Second Sunday after Christmas 2004

A Sermon From All Saints’ Episcopal Church, Briarcliff Manor
Sermon preached by the Rev. Timothy E. Schenck, Rector, on January 4, 2004. 
Based on Matthew 2:1-12 (Christmas 2, Year C).

Magnets fascinate me. I don’t actually understand how they work, which just adds to the mystery. Something about polar opposites that I never paid attention to in science class. But I happen to think it’s kind of cool that an outside force can make another object bend to its will so quickly and so completely. Once that magnetic pull kicks in, there’s just no stopping it. 

I don’t get to play with magnets very often anymore but at our house we have a lot of small wooden trains that attach to one another with magnets. The trick is finding the right end so the trains stick together. If you try to connect them at the wrong end, the two magnets push against each other and you can’t get them together. But when you get them in the right order, they magically snap together and only the most hideous train wreck will pull them apart. Train wrecks are popular at our house. 

In the context of the Epiphany story, I couldn’t stop thinking about magnets. Because something like that unstoppable magnetic pull must have drawn the three wise men towards that star of Bethlehem. They knew nothing about this God; they weren’t Jews, after all. They weren’t breathlessly awaiting the arrival of the Messiah as foretold by Hebrew Scripture. But they felt the pull of the divine. A pull that is not reserved for the outwardly religious, but a divine beckoning open to all people. It is a universal pull. One freely offered by God to all humanity. And it’s as if the three wise men had no choice but to follow that star towards the manger. Unbeknownst to them, they were being pulled by God. But that’s the power of Christ. He draws us towards him in mysterious and magnetic ways.

And it was this great yearning to be near the heart of God, unarticulated though it was, that drew them to Bethlehem. It’s a yearning we all know and feel. It’s what draws us here this morning, it’s what draws us to seek out a community of faith, it’s what draws us to this altar. The very calling of God was that inexplicable force that drew the wise men towards the star of Bethlehem. It’s what compelled them to take up a journey into the unknown. And it’s the same spirit that drives our lifelong human response to the divine initiative: a yearning to draw near with faith.

Another thing I like to do with magnets is to take two trains and see just how close I can bring them together before the magnetic pull become irresistible. You can get pretty close, you can feel them start to pull together, and then if you’re fast enough you can pull them apart again before they stick. But at a certain moment you reach the point of no return and whatever you do, you’re powerless to pull them apart again. The two magnets stick together and there’s nothing you can do about it. Now, in my defense, I don’t do this for hours at a time. But I do sometimes find myself on the floor playing with these trains while the boys have long moved on to other toys. It’s a little embarrassing actually.

But, again, in the context of the Epiphany story it’s a helpful thought, that God is continually pulling us closer. Because, as we all know, there are certainly plenty of things that pull us away from God. Temptations abound. Distractions are everywhere. And it’s easy to lose sight of our relationship with God. I guess the trick is to put ourselves in position to feel this divine pull. And there are many ways to do this. Through worship, serving others, the reading of Scripture. And this is as good a time of year as any to think about ways to put ourselves in better position to experience God’s loving tug. It’s a new year after all. Many of us are concerned with getting some order back into our lives. Resolutions run rampant. And while diet and exercise often top the list, what about spiritual resolutions? Last week Nora’s sermon urged us to spend more time with Scripture. That’s not a bad place to start. 

In order to feel that magnetic pull of Christ in our lives, we need to put ourselves in position to be pulled towards him. We need to turn towards God and simply let God do the hard work of pulling us in the right direction. We just have to turn and surrender. That’s what the wise men did. They opened themselves up to the possibility of hope and then they simply followed the star, drawn like magnets to the newborn Savior of the world.

Here’s an easy resolution for all of us: let that inexplicable magnetic pull of Christ draw you closer to the risen Lord. Don’t try to resist the power of Jesus. There’s freedom in just letting go and allowing the divine magnetism of Jesus to pull you along. And in this offering up of ourselves, we mirror the magi. We let go of our fears and simply follow the star wherever it leads.

© The Rev. Tim Schenck 2004


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s