Jesus, The Light of the World
Opening Question: How many of you stayed up on New Years Eve? What happened?
First Reading: Isaiah 60:1-6
Through the sights and sounds of television, more than 300 million people watched the ball in New York City's Time Square as the old year became the new. More than one half million people went to Times Square to watch the ball in person. The ball is actually lights in the form of a ball and, sitting on a tall building, can be seen for more than a mile away.
The excitement climbs as people count down "5, 4, 3, 2, 1..." The ball of lights travel down and, at midnight, goes out. Then a brighter sign goes on and spells out what everyone cheers: "Happy New Year!"
The time from Thanksgiving to New Years is a time for lights. Beautiful Christmas lights on houses. Beautiful trees with glowing, blinking lights. There is even a ball of lights on New Years. But now its light to take down the lights and put them away until next year. Wouldn't be nice if there were lights all year round?
In the reading today, the author calls God a light that will brighten up the night and draw people near. Today we celebrate Jesus as God's light, the one who drew the three wise men near to worship.
Bridging Question: Have you ever seen the Milky Way in the sky? Have you ever seen pictures of things in the night sky?
Gospel: Matthew 2:1-12
Jesus was born in Bethlehem during the reign of Herod, King of Palestine. After his birth, wise men who studied the stars arrived in Jerusalem from the East. They began to ask, "Where is the child who is to be King of the Jews? We saw the star that pointed to him in the East, and we came to honor him."
When King Herod heard they were asking about a new king, he and everyone in Jerusalem got upset. He called the Temple priests and teachers of the Jewish Law together and asked them, "Where will the Christ be born?"
"He will be born in Bethlehem of Judea," they answered, "because God said through one of his prophets:
Bethlehem in the land of Judah,
you are not the least important among the cities of Judah.
From you, a great leader will come.
He will guide Israel like a good shepherd.'"
Herod called the men together in a private meeting. "When did the star first appear?" he asked them. After they discussed the star, Herod sent them to Jerusalem with this request: "Go and ask everyone about the child. When you find him, come and tell me, so I can honor him, too."
When they heard the king's request, they left. Then, the star which they saw in the East led them and stood over the place Jesus was. When they saw this, they were very happy. And their hearts were full of great joy. When they entered the place where Jesus was, they saw the child with Mary, his mother. They bowed before Jesus, like he was a king. Then they opened their treasures and offered him three gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Later, God warned them in a dream not to return to Herod. So they went home on a different road.
Paul looked forward to the Scout camp out. They were going out to the desert where the sky is clear and there are no city lights to spoil the view of stars. They loaded up the trucks and vans. Then they rode in for over two hours. The ride was long and boring. Sometimes they would joke and tell stories. Sometimes look at the scenery out of the window. Sometimes they would try to sleeps using their jackets as pillows.
After a stop to get food and gas, they made their way to the winding desert road. The scenery got darker and darker as they left the lights of the city. The road began to wind back and forth. The younger scouts got a little scared. The taller boys could see the white lines on the road with the headlights. But all the boys new one thing. They were out in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of the night.
Suddenly, they could see a few lights on the side of the road, against the side of the mountain. The vans and trucks turned on the gravel road. The lights showed a campground with a hot springs. The vehicles stopped. The boys unloaded their gear, and set up camp.
After dinner, the Scout master announced the boys would hike to out to see the stars. Paul was excited to learn about the constellations and all the large lights in the sky. They went out across the highway, and found their way to the blacktop of a desert airfield. Then, the Scoutmaster announced, "Lay down and look at the stars."
One by one, the boys grew quiet as they looked at the thousands of stars in the sky. And, one by one, the boys began to look at sky in a new way. The Scoutmaster described the position of stars and the images of constellations. The sky began to lose the look of sand in the sky, and began to look like a puzzle with pieces that fit together. Some of the boys began to see animals and faces. Paul thought he saw his face in the sky, but he didn't tell anyone.
That night changed Paul. He began to take science more seriously. He studied harder and read more. But it changed Paul in a different way. He saw how big the universe really was and how great God's creation was. Paul now believed he wanted to be a scientist. And God wanted him to be a scientist.
Paul's trip must have been like the Magi. They could see the stars, like Paul. And they studied the stars, like Paul. They even traveled to see a star, like Paul. And like Paul, their travels changed their lives. But, they saw, for the first time, someone Paul saw a lot. Jesus. Let us follow the road to Jesus, no matter whether it's dark with a star light sky.
Closing Question: How is Jesus the "light of the world?" How can you share your light with others? How can you share Jesus' light with others?