Weekly Bible Devotional
Those Who Dream Persevere
January 2, 2022
Prayer by Sarah Are:
God of the Milky Way,
We, like the Magi, are walking toward you.
One foot in front of the other, we are walking toward you.
It is our very prayer to move your way.
So if you can, leave the light on and the front door unlocked.
Leave a fire in the hearth and food on the stove.
And when we start to get lost or doubt our dreams,
Give us the will to persevere.
We are walking toward you, O God.
So like the parent that throws open the door,
Open the door to us through this text. Amen.
Scripture for Sunday: Matthew 2:1-12
In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, 2 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.” 3 When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; 4 and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born.5 They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:
6 ‘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.'”
7 Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. 8 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.” 9 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.10 When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. 11 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. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.
Notes on the Text:
This is Epiphany Sunday, the season of celebrating the coming of God in the power of the light of Christ. On January 6 Western Christians celebrate the feast of Epiphany, which takes its name from the Greek word epiphaneia, meaning disclosure, manifestation, unveiling or appearance. We celebrate in this story the unveiling of the light of Christ to the Wise Men from the east who came seeking an encounter with the sacred. The author of the Gospel being concerned with showing us how Jesus was the fulfillment of Jewish hopes for the Messiah, tells this story to prove to the readers that even though those who were insiders to the faith did not recognize the significance of the birth of Jesus, those on the outside did. The kingdom of God came in Jesus as a fulfillment to hopes and prophecies, yet it came in unexpected ways.
In this week’s scripture about the story of the coming of the Magi to visit baby Jesus in Bethlehem, we hear about their surprising faith and perseverance. They had to travel from afar relying on ancient prophecies and their ability to read the stars. Then when their search hit a major bump, they had to search again. When they encountered Herod and did not find the baby they were looking for, they persevered in their prayer and in their listening to divine guidance.
The Magi/Wise Men had to rely on hunches, stars, and prophecies and those were not exact instruction like we normally get from a GPS. In addition, their faith seemed to have led them straight into a major problem! It led them to Herod, a power-hungry and unethical king. He was not afraid to sacrifice anything and anyone for the sake of keeping his power. He even killed his sons when they seemed to threaten his throne. He was willing to sacrifice little children when the Wise Men did not go back to him. The Wise Men had to rely on their dreams and prayers to find a way out of the mess with Herod. They persevered in the face of uncertainty and fear. They adapted their plans and were willing to find a different way to the Christ child and back to their own homes. Their perseverance was not blind determination. It was tempered with a willingness to change and to adapt while holding on to their vision. Maybe if they had followed the star more accurately, they would not have been ready to receive the humble birth of Jesus. Maybe they would have missed the whole thing! Because of our egos, it is often hard for us to fully appreciate God’s humility and willingness to love. It is so easy for us as human beings to misunderstand the signs that God sends us.
Perseverance is not always a word we would like to experience because it means that we have to endure something difficult. Yet, any dream worth achieving requires perseverance. Any serious commitment to loving others requires perseverance because we often fail each other, or life brings us difficult circumstances and hardships. Even God has to persevere in loving us. One of the words that is often used in the Psalms about God’s love is “Steadfast.”
Faith does not give us simple answers or exact locations of where to find love or peace. We may even completely misinterpret signs from God, like the Magi did. The invitation is to stay open to new inspiration, just like the Magi did. Staying open to new inspiration and guidance was key for the Magi that even when they missed the place of the birth of Jesus, they found him eventually. Human discernment is not always easy or clear. There are many ways to listen to God’s will, but the key is to continue to stay open to God’s surprising love. Perseverance in faith does not mean doing the same thing over and over. It is about being willing to change and to stay awake to the unfolding of God’s dream in the world, especially in new or surprising ways.
The invitation of the story of the Magi is to know when to change and when to stay the course. We often confuse the methods of living God’s vision with the actual vision. We get stuck doing things in the ways we like. We forget that in order to achieve God’s big dream and vision for us and for our world, we have to be willing to change, adapt, and persevere in pursuing the dream. It may take us many detours and changes, but our work is to stay faithful to the vision while being open to new guidance and new paths. Our egos demand certainty, safety, familiarity and control, but faith is about trust without knowing where the path will lead us.
“An epiphany is not an experience that we can create from within, but one that we can only be open to and receive from another. Epiphanies leave us totally out of control, and they always demand that we change.” ~Richard Rohr,
“I Imagine” Poem by Sarah Are:
I imagine they packed bags-
Water and food, blankets and clothes.
I imagine they packed tools-
Maps and telescopes that could bring the stars closer,
As if the sky was a comforter they could pull near.
I imagine they hugged loved ones and said,
“We’ll be back soon.”
And when loved ones said,
“You don’t even know what you’re chasing,”
I imagine they put lips to foreheads and said,
“There is a light in the darkness. I must chase that.”
And then I imagine they walked.
I imagine they walked until legs were tired and knees gave out.
Maybe they told stories on the road and laughed into open sky,
Or maybe they sat in silence and prayed for more light.
However the road unfolded, I imagine it was not easy.
I imagine all of this, not because I’ve chased stars,
But because I have dreamed.
And these dreams for justice make the Magi’s story my own.
For every time we fight for justice,
We start in the dark.
We hug loved ones and say,
“There’s a light in the darkness, I must chase that.”
We walk until we’re tired,
And then we keep walking.
We laugh at the open sky as a form of resistance.
We pray in the night for signs of more light.
And no matter how important the journey is,
And no matter how much progress we make,
The journey to justice is never easy.
And so I pray, That maybe one day,
We will be like the Magi,
And will walk ourselves into the light.
Until then, don’t forget- There’s a light in the darkness.
We must chase that.