This morning we have the star, and the magi and their faith; they live before us; we can see their hope and their wonder and their journey. And right here at the beginning of the story we hear the promise: this is the path that leads to joy.
Blessed are the poor in spirit, Jesus says. Our hope is not in strength and wealth and greatness; in the palaces of kings. It is given to the small ones to be God’s people, those who walk in the strange power of the cross.
We have, Paul says, the mind of Christ. We live in Jesus Christ, and so we see differently. Running through all the ordinary days, we hear the echo of an extraordinary grace. For a cross rises here in the midst of our life, a cross and an empty tomb.
Isaiah points us to a child who cannot wield a sword, who does not lift his hand to harm or to destroy. He points us to a child born in a stable, seen by a few shepherds and some sheep. He points us to a child and he says, Here is the light.
Right up against the birth of the child who is joy to the world, the Gospel sets the story of Rachel’s weeping, the deaths of the innocent children of Bethlehem.
Because this is a good news that is real. Matthew sets death right up against birth because he knows—God knows—that Jesus comes to a world that needs to be saved. “You will call him Jesus,” the angel says to Joseph, “for he will save his people.” Jesus comes to a world that needs to be saved.
For good reason, following Jesus is both of these things—a terrifying relief. And as such, part of what it means to be Christian is learning to live out-of-control. Learning to detach from the world so that we might follow Jesus completely, placing our trust in him above everything else.
Such a long journey, at the hard time of the year, when we are too busy; when the way is uncertain; when the commitment is costly. But the end is this: the hand of Christ stretched out to touch, and in this touch the blessing.
I want us to think about what this might mean. “In those days, Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan” (Mk. 1:9). If God enters our hoping – this reaching out to God in baptism, this hoping for God himself — what is happening?