Where Is the King?

Pastor Rachel B. Livingston 

 I. We Are Still In The Christmas Season

For many of us we have concluded our Christmas season, as we have celebrated Christmas day and marched into the new year.  In many households, the trees have come down, the stockings have been taken off the fireplace, the lights have gone into the box and back into the attic, all of the decorations have been put away.  Because to many the Christmas season is over.  December 25th has come and gone, Santa Clause has come to visit the children, we have all received our gifts, we have waited for the ball to drop as it signifies the ushering in of a new year, we have wished our family all the blessings that can come in the new year, we have made our resolutions that will bring about the new us in the new year, and the time has come for us to return back to business as usual.  And for some of us, we are moving into a new year, with the desire of trying to leave all things that happened in 2020 behind, shedding all the negativity, our heartbreak, our sorrow, and pain, and we are stepping into the new year of 2021with new possibilities, new thoughts, and a new perspective.
But for us Christians, the Christmas season is still continuing, and it will continue on until January 6th, which is the date in the church that we call epiphany.  And while the 6th is a few days away, this is the Sunday that we celebrate this day of Epiphany, the conclusion of the saga of the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ as the Magi, or as some of us know it as the three wise men, arrive and present Jesus with the gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  The virgin Mary and Joseph have already arrived in the city of David, Bethlehem – there was no room for them in the inn – and yet they were given space to sleep in the barn.  Mary gave birth to this Holy Child and laid him in a manger.  The angels came and spoke to shepherds in the fields and told them of the new born King.  And shepherds traversed the land to visit and sit at this Holy King’s feet as he laid in a manger amongst the animals in the stable.  And now we are in the portion of the story in which the three wise men from the east have come to the see the Child who is the King.  These three kings of orient are, bringing gifts they have traversed afar, field and fountain, moor and mountain, following yonder star.

 II. The Wise Men

These three wise men have searched the stars, and even the skies proclaim that this time has brought about a new born King, a child of royal birth.  It was believed by many that the astrological signs could signal the birth of an important figure, and these men, Gentiles from the east, who have studied and searched the skies had come to the conclusion that the skies were telling them that something magical, something transformational, something that changes the trajectory of the world was happening.  The world was experiencing the oppressive control of the Roman Empire as the empire sought out to achieve domination over the entire world. The Roman Empire, and the seat of the Emperor, believed they were the very seat of ultimate power within the world.  They believed that they had the approval of the gods and that the gods had granted them the power and reign to establish a kingdom that spans the whole globe.  And as Rome occupied country after country, it may even seem to many that their proclamation of the favor of the gods toward them was true.  The Roman Empire conquered many different lands with reckless abandon, spreading an oppressive governmental structure that not only disregarded the rights and personhood of those that weren’t Roman citizens, but it also disregarded the rights and personhood of the Roman poor, or anyone who was not in the small group of the rich elite in the Roman Empire.  But there was something in the stars that must have informed these three wise men that something about this birth was different.  That something cataclysmic was happening that was about to shift the oppressive structure that was to build something new – something that brought justice, peace, and love. Something about the birth of this Holy Child, the birth of this promised King, this birth of the Son of God was about to make a transformational change that might relieve the world from the terror that the rest of the world may have felt the Roman Empire had placed upon them.  We know that they thought this birth was different because they traversed the land, over deserts, plains, hills, mountain, grass, and fields all so they could place their sights on this new born king, Jesus the Christ.  They came into the land of Jerusalem, the stars had led them there and the first thing they proclaim is, “Where is the child who has been born King of the Jews?” – Where is the king?  Where is the one who has the power to transform everything?  Where is the King? Where is the source of a new hope for the world? Where is the King?

 III. We Are Looking For The Christ

We too are living in a time in which the world around us seems to be heavy, suffocating and oppressive.  In more ways than one, this global pandemic has placed a significant strain on our lives. We are locked away from family, we have had to change our holiday plans, we are anticipating the vaccine, will it work, will it not, is this some form of human experiment, because this would not be the first time that people have unethically tested on human beings.  There has been reports of a COVID variant that has been moving in the UK and reports that it has now hit the shores of America.  This virus has hit communities of color with great vigor, and caused great problems for those who that are impoverished and have little to no health coverage.  We look to local governments to see what we are able to do, with new restrictions, in what seems to be weekly, with the intent of keeping us all safe and avoiding the overwhelming of hospital staff and first responders.  Our whole life has seemed to revolve around what has and will happen with COVID in politics, in economics, and in personal relationships.  But even in the midst of COVID none of our other problems that existed before COVID have gone away, even though COVID has put heavy limitations on our lives. In the middle of the pandemic, our country was faced to wrestle with racial injustice as many people felt as if their very lives were of no importance to a country who has historically been the source of pain and oppression.  We are still faced with people having trouble paying their bills – leaving them in positions where it is difficult to have place to lay their head or feed their families.  This problem has only been made worse as the pandemic has made job instability and unemployment worse. And there was a bombing in Nashville on the day we were supposed to be celebrating the birth of our Lord, Jesus Christ.  If there has ever been a moment where we need a sense of relief, a piece of salvation, or a hope of liberation and redemption, it is right now.  The world is looking for the King, they are looking for Jesus, they are looking for the place of salvation.  They need the source of hope, peace, joy, and love, even if they cannot identify it as such.  Where it the King? Where is the holy Child?  Where is King Jesus? Where is the King? Where do we go? What must we do?  Must we search the land to find our resolution? Where is the King?

