleep underneath me last night with all the noise going on.

12:55 I think it would be best for us to consider not just these promises, of course again, the kingship of Christ, the deity of Christ, the salvation that Christ offers. But think about this as a very long, beautiful and sometimes arduous journey of faith. Pope Francis said this. He said, it's not enough to know where Jesus was born as the scribes did. If we do not go there, it's not enough to know that Jesus was born just like herd. If we do not encounter him, when his place becomes our place, when his time becomes our time, when his person becomes our life, when the prophecies come to fulfillment in us, then Jesus is born within us. He becomes the living God for me. And today we're asked to imitate the magi. They do not debate. They set out, they don't stop to look but enter the house of Jesus. They do not put themselves at the center but bow down before the one who is the center. What a beautiful picture of what this Christian faith is intended to be.

14:13 I'll be

14:15 Honest with you, the last probably four or five, six years of my life in the Christian faith of grown up as a pastor's son, been doing ministry for about 16 years.

14:27 The

14:27 Worst times in my faith as far as how much I believe, how much I wonder, the most difficult times have been just the last 3, 4, 5, 6 years. And I think the reasoning is that I, myself and so much of the kind of Christian culture and world around me has gotten away from this thing. We've instead chosen to make this whole faith about us at the center. We've chosen to debate and argue and fight and ostracize instead of welcoming in and rolling out the red carpet for all kinds of people.

15:07 Cuz when we take on this faith and we use it purely for our political gain or to make ourselves feel better, instead of leaning into and asking questions and wondering what this thing could be, what we're really supposed to follow, how we're supposed to live, we become so dogmatic, we become so angry and so fearful about what the world might do to our faith. If we lean instead into the promises of God, we allow ourselves to not be at the center. We choose to not just have this idea of where Jesus was born just like her did. He knew and had the information, but instead to patiently walk and to seek out this life with Christ. When we do that, all of a sudden the world opens up to us. The love of Christ opens up to us in this new non-fire and shame-based way so that we enter into and embrace the grace of Christ like we never have before. They don't stop to look but enter into the house of Jesus. So that's been the trick for me over these last three, four or five years trying to silence and quiet all the noise

16:28 And instead walk boldly into what sometimes feels like honestly and what sometimes does not feel like the presence of God and ask God to reveal himself in this life to me. So how do we do that? Well, I think we take another page from the Magi. I love that they followed a star. Can you imagine setting out on this journey and people asking you where you're going? You say, well, we see this thing off in the distance. We're just gonna find out where it takes us.

16:58 Well it's a star.

17:00 Where on earth would it possibly take you and how? How would you know that you had gotten there? The magi follow something that is so beautiful, so novel, so out of the ordinary. I wonder if this year we find ourselves led into the presence of Jesus by finding the most beautiful things in our life and asking about them, wondering about them, watching them and feeling what they allow us to feel. I was watching a a movie the other night for the first time in a long, long time. And of course the end of the movie is a picture of the story of Christ. It wasn't a Christian movie by any means, but in the end, the hero gives his life for a little child. And I am just

17:57 Weeping

17:59 And I'm watching on my phone at the kitchen counter like this, no great sound system, no theater. And I'm watching the story of Christ play out in this form of art and I am undone by the sacrifice. I wonder if we lean into beautiful poetry and beautiful storytelling and beautiful views and hikes and difficult work that leads to beautiful moments of relief and excitement. I wonder if we don't lean farther into the beauty of family and lean farther into the beauty of singleness. Cuz I believe if we watch and follow all these beautiful stars, they can't help us lead us into this relationship with Christ. So Jesus, we give these moments to you. We give this new year to you. I pray that we would follow beautiful things and beautiful moments and feel your warm embrace of grace in those times

19:08 As

19:09 Jesus. We don't wanna just repeat religious platitudes and shout outs and it's just gonna be the greatest. It's gonna be the, it's gonna be the greatest Lord, not because of what happens here in this world or with our homes or with our economy, or with our political system, or with our finances. It's gonna be the greatest year yet because we continue to walk together and we continue to walk with our savior. We are making that decision to view the world through that lens, through the promises of God, through your kingship, through your deity, and through your salvation that you have offered us in your death. Lord, we give you praise for all these things. We choose to celebrate and enjoy each other. We choose to lament well together. We choose to see you in all the things that are bright and beautiful. In Jesus name we pray.