Thursday, January 10, 2013


just a quick note to say that this is mostly a sermon written by Rev. Ali Smith. I used it as a starting point for my sermon which was a little off the cuff... 

Contemporary Reading:      “The Journey of Melchyor”

Evening chants had just begun when Baba called to me.
Near to him I advanced, seated close to his knee.
“Melchyor,” he whispered, “we'll leave this very night.
No need to wait for any more word, as we have seen the Light.”

The camels, all twenty, swaggered as they rose,
our congeries in bags concealed from any foes,
with Bab's gift of brand new gold...
'Twas for the great One as foretold.

From the home mountains of Kailash we trekked the Indus plain;
to Balthazar, at Bela, my master had explained--
a scholar so extraordinaire, who knew the dawning light,
though his gift of myrrh foretold a doom,
'twill last for just one night.

From dusk to dawn we walked and rode.
At sun-up we slept then studied our code.
Days changed the weeks to so many moons;
our caravan became known with its gilded festoons.

“Haste, haste to Karbala!” my master cried,
“From King Gaspar we mus not divide.
He brings food, and silks, and frankincense.
His arrival would dash our suspense.”

From dusty, hot sands we plodded on,
until the cooling Euphrates we won.
“Six hundred miles 'til journey's end,”
said Gaspar.  “Look, see where heaven will bend...”

To Bethlehem, in Bethlehem our goal was safe and sound.
While men and beasts stretched on the ground,
too weak we carried Baba in a stall.
Balthazar, Gaspar, and I entered entralled.

Baba, our master, wiped his tears.
He tried to calm our excited cheers.
The child approached and hugged him tight,
and master whispered, “We've seen the Light.”

“We have seen the Light!”

The Wise Men

They followed a star - a single, shiny burst of light out there somewhere in the universe; one piece of cosmic energy among millions. And trusting in that simple light, the Magi went on this enormous journey. 

They didn't quite know what they would find at the end. Something about a child born to be King of the Jews? They trusted that the light would get them there. They let it guide them. And when they got to Bethlehem, they found a poor, powerless child. 

Not quite what they expected. But just like with the star that took them so far, in this small child, they found more light. Light that would guide their way; that would guide their lives. 

By simply witnessing the light, the light became a part of them. They carried it with them where they went.
They became light-bearers. 

The journey that they thought would end when they made it to the newborn king had really only just begun when they looked into his eyes. They were forever changed and went home another way. 

Trusting the Light

Can you find yourself in this story? Have you ever been like the Magi? Do you let the light guide you? Can you even find the light in the first place?

We live in a pretty structured society. I'll admit to being one of those people who carries their calendar with them at all times, depending on it to get through the week. In our now-2013 world, things are scheduled and planned and expected to happen a certain way.

So, picture this: Someone comes to you and says, “I heard a rumour that an important child might have been born... maybe...probably. Drop what you're doing!  Put your life on hold! Go out there and find this person. 
I can't really tell you how to get there but I'm sure you'll figure it out.” What would you do? 

Would you think of a million reasons why not to follow some rumour and shifty advice? Or would you round up the camels and start riding out into the wilderness, looking up the sky, hoping for a sign from the heavens
to point you in the right direction? update the situation for our time... would you turn on the GPS and start driving and hope some road signs would direct you where you need to go?

It's hard to muster up that kind of trust, I think. It's hard to believe that God will guide us. It's hard to go forward without a real plan.  After all, we are molded to trust no one and to be ever skeptical. But it hasn't always been that way . . .

Celtic Pilgrims

I think it's true that people used to listen to God more. I don't mean that God appeared before them with clear-cut commandments either.  “Thou shall...”  “Thou shall not...”  No. God spoke through instincts
or through the wisdom of other people or in a plethora of other ways. But people trusted and listened.

Historically, there has been a sense that the winds of God can guide us without us being so afraid or guarded.
I think we've lost the trust that people like the Magi had. We fear risk and the unknown. In this way, we limit what God can do. We continue to live in darkness when we could be walking in the light.

Celtic pilgrims used to get into tiny boats that had no rudders. They would push out to sea and sail forth,
trusting that God would guide them. They believed that amid the waves, there was a guiding force that lured them toward wholeness and holiness. They called the place they ended up their “place of resurrection” -
a place where they would be changed. Perhaps this place was their Bethlehem. 

This is our hope too – that as we journey on our own uncharted waters, we will be guided and end up in holy places that change us forever; that we too will find ourselves in Bethlehem; that we will see the light of God shining just for us.

Being Changed By the Light

No matter how open we are to the experience, though, we do catch glimpses of God in our lives – whether through the birth of Jesus at Christmas time or out in nature or in interactions with other people. And when we see God, we are forever changed. 

Like the magi, once we see the light, from then on we carry it with us wherever we go. But what shall we do with it now that we have found it?

Light is very important Christian symbol. The whole season of Epiphany that we enter into today dances around the theme of light. In fact, the whole Christian year draws upon the theme too. That's why we begin each service by lighting a candle – to remind us that Jesus or the Light of God is present with us always. 

Each week, at the end of our worship time, we share the light. It's an important reminder that we carry the light with us and that we can share it with those we encounter in a week. It's not just a symbolic gesture. 
We really are called to share that light that Isaiah reminded us had come. “Arise and shine, for your light has come,” says the prophet.

Our job is to live in the light... to shine... to show God to people in the things we say and do. When we do this, we make God accessible to other people the way that Jesus did. God goes from being this mysterious concept somewhere out there to being something people can put a face on. 

For the Magi, the face of God was this little child who would grow up to be a man who would do great things and show people how to live. For us, we might picture that face too – as Jesus' example can still very much guide our lives.  But the face of God might also be a kind action. It might be a nonjudgmental presence. 
It might be a helping hand. 

By engaging in these activities, we share the light with people. We let God shine through us. We help people to know God in ways that are real and powerful. We live God.


Being Christian means seeing the light. We've seen the light! So, let's get excited about that. Let's be changed by that. Let's be light-bearers and light-bringers and light-shiners for the world.

In the words of Jan L. Richardson in “Blessing of the Magi”:

There is no reversing
this road.
The path that bore you here
goes in one direction only,
every step drawing you
down a way
by which you will not

You thought arrival
was everything,
that your entire journey
ended with kneeling
in the place
you had spent all
to find.

When you laid down
your gift,
release came with such ease,
your treasure tumbling
from your hands
in awe and

Now the knowledge
of your leaving
comes like a stone laid
over your heart,
the familiar path closed
and not even the solace
of a star
to guide your way.

You will set out in fear
you will set out in dream
but you will set out
by that other road
that lies in shadow
and in dark.

We cannot show you
the route that will
take you home;
that way is yours
and will be found
in the walking.

But we tell you
you will wonder
at how the light you thought
you had left behind
goes with you,
spilling from
your empty hands,
shimmering beneath
your homeward feet,
illuminating the road
with every step
you take.

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