 IV. The Wise Men and Their Search

The Magi searched the world, it seemed, and they came to Jerusalem, just outside the city of Bethlehem, the place where the Christ-child lay.  They came to Herod, to ask about the King of the Jews.  This was an extreme insult to Herod because he was supposed to be the King of the Jews, he was the one who sat on the throne in Jerusalem.  And yet these Magi did not come to see him, they came asking, “Where is the Child who was born the king of the Jews?” But Herod was not the source of salvation.  Herod was only the perpetuation of what was, as he was a puppet of the Roman Empire, a leader who only helped keep the governmental structure and the political injustices in place.  Herod may have been the current King of the Jews, but only in name, he was not the source of salvation, he was not the being that would transform the world, he was not the one who was bringing the liberation that the Jews had been looking for, for centuries, he was not the reason that the specific pattern of the stars in the sky led the wise men to the area, he was not the one that would bring about liberation and redemption.  But who was? Who was the King? And Where was he?

Just like Herod there are many things and people who want to claim to be the source that the world needs to bring hope, peace, joy, and love.  They want to stand in our way and lead us away from the presence of Christ in the world.  Maybe if you wear the right thing, take part in the right diet, or maybe if you depend on the government, or maybe if you had enough money.  Maybe all these things can be the source that solves all your problems.  But the reality is that only Jesus is the source that can fix our problems.  Even sometimes the church and people of God lift up themselves as the source of the problem, rather than pointing to the source that is Jesus Christ, who leads us to do the work of God within the world.  It is not who we are or what we do that brings hope, peace, joy, or love into the world.  It is the presence of Jesus Christ within us that not only brings hope, peace, joy, and love into the world, but Jesus is also the very source of that same hope, peace, joy, and love in the world.  The ministry we create and carry out must point to Jesus.  When we feed the hungry, visit the sick, encourage the imprisoned – we must point to the one who taught us how to do it – we must point to Christ.

The Magi then headed to Bethlehem – the place in Hebrew that means the house of bread – who could have known that they very source of our sustenance for life and new life itself would be born in this land of Bethlehem – the house of bread – the place that produced our bread of life, the sustenance that grants us life and life eternal. The bread that was broken for our transgressions, the one who bled for our iniquities, the very source of our salvation.

 V. Search For Jesus And Point the World to Him

As the world is looking for a sense of relief – a place that can bring hope, peace, joy, and love.  We must point to the one we have been waiting for.  In order to do this, we must be prayerful, listening to God, that God might point us to not only the location of Christ, but the actions of Christ.  And then we must allow ourselves to grow in grace that we might embody the actions of Christ.  Taking care of the sick, visiting the imprisoned, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, affirming those who have been cast out of society, standing against racial injustice because all were created by God and extended God’s grace, providing for the homeless, working against housing and job instability, and living with the love of God inside that allows us to love our neighbor. In all this it is not us that brings any of this, but Christ within us that causes us to act in love. The reality is that our world needs a complete transformation. They are like the wisemen searching for the King, searching for the source of that transformation.  But we as the people of God know what the world is looking for, we know the glory that Jesus can bring, the hope of salvation that rests in Jesus Christ.  As we conclude this Christmas season, where the world has been in search of salvation we hear the guttural moans of an earth that is crying out, Where is the King? As we stand at the close of one year and the beginning of a new year we ourselves are asking Where is the King?  So like the Magi we look for the presence of Christ in the world.  Where is the King? Where is the Christ?  And once we find him – likely wherever there is love, among the rejected, among the hungry, among the imprisoned, among the lost – it is when we find Christ and the hope, peace, joy, and love within him that we then point to the Christ that the world is looking for as they stand in need of the hope, peace, joy, and love that only Christ can provide. So now as we go out, as the people of God,  let us point to Christ and his salvation. Amen.