In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, "Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage." When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born.
They told him, "In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:
`And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who is to shepherd my people Israel.'"
Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, "Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage." When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.
Subject: Now Behold the Lamb
Let us pray - Splendor and honor and kingly power * are yours by right, O Lord our God, For you created everything that is, * and by your will they were created and have their being; And yours by right, O Lamb that was slain, * for with your blood you have redeemed for God, From every family, language, people, and nation, * a kingdom of priests to serve our God. And so, to him who sits upon the throne, * and to Christ the Lamb, Be worship and praise, dominion and splendor, * for ever and for ever more.
Micha 2”2 “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans[b] of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.”
We have many scenarios to compare and contrast. One the Prophecy of Micah and the other the birth of a child Jesus. The child in our text invokes fear in a ruler, one King Herod the Great who familiarizes himself with the words of the prophet Micah and try’s to collude with the wise magi travelers going east to find and kill the child of prophecy. A complicated plot of infan-cide to destroy a generation of babies, to destroy one who is the baby Jesus.
The parallel story is that a child is born and the magi have come to pay homage to the child. The child vulnerable, born in a dusty desolate place, born to poor parents, a virgin with a crazy story and a man who only has the words from a dream to console him. What a site to behold. The key to the story is that in the time appointed in a little town of Bethelehem. Phillip Brooks an Episcopal Priest in Philadelphia looking over the hill country 5 miles south and west of Jerusalem penned
O little town of Bethlehem How still we see thee lie, Above thy deep and dreamless sleep, The silent stars go by Yet in thy dark streets shineth, The everlasting Light, The hopes and fears of all the years Are met in thee tonight.
In Bethlehem there laid the hopes of the people of the Jewish Kingdom, and the fears of a king Herod. There laid the hopes of the disenfranchised, and the fears of the powerful. There laid in Bethlehem, the hopes of the lost and those who lived in darkness, and the fears of the oppressors. They would ease into state of stillness following the sounds of labor and finally a birth, the cries of a baby, the joy of a mother and the stare of a father who only has the word of the Angel of the Lord not to fear.
The child Jesus would be the sight to behold, the star only symbolized where he lay. Not just a child, not just an infant escaping death, but the birth of Jesus would usher in the dispensation of grace. He would be known as Emmanuel, meaning God is with us. Jesus "Jesus" (pronounced as we do/ˈdʒiːzəs/) is a transliteration, occurring in a number of languages and based on the Latin Iesus, of the Greek Ἰησοῦς (Iēsoûs-yeah-sous), itself a Hellenization of the Hebrew יְהוֹשֻׁעַ (Ye-ho-shu-a; Yĕhōšuă‘, - Joshua) or Hebrew Aramaic יֵשׁוּעַ (Ye-shu-a Yēšûă‘), meaning "Yahweh delivers (or rescues)" he is the (Messiah). In the Greek Jesus is a proper masculine noun and in the Hebrew the name quickly becomes a verb; Jehovah is salvation. A king is born, the Lamb of God that would take away the sin of the world. Jesus is the promise of the prophet Micah, who said Micah 2”2 “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans[b] of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.”
In our text the wise men from the east would go to behold him, offer gifts and symbolize the kingship of the child Jesus. They went to Jerusalem and took with them the rarest of spices, gold and frankincense and myrrh. They were in a quest to find the new king of kings. Their journey would take them to Bethlehem of Judea and there they found the child of peace. King Herod (the current king in Jerusalem) heard of their plans, he was frightened. Walter Brueggermann, professor emeritus of Old Testament at Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia said, “[He is] a new king, [and] is a threat to the old king and the old order.”
That’s the whole problem this morning, that there would be a threat to the old order. Isn’t that the signification of Christmas and Epiphany, that the old would be done away with and the new would come into being? Isn’t that what the collect was saying this morning, “O God, who wonderfully created, and yet more wonderfully restored?” Or better yet what Paul was trying to say in the Epistle, “May [God] give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe. Yes, that’s it; God is trying to help you. God is trying to do away with your old stuff and bring some new stuff into being. The old way you used to talk, you don’t talk no more, the old way you used to walk, you don’t walk no more. They say in grandma’s church, I looked at my hands and my hands look new, looked at my feet and they do to.
The magi, laid at the feet of the baby, Gold, frankincense and myrrh. They pay homage to a king. They knew it was him because the star they followed settled over him and they were overjoyed. That is what this day is about, The Mueller’s banner, the words on the pulpit. That we would behold him, that we would see Jesus. It looked like a quiet and still night as Phillip Brooks saw it, but on the night Jesus was born, the heavens were exploding, The angels were preparing to speak, the shepherds were astonished, the wise were confounded, the powers of darkness and hell were frustrated and love came down at Christmas time. Amen.