Feast of the Epiphany B (observed) – January 7, 2018

On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Matthew 2:11
So here we are in Act Three of the Christmas Pageant, at least in how it took place here at St. John’s on December 17th. Act One was from the Gospel of Luke with Mary and Joseph arriving in Bethlehem, Joseph searching in vain for a place to stay, the offer of the stable behind the inn, the birth of Jesus. Act Two began with an Angel proclaiming the good news to the Shepherds, who then dash to Bethlehem to see the child. In Act Three, the pageant jumped to the Gospel of Matthew for the story of the Wise Men. Director Elisa Khan wisely edited out the part about insecure, anxious King Herod, sending the Wise Men directly to Bethlehem, where they knelt at the manager and gave the newborn King gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. It was a wonderful pageant, appreciated by all.
But did you catch what Elisa did and what pageant directors have almost always done? She merged the two different stories of the birth of Christ together into one. Luke provides intimate details about Jesus’ conