One of the Epiphany stories that I love so much captures the visit of the Three Wise Men who were guided by the star to the baby Jesus. Scripture doesn’t necessarily reveal the exact location of the wisemen but seeing the star and being guided by it, they made their way to see the baby Jesus. And when they saw him, they presented him with Gold, a symbol of his kingship, Frankincense, a symbol of his priesthood, and Myrrh, a symbol of his death.
Again, not knowing the exact place where the Wise Men saw the star, they followed the star, through the desert, fields, hills, plains, mountains, rivers, streams, in dangerous places, through the cold nights and sunny days until they found the baby Jesus.
Some have said that these Wise Men were astronomers and so they could rightly tell the movement of stars. Heaven knows that I know next to nothing about astronomy. But what I know is the determination, discipline, dedication, and sacrifice of these Three Wise Men to follow an unusual star to the birthplace of human hope.
Last Sunday, we held a budget meeting. It was quite an informative gathering of parishioners who are so invested in Christ Church. I felt blessed by our conversation. This meeting was an attempt to lay out our budgetary process, share some of our challenges, reaffirm our hope in each other and the God who has called us to do the work of ministry and provide you, our beloved parishioners, an opportunity to ask questions about how we plan our finances.
I am thankful to all who made it a point to participate, whether in-person or virtually, and those who for one reason or the other, could not join us but still carried us in their spirits. There’s nothing more gratifying than the knowledge that others are praying for you.
I concluded our budget meeting by reminding everyone that we are not in bad shape - not by any stretch of the imagination - and that our problem is driven by income and not expenditure.
That is not to say that we shouldn’t evaluate our budget and take into consideration the possibility of making adjustments so we can better serve you, but I believe that we have to approach the future with the understanding that the most viable way of continuing to be a thriving congregation is to increase our giving.
I humbly offer this suggestion because we can all attest to the fact that everything that has value carries a cost with it.
As Christians, one of our core creedal anthems is Christ our Passover has been sacrificed for us, therefore let us keep the feast. The truth is that no sacrifice comes without a cost. When we celebrate the gift of Jesus Christ in securing our salvation, we look at the cross upon which he was crucified as the ultimate symbol of sacrificial love.
To dig a little deeper, as free as we are and our salvation is, we have to be constantly reminded that it is God who made it possible because it is God who places value on us. We are valuable to God, and that is why Jesus embraced the curse of the cross for the sake of human salvation. Your salvation and mine, your freedom and mine, your grace and mine came at a cost. And it is a cost that we can never repay nor are we being invited to repay.
The invitation has always been to honor the sacrifice that has been made on our behalf and to emulate that sacrifice in the gracious giving of ourselves.
Honoring the sacrifice would mean being open to being led by a star. The star may take us through unfamiliar places, rough terrains, plains, fields, forests, hills, mountains, valleys, deserts, snow, ice, rivers, and seas to get us to where the baby Jesus is. There’s never a time that the star loses us, but we often lose the star, and even when we lose the star, there’s always the chance of reconnecting with the star.
For us as Christians, our Star is the Star the Wise Men saw in the manger. Someone once said that there’s no star without a scar. And indeed, we follow a Star whose body was riddled with scars. We look at those scars and give thanks for the life that we have. More than that, we give thanks for the path that we walk because of the Star. We give thanks that in the midst of darkness, the bright light of the Star still shines through.
This Epiphany season, I am reminded that following the Star is costly. I am grateful that the Star has given us an example to follow, and I am glad we can follow the Star.
It is only by following his example that we too can bring Epiphany’s light to others, and see our way through life’s darkest challenges. Thanks be to God.