steve teague

The Journey Home


Sermon
The Rev. Dr. C. Steven Teague, Rector
Second Sunday after Christmas

You people whine too much. You don’t know how good you have it. I understand you get impatient and outraged if the GPS or SIRI lady sends you in the wrong direction, or yells if you make a stupid turn. But really, in my day we had no maps – roads or signs to point the way. Our signs were the stars. We traveled at night, plagued by the male gene, not knowing where we are, nor asking directions.

We are some of the best at what we do – astrologers, not magicians or kings, as you call us. And because we brought three lavish gifts to the child doesn’t make us three kings. Who came up with that anyway? You place us with the shepherds at the manger. I’ve seen them right beside us. Wrong! They arrived before us, and had long gone when we got there. But honestly, who cares? You’re too concerned with facts, getting history right that you miss the point. Our story is true whether it happened as I am about to tell you, or however you’ve learned it and want to believe it. A story is true when it draws you into it, and reshapes you and you’re never the same again.

While scanning the skies one night, we notice an unusually different star – brighter and larger. It hung around. Such signs portend of a special king’s birth. We scoured our libraries of sacred books of other religions. In book we find the Jews have been expecting a special king. So we head to Judah. Magi study the skies, you know – to explore such special events.

After months of travel, we finally arrive in Jerusalem, find the palace and figure the present king will know what’s up in his land. He welcomes us, acts interested in why we’re here and who we’re looking to see. When we state our business, his ears begin to smoke, eyes glare. He sputters and leaves the room. Finally, he returns to tell us his “religious magi” say a Messiah king is who we seek. We know that much, just not where the child is born. “When did you first see this star?” he asks. We tell him. “You’ll need to go on to Bethlehem.” And he gives us directions. “And when you find this new king, let me know – a little reward in it for you. I’d like to call on him, too, yeah, that’s it,” he says with a smarmy grin. Who’s he kidding?

We step back into the night, trying to figure which way to go, when there in the sky – our star. It moves, beckoning us to follow, as if it is alive and knows us. For some strange reason, I feel a wondrous, exciting joy – like I am about to find something I have longed for, and never knew what it is or would satisfy my desire. Then the star stops over a small cottage. “What in the world?” I think. “Is there a palace around here?” We knock on the door. A man opens. Inside we see a lowly mother and child. The couple welcomes us, as if they expect us. I kneel before the child as do my friends. I feel like I’m on holy ground, and kneeling is the right thing to do. Such love emanates from this child and family, like none I’ve ever known. We place gifts, which now seem out of place, at his mother’s feet. I swear he smiles at us.

Shortly, we say goodbye and leave – find a camp ground, pitch our tent, tend the camels, pull out blankets, and soon we’re snoring. The next morning, drinking coffee around the campfire, we find we each have had the same dream. A messenger warns, “Don’t go back to Jerusalem. Go home another way,” confirming our suspicions. The star had gone, but some presence and force remained with us and guiding us.

I am an astrologer and religion professor. I am learned. I have all the answers I need, so I think. That journey exposed what I lack. I realized it when I saw the child. We are all on this same journey. We may take different paths to get there – doesn’t matter. I’ve learned that a divine life and spirit – whether as a star, a yearning, in a church, a nagging tug, can lead you to what is holy and true. What finds you is Love – pure unconditional Love. That night the One, Holy God of the universe spoke to me, reaching beyond human obstacles and boundaries to get to us. I hear his whisper, “Just love me. I have come for all people, all nations. Trust me.” I never expected this. God comes first to the bottom, the lowly and discounted, outsiders, the least of these – eventually finding the high and mighty, who also will one day fall to their knees before this child, conquered by a love no one can resist. It is true, because it’s the story I have longed to hear. I didn’t get it in your scripture, being baptized, or confirmed. We knew no doctrines, couldn’t speak the grammar of faith. We were pagans, gentiles – outside the family, for crying out loud. We knew virtually nothing of a God who loves all peoples. And yet God, in a star, came to find us – and you, too – to love, forgive and heal your broken hearts. Stay on the journey. Follow the star before you – the longing in your heart. One day you’ll realize what you have been seeking has already found you. You, too, will fall on your knees, overwhelmed with a love you cannot explain. You’ll realize God loved you long before you ever knew of him, or could love him back. You are never too old, too young, too mean, too broken, too messed up for God. You are loved.

Do you find, in any way, this story is true and real? When you have, you might hear a whisper, see a star, find light breaks through darkness, and you realize the greatest of these is love. God comes to us in unexpected places, people and ways. This story becomes yours, true and life changing. You can know for sure, not by proof, but by heart. You’ll know truth can be greater than facts. Welcome home – by a most unusual way.