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Jan 06, 2019

A Change of Plans

Passage: Matthew 2:1-12

Speaker: Michael E. Karunas

Series: Refresh

Category: Refresh


The refresh function on our computers is not the same as restarting.  When we restart we shut everything down; we close all the apps we’re using; and we go back to the beginning.  But when we refresh, everything stays on, and our screen and what we’re looking at is simply updated with new information.  We restart when something is wrong; when something isn’t working right and we want to override the problem.  But we refresh when we want to keep going.  We keep working on the same things, but we in order for us to move forward we need new updates. 

A new year is a time for new beginnings, but it is not a restart.  As in… we turn off last year, pretend it didn’t happen.  My best friend from childhood had a terrible 2018.  He’s an only child, and in April his mother died from cancer and then in June, his father was murdered.  On New Year’s Eve, he posted on facebook, “Good riddance, 2018!  Don’t let the door hit you on way out.”  That’s what we feel like doing in such moments – closing the door on something and not ever wanting to think of it again.  But the truth is, it’s all still there in the past.  A new year is more like a refresh.  It’s a good time to pause, look back at the last year and acknowledge that it did happen, whatever it was and however we value it.  But it’s also a time to look forward and think about how we can use the past year to update who we are and help us become the people God calls us to be in the new year.

This will be the focus of our sermon series as we begin 2019.  It’s called “Refresh” and it’s all about second chances.  Over the next six weeks, we will look at 6 different people in scripture who were given a second chance by God.  It wasn’t necessarily that they were messing up.  And God didn’t erase their past.  But there was pause in each of their lives when they had a “spiritual a-ha moment” and from that point forward they became the people God needed them to be – and we needed them to be.  We hope the start of this new year can be a “Spiritual aha moment” for each of us, and that the next 6 weeks can be new information that we can incorporate into our lives as we hit refresh on our spiritual journey. 

Today we begin with the wise men, because today is Jan. 6, the 12th day of Christmas, the day we celebrate the wise men coming to Jesus and bringing him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.  This day, the 12th day of Christmas, has a special name… Epiphany.  The word “epiphany” means “appearance” and it refers to the appearance of the wise men to Mary, Joseph and Jesus.  But we use the word “epiphany” in another way as well.  To have an “epiphany” is to have a “spiritual aha moment.”  It is coming to our spiritual senses, because we experience something about God that changes the course of our lives.  This is what happened to the wise men.  We don’t know much about them, but without them, none of us might be where we are today. 

According to Matthew’s gospel, when Jesus was born a star shone in the sky brighter than all the rest.  It shone over the town of Bethlehem where Jesus was born.  Wise men from the east saw that start.  They weren’t kings.  The biblical name is magi, where our word “magic” comes from, but they weren’t magicians as we think of them.  They were probably part priest, part astronomer and part philosopher.  So… wise men is a good term.  The bible never says how many there were.  We assume there were three of them but that’s only because there are three gifts mentioned.  The bible doesn’t tell us their names or where exactly they came from.  Later tradition has given them the names of Melchior, Caspar and Balthasar and depending on where one looks, they are said to have come from Arabia, Persia, Afghanistan or even India.  The Catholic Church today recognizes them as saints.  But none of this is in the bible.  What is in the bible, however, is far more important than their names, countries of origin or how many there were.

Scripture tells us that the wise men knew the star signaled the birth of a new king and they wanted to visit him and pay respects – thus bringing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.  When they arrived in Judea, the territory where Bethlehem was located, they first went to the Jewish King.  His name was Herod.  They figured maybe King Herod had a son and this was the new king the star pointed to.  But King Herod didn’t have a son and now he became scared and worried.  Perhaps there was someone out there who would challenge his rule and his throne.  King Herod told the wise men to look for Jesus and after they found him, to come back and tell him, so that he might also go and pay his respects.  The wise men did this… or part of it.  They found Jesus.  They gave their gifts.  But then… they had a spiritual aha moment.

God intervened.  God gave them a vision, and it was this.  King Herod was secretly planning on killing Jesus.  In fact, he would decree that every boy age two and under be killed in the entire territory of Judea.  He was willing to kill thousands of boys just to make sure that Jesus was dead and the threat to his rule eliminated.  God revealed to the wise men Herod’s real plans and the they believed and trusted that vision.  Because of this, they quickly left the country by a different route than they came, bypassing King Herod altogether and sneaking home by another road.  And because of this, Joseph was able to escape with Mary and Jesus and Jesus’ life was spared. 

The best gift the wise men gave Jesus was not Gold, regardless of how much it was worth.  It was not frankincense of myrrh, fragrant oils that were expensive to produce and thus of great value.  The best gift they gave was their willingness to change – to change their plans.  Had they not changed their itinerary, Jesus might not have survived.  Their willingness to change their direction led to a second chance for Jesus, who would go on to live and die and rise to give us all second chance at eternal life.

That’s what a new year and new beginnings are all about.  Change.  About changing our direction; about changing the way we look at what’s in front of us.  We can’t change our past.  What’s done is done and God knows that.  But like the wise men, the greatest gift we can give to one another – to ourselves and to God - is our willingness to change as we move forward into the future.  We will look more closely at specific changes in in the coming weeks, but as we begin this new year, and inspired by the wise men and their story, we invite you to reflect on these general questions:

How open are your to change in your life?

            What about your life are you willing to change?

            Where is God asking you to consider a change? 

And what kind of change might that be?  A change in action? In Attitude? In Perspective? 

It is never the past that defines us.  It is willingness to change in the future does.