St. Thomas Evangelical Lutheran Church

3800 East Third Street

Bloomington, Indiana 47401

(812) 332-5252


Sermon for the First Wednesday of Advent(December 3, 2014)

Liturgical Color: Blue

Marissa Tweed, Pastoral Intern


Gold for Jesus' Royalty

Based on what Matthew tells us, we don't know a lot about the magi — not who they are or where they come from — but >they seem to know about Jesus. They declare Jesus king from the very beginning: "Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews?"

When they approach the Christ child they are overwhelmed with joy! They see Jesus with his mother, and they kneel down and open their treasure-chests offering Jesus gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

These gifts are of the highest value, gifts fit for a king. We all know that gold is valuable, but at the time of Jesus' birth it's estimated that frankincense and myrrh were worth more than their own weight in gold...so each of these gifts are extremely valuable.

In fact, these treasures were standard gifts to honor a king or deity in the ancient world: gold as a precious metal, frankincense as perfume or incense, and myrrh as anointing oil.

In addition to the honor and status implied by the sheer value of the gifts, the early church, and even some scholars today, believe that gold, frankincense, and myrrh are symbolic in nature and offer glimpses into Jesus himself: gold representing his royalty, frankincense his divinity, and myrrh his humanity. These symbolic interpretations have been popularized by John Henry Hopkins Jr. in his well-known Christmas carol "We Three Kings."

Each verse in that song symbolically connects each gift with the ministry of Jesus (which we'll sing together in a little bit). So, during each of these mid-week services we will be exploring the symbolism of these gifts and what they can help reveal to us about Christ.

Today we focus on the gift of gold.

Gold has always been a sign of royalty, wealth, power and singularity. It is widely accepted as something of enduring value and has been since antiquity.

In the Old Testament material things most "connected" with God are solid, pure Gold. The high holy places where God was thought to dwell were always constructed with a generous amount of gold: such as the gold of the tabernacle or the Arc of the Covenant — both simply laden with this valuable, precious substance. Even the word itself, gold, is mentioned 100 times in the book of Exodus alone.

Gold was thought to be fit for a king, so using gold to construct God's 'dwelling place' was a way to honor Yahweh as the ultimate king. And it continues to be fitting as the Magi honor the Christ Child as the King of Kings.

Even the angel declares to Mary that Jesus will be king: "He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of his kingdom there will be no end."

Of course, with the coming of this new king, there is also the coming of a new king-dom.

We've heard about this new kingdom throughout our readings in Matthew this past church year. Matthew offers several ways of describing the kingdom of God, and many of these metaphors reverse societal norms and values.

In Matthew the teachings of Jesus about the kingdom of God include taking care of the neighbor and the stranger, 'keeping awake' by doing the work of God in the world here and now, acting like all (truly all) are invited to the banquets of life, and celebrating the joy and precious nature of what it means to be and create this kingdom in our very lives together.

After all, in the Lord's Prayer we pray, "Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven."

Jesus' teachings are about a way of life that expresses and establishes the kingdom of God here on earth, amid this season of waiting. We are called as followers of Jesus to be "little Christs" for the world — living out God's kingdom now...even as we wait for its fullness.

The kingdom of God is here now, not yet — but we see glimpses of it.

When I was a little girl (4 years old) I was captivated by my mother's beautiful gold, diamond wedding ring. I loved to admire it: I would often look at it on her finger, touch it while we were holding hands, and sometimes, once in a great while, she'd even let me wear it.

One day we were baking together and she let me wear her ring while she kneaded the dough with her hands. Soon it was time for bed, and when my mom asked if I knew where her ring had gone I was at a loss for words. One thing was for sure: I was the last one who had my mom's gold wedding ring, I didn't have it any more, and I didn't know where it went.

I was as distraught as a 4 year-old could possibly be. I knew I had lost something so precious, so valuable, and so irreplaceable. I wondered how my mother would ever forgive me. We searched every nook and cranny in our house for over a week and had absolutely no luck. I thought about it every day, tormented, guilt-ridden, with a sick-feeling in my stomach when I would think about it. It really felt like my 4 year-old world was falling apart.

And then many days later as I was going into my parent's bedroom to say good night one evening, I looked down on the floor and sitting right there in the doorway, shiny as ever, was my mom's ring. Overwhelmed with joy and with tears in my eyes I ran to the gold ring, scooped it up, and rushed over to my mom, "I found it, mom! I found it!"

What I didn't know was that my dad had put it there in the doorway for me to find. He had found it in a small hole in the living room floor where it had rolled underneath the baseboards.

Restoring the gold wedding ring to my mom's possession was a big deal. Restoring my little 4-year old world was priceless.

This is what God's kingdom is about: restoration of our world...in our relationships, in creation, in the whole cosmos. Jesus came as God's ultimate restoration — the King of Kings and Lord of Lords — ruler of a hope-giving, grace-giving, life-giving kingdom without end: A kingdom where every tear is wiped away, where there is wholeness and healing, and where we as the children of God are named, claimed, and restored.

It is because of this new king, Christ the King, that we are made righteous before our Lord — made right-eous: meaning our relationship with God is made right and restored.

This gift of righteousness and restoration surpasses gold in its value...and may truly be the most valuable gift of all.

 

 

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