(Isaiah 60:1-2; Matthew 2:1-12)
Jan 1, 2017 – UBC Digby – J G White
Oh to be guided by a star, by a dream, by wisdom, by God. It seems to me again and again that the Bible story of the Magi is so fitting for New Years. All the ways they were guided inspire us, speak to us.
Looking back and looking forward can be so dark and depressing, and, be so bright and hopeful. For some people I know, 2016 was an annus horribilis, a horrible year, as Queen Elizabeth had said of 1992. Surely the year that starts today will be so much better than the one that just ended at midnight. The deaths, the illnesses, the troubles of 2016 are over.
For others, the year of our Lord 2016 was an annus mirabilis, a wonderful year, and that experience inspires great optimism as 2017 begins.
However you feel, whatever the attitude to the new year is among those we love, how shall we be guided? For it is so good to have some guidance.
Those wise astronomers, who sought out Jesus as a little child, have always inspired us. God has spoken through this word.
I think again about the tools the Magi used. Their wisdom and knowledge. The tools of their trade, which we would think of as primitive; the telescope had not been invented. Their experience. And their mysterious motivation – we know so little about these travelers. We do know they came to worship Messiah.
Day one of 365 has opened. How shall we be guided? Might not be by a star in the sky. We Christians have our own GPS: God, Prayer and Scripture. We have the training we have undergone as disciples of the Master, Jesus. We have our own motivation to know and love God; Father, Son and Spirit.
I want to see in the story of the Magi both an optimism and a realism. They were determined and positive in their quest. They believed in what they were doing, this holy pilgrimage. They were also sensible and careful. They avoided the local ruler Herod on the way out of town.
Whatever happened and did not happen in 2016, we can look forward to this new year. I have been getting an advertisement when I play scrabble on my mobile phone. An advertisement for an insurance company, which is of no interest to me. But the ad talks about the most valuable asset I’ll ever own: my optimism.
Sharon and I happened to watch a film the other day, a movie I’d not really heard of: Tomorrowland. A fantasy, Disney film, it painted a picture of our world today, getting worse and more dangerous, because people were not dreaming of a bright future, were too aware of the many dangers, were not being optimistic. And how does the terrible future, and the end of the world get prevented? By a girl who has some hope, sees possibilities, is optimistic.
Well, that was a movie. What real optimism can guide us, and make a difference now?
Our service here yesterday for Jim Frost was itself a reminder that death does not win. I think it a shame when people say, so-and-so ‘lost their battle with cancer.’ In the case of someone like Jim, real life has been won, thanks to Christ. Even if 2017 is the year you will die, with Jesus this is actually good news.
While we do live, there is real guidance from the Spirit of God and the word of God. And, if that is not workin for some people real well… fine! There can be great improvements in knowing how the scripture can change your life, and how to know the voice of God to you. What Jesus promised was not false. For God always to be with us, to understand our life and purpose, to be better people – all is truly possible because of our Saviour: this one who was worshipped as a wee child by traveling Magi.
Do not forget the great blessings of your past. Do not forget the gradual blessings of your past. Do not give up on Christ and His Church. The darker the days ahead look, the brighter will be the guidance of our Master. And He is all that matters.