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Have The Wish

Matthew 2:1-12

The Rev. Jon Roberts

7 January


Calvary Episcopal Church

Indian Rocks Beach, FL

1 Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, 2 “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the East, and have come to worship him.” 3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; 4 and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. 5 They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it is written by the prophet: 6 ‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will govern my people Israel.’” 7 Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star appeared; 8 and he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.” 9 When they had heard the king they went their way; and lo, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came to rest over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy; 11 and going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. 12 And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.

Have The Wish

The Epiphany, Fernando Gallego, 1480-90
National Museum of Art of Catalunya, Barcelona, Spain

Star light, star bright
The first star I see tonight.
I wish I may, I wish I might
Have the wish, I wish tonight?[1]

Don’t you wish everyone would follow Jesus? Just imagine how the world would be if they would wish that tonight.

In some respect the world does follow Jesus, but they probably don’t know they are. They observe Him in how we measure time using our calendars and our watches. Every bit of time is set up to follow Jesus. At the time Jesus was born, the Roman calendar was being used. There were ten months and 304 days. The modern world at that time, followed the years of rulership by the Roman emperors. For example, “The fourth year of Diocletian” or the “sixteenth year of Augustus Caesar”. The year always began in March, and it is where Shakespeare gave us the line, “Beware the ides of March” as a transitional moment when the villain would be overthrown, and a new rule would be established. It took five centuries before a new calendar, proposed by the Gregorian monk, Dionysius Exiguus, came into being. He developed a critical year of transition that occurs around the birth of a new ruler, a new king. It would be a fixed point around the incarnation of Jesus, called Anno Domini, or “AD”. The monasteries rapidly became the places of universal understanding of time as it relates to the celestial interaction with God. They became the academic universities, and God, through Jesus, His son, would be a central point of study. By the sixth century, the new dating, with twelve months and 365 days would be accepted. B.C. would be “Before Christ”, adding as it goes backward in time, and A.D., all the years that followed, adding as it goes forward in time.[2]

Until the 18th C. this was never really challenged. Secularists, astronomers, and scientists who were agnostic or atheist rebelled with an academic variation, dating their publications with B.C.E. or C.E., as, “Before Common Era” and “Common Era”. We are seeing this resistance gain momentum in our world today as those who refuse to follow Jesus call for change. Once humanity disavows Jesus as the sovereign ruler of our world, we will simply replace Him with a dictator, another emperor as before. I wish that will never come true.

When Mary gave birth to Jesus and while Joseph looked upon him, what do you think they wished for? Do you think they ever imagined how this baby would change the world to the extent that time would be fixed on him? Speaking of being fixed, and time, and how it related to the universe, and to God, the Epiphany is that encounter when wise men arrived from the east. They brought gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh arriving sometime around the second week after Jesus was born. The account in St. Matthew says they followed a star.[3] What do we know about this constellation?

According to Grant Matthews, professor of Astrophysics and Cosmology as the University of Notre Dame, due to the biblical reference an explanation is deserving. He, and other researchers agree that the possibilities of a comet or nova or supernova are impractical as they are moving and fleeting occurrences. In the Bible the star rises from the east, then stops above Bethlehem where Jesus was born. It appears to shine brightly as a fixed object early morning in the twilight, then disappears. It disappears in the sky as the Sun rises in the east which is odd for this star. Stars, such as shooting stars, comets, novas, move to the west throughout the night, while planets apparently travel east. What type of star was this that shone so bright?

The prevailing theory is one called “Conjunction theory.” Between the years 2-6 B.C. scientific data suggests there were conjunctions of planets that lined up in the sky in a way where the combined, aligning closeness, seen from the ground, would shine very brightly. This would have been Jupiter and Venus and Regulus, a star in the constellation Leo, lining closely in 2 B.C., or possibly Saturn, the moon and the sun in the Aries constellation, in 6 B.C. Remember, the 6th C. monks speculated the birth of Jesus to be at 1 A.D., in theory. Scientific evidence of these brightly shining conjunctions of planetary stars, are only 2-6 years prior. We could not have wished for a better proximity of dates, a better postulation of the stars at the time of Jesus’ birth. Matthews concludes his findings by saying, “"We may never know if the Star of Bethlehem was a conjunction, astrological event, or a fable to advance Christianity. Maybe it was simply a miracle."[4] Maybe this professor wishes to believe in Jesus and at the end of the day, all he has is faith.

In that day, there were wise men as well, astronomers who studied the heavens and the stars. They wished to see the Savior of the world as well, hoping to explain what was apparently miraculous. A ruler the world has never seen before has a bright star pointing to this messiah. Planets never moved west in the sky, yet this one did. Lingering for days, possibly weeks, its/their position over Bethlehem could be clearly seen by shepherds and travelers from afar. Looking now to the manger, that creche of the divine nature of God in the Son, we have the glorious reflection of that star light, star bright. In the painting of Fernando Gallego’s “Epiphany” you can see the depiction of the luminous objects reflected in the earthly nimbus’ around, above the heads of Joseph, Mary and Jesus. They shine brightly, with all three coming together, reflecting the miraculous birth. Jesus’ nimbus appears different as he not only reflects but absorbs such light. He is fully divine and fully human.

When we ask for God to save us, who is capable? Do we not close our eyes, fold our hands and wish for a sign to come from above? Do we need further proof of His presence when He is clearly seen in relation to time, and location in the center of the universe? When we come to church we come to pray. Praying may appear to be wishing, but praying is actively revealing God’s power in all time, not just asking to get a glimpse of it before it disappears. As Paul said to the Ephesians, our role, the role of the Church, is to provide wisdom to all the rulers and authorities. That light must shine brightly, and not to be extinguished. The three wise men provided that wisdom but Herod, Pilate, the Emperor would not follow. Countless men and women of faith have prayed, wishing for its leaders to bend the knee and provide gifts to the Savior. Maybe they will, maybe they won’t. We pray for our rulers and authorities to accept Jesus as Lord, but will they follow? We pray for ourselves, that our own will and sinful nature, which often rules over us, will yield, become wise and follow Christ. Maybe it will and maybe it won’t. In conjunction with the Holy Spirit, the light of Christ will shine brightly in those who follow Him. It should shine brightly in this Church. Who will this world follow? Who will put Jesus in the middle of it all? Maybe, before we go to bed, maybe before the sun comes up, we need more people praying something like this:

Star light, star bright
The first star I see tonight.
I wish I may, I wish I might
Have the wish, [to follow Jesus,] I wish tonight.

[1] 19th C. poem, author unknown. Popular children’s nursery rhyme.
[2] Time Magazine, Now You Know: When Did People Start Saying That the Year Was ‘A.D.’?
[3] St. Matthew 2:1-12

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