Monday, December 24, 2012

Next Move

Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born King of the Jews?” (Matthew 2:2).

Years ago when Tiger Woods was still busy doing commercials and endorsements, I saw a print ad that caught my attention. The photo showed Tiger standing on the edge of a water hazard, calculating. Hands on his hips, eyes on the lie of the ball, he’s clearly assessing the trouble and how to get out of it.

And then at the bottom of the photo, this caption: “It’s what you do next that counts.” What a fitting tag-line for Christmas Eve.

At Christmas we tell a very particular story. We’ve been telling it for weeks through the season of Advent. We will gather tonight and tell it as part of our Christmas Eve worship. This story is Israel’s story. It’s the story of a people and a hope, and in that sense it is our story too.

At Christmas the hope finds fulfillment in a very specific place, among very specific people. Christmas is the story of God entering this world in Jesus. But, it’s what you do next that counts. This particular story calls for a personal response.

Consider Matthew’s account of the Magi from the East. All of the characters in the story of the Magi have access, at some point, to the same information. The question at the heart of the drama is “Where is the Christ to be born?”

Herod wants to know this. The Magi who have come from the east want to know this. The scholars whom Herod consults provide the answer from their knowledge of the scriptures: “Bethlehem in Judea.” There is a moment in the drama when all the players have the same piece of information. The Christ is in Bethlehem. But it’s what you do next that counts.

Herod sets himself in hostile opposition to what he knows. The information presented to him represents an obstacle to be removed, a threat to his power and sense of identity.

For the scholars the information never becomes more than a book report. They issue a written response to Herod, properly footnoted, complete with bibliography. And that’s it. We never see or hear from them again.

And then there are the Magi. They are the only ones who take the information they have and move with it. They persevere in finding what they had sought all along. The information takes them from one place to another – and when they arrive, they worship.

On this Christmas Eve most of us have all the information we need. The information is simple and widely known. Jesus is born in Bethlehem. To use Eugene Peterson’s phrase, God has ‘moved into the neighborhood.’ We conclude our Advent reflections with a question: What will you do with what you know? You can resist it. You can read about it. But maybe you’ll find yourself moved and changed. Maybe you will worship.

It’s what you do next that counts.

These stories are so familiar to us, O God. We acknowledge that they don’t always move us. Sometimes we listen without ever intending to do anything about what we’ve heard. Send your Spirit this Christmas and move us to respond to the good news of your presence among us, we ask in Jesus name. Amen

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