Today is the day! We have spent several weeks journeying with the Magi, the wisemen, to see the child Christ. We were with them as they oriented themselves towards Christ, in the midst of Herod’s fear, as the light shone and guided them, as they presented their gifts, and now as they wrap up their journey and return home. So, they were supposed to send word to Herod exactly when and where they had found Christ. The reason Herod gave was so that Herod could also pay homage to Christ, but we know that wasn’t true. Herod was afraid of this child who had been born King of the Jews and wanted to destroy him, to eliminate this threat. In our verse today, the magi are warned in a dream not to return to Herod so instead, they go home by another route. The path they had taken to arrive at Christ was no longer safe to return on, it had become dangerous, for both Christ and them. To go back down that same path would have meant certain destruction for Christ, probably his family too, and possibly the magi themselves. What was once a path of life and joy and opportunity had become a dangerous path, a toxic path. To go back down that same old road? No, they needed to make the next part of their journey by another road and sometimes, so do we.
There are all sorts of reasons and all sorts of ways that the paths we travel down become unhealthy. We do things, things are done to us, we have coping mechanisms, we have numbing mechanisms. Whatever it is, sometimes the road we travel becomes toxic or dangerous and we, like the magi need to continue by another road. But breaking that pattern, deviating, turning, from well worn paths can be so difficult. On our own, it can feel daunting or impossible to change years or sometimes decades of habits and reactions. But the good news is, that we are not on our own. For the wisemen, and for us, the force of God’s love is present and active.
Think about inertia. Inertia is the tendency to resist change, the tendency for things to remain unchanged. Inertia is described in Newton’s first law of motion: objects at rest stay at rest and objects in motion stay in motion unless acted upon.
Basically, matter will keep on doing what it is doing, moving or resting, unless another force acts upon it. Inertia, a tendency to resist change, exists within matter and, I believe, exists within our heart, our mind, and our spirit too.
Ball or pencil
Something happens – a simple drink at the end of a long day, or a single smoke, or a quick streaming episode – can get out of control – same thing can happen with anxiety, fear, sorrow, rage, depression. And in order for this path, this way of moving, or not moving, to change, something has to happen. And the absolutely amazing thing is that something has already happened. Maybe we don’t recognize it yet, but something has already happened. God’s love has happened.
For the Magi, it occurred as a message in a dream. “And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod…” For you, maybe it is a friend, or a doctor, or a song, or a poem, or a scripture, or a tv show, or worship, or a sermon, a family member, or medication, or a painting. God loves you. God’s grace surrounds you. God continually reaches out to you in love through any and all means. God loves you. God wants you to have an abundant, full filling life. God wants you to prosper, to have a future. We can get off track and stay off track for a long time but the force of Christ’s love can help us travel down new paths. The force of Christ’s love directs us down new roads. The force of Christ’s love can break through the strongest pull of inertia and help us take another road.
You don’t have to be trapped and feel stuck in unhealthy and unhelpful habits and patterns. I won’t promise it’ll be easy, God doesn’t promise that either, but God will love you through whatever change, adjustment, pivot, or transition you need to make. The magi left by another road and so can we. This week, may you recognize God’s love, may you encounter the avenues God uses to connect with you and reach out to you, and may the force of that love start to guide you on new, abundant, life giving paths. Amen.