Journeys - (Second Sunday After Christmas) Jan. 5, 2020

The Rev. Katherine G. Dougherty
Sermon Text: 

Christmas II – Year A

January 5, 2020

Jeremiah 31:7-14; Psalm 84; Ephesians 1:3-6, 15-19a; Matthew 2: 1-12


Through the written word, and the spoken word, may we know your Living Word Jesus Christ our Savor.  Amen.

         Today’s Gospel is a story about 3 people taking a journey.  They didn’t exactly know the route their journey would take, but they felt compelled to take it.  They did know what they hoped to find at the end of their journey – they wanted to find a baby…a baby said to be the king of the Jews.  Interestingly enough, they weren’t Jews in search of their future king; they were outsiders – observers – seekers.  I wonder…what did they hope this baby would bring to the world? 

         Journeys are not just traveling from one town to another.  Yes, as a society that has the benefits of roads and highways, ships and mapped out waterways, and air travel galore, we often imagine a journey to be that of travel.  Whether that is for work or for fun, we have access to a variety of ways to travel our journeys.  We even have apps on our phones that help us confirm our flights and secure the best seat on the plane or the ever-popular Google Maps or Waze to guide us away from the congestion of traffic so we can continue on our journeys.  I wonder if they help us in life or if they actually distract us from life.

         The word journey is defined by Webster’s dictionary as, “something suggesting travel or passage from one place to another.”  The words “passage from one place to another,” really stand out to me.  See for the past week, I’ve sat with one of our church members as he continues on his journey.  For several months actually, I’ve traveled with him on this journey.  We’ve talked about all sorts of things.  I’ve listened to him talk about the people he loves so much.  I’ve listened to his stories about his beloved family and his dear friends.  I’ve listened as he shared stories with me about moments in his life…in his journey.  We’ve laughed and shook our heads and cried over those memories and those he had hoped to still have.  I’ve listened to him talk about his memories of All Souls and how important this community is to him.  He’s shared stories about his journey with those here at All Souls.  He’s shared how much he loves the people of All Souls – the time we spend together – the importance of the work we all do in caring for others – and his hopes for this community. 

         Journeys are rarely as simple as traveling from Point A to Point B.  No matter what age we are, we are on a journey.  We fall into the stories we read or hear as children and imagine ourselves on some fantastic journey battling a dragon or sailing the seas on a pirate ship or swimming through the oceans on the back of a whale.  Our imagination allows for journeys.  As we grow older, our journeys often take us away from home – they take us out into the world to build a life for ourselves.  Along the way, we may find ourselves traveling on one path and eventually realize that our journey is shifting – what we’d imagined for ourselves has changed, and we choose to change with it. 

         Our Gospel story today speaks of such a journey.  The Magi – travelers from the East – are on a journey of discovery.  They have seen a sign in the sky – a star – and are in search of its source.  Throughout their journey, the Magi are patiently guided by God.  They were open and receptive to how God was moving and working in their lives.  These strange outsiders did not stumble onto the Messiah as if by accident.  They searched with purpose and stayed open to God’s guidance.  Nowhere does it say they knew of Jesus’ divinity or had any idea how his life would impact the world, but they knew something about this was a moment was important.  It was an encounter that needed them to trust in the journey.  And then after meeting Jesus – after recognizing the significance of this moment…after trusting the signs they noticed along the way…they change their plans.  Instead of returning to King Herod, they traveled on a different route.

         That’s the thing about journeys.  We may set out with our travel map – with our goals in mind – our plans set, and along the way, things change.  Life happens that way.  We can fight it.  Many of us may know that experience of pushing back at life and the pain it can cause.  It is not God’s hand that brings us pain.  It is not God testing us or moving us around like pieces on a chess board.  Life happens – circumstances happen – things change.  Sometimes those changes are good and healthy, and sometimes our journey ends up taking us a different route…one that is painful and hard.  God is with us no matter where we are in our journey.  Jesus was born – Jesus came to say…God loves you – each and every one of us, and God is here with us. 

         It has been hard at times to travel this journey with Neal and Lee.  I want to yell out to God…it’s not time yet – his journey here with us is not over yet – change this!  But God didn’t make Neal ill.  God did not create the cancer that is taking our friend, and Neal and Lee know that.  His path – his journey has shifted and is heading towards home now.  As much as that makes my heart hurt for him, for Lee and their family, for each of you, for our community, and for me…I know God is in the midst of this time and so does Neal. 

         God does not manipulate our lives or control our every move.  God redeems our struggles – heals the pain – weeps with us and promises to never leave us.  Redemption for Neal has come in moments of laughter and joy…in his family sharing in a beautiful Christmas where his energy was up, and they rejoiced in time together.  It came in him finding a friend…also staying at Hanover Rehab…who would come and get him so they could go “roll the hallways and tease the nurses.”  It came with decorations at The Atlee House and lights in the tree outside, because from his bed, he imagined how beautiful that tree would look if it just had lights.  It comes now…as he continues to be surrounded by family and friends as we all patiently travel this last part of his earthly life.  And it will come when he walks home with Jesus to life eternal…to a peace that Neal knows awaits him.

         We all have our own journeys to travel, and hopefully we have a community to travel our journeys with.  Look for that star in the sky – look and be open to God’s guidance in your journey, and know that no matter where our journeys take us, God is with us reminding us that we are dearly loved. 










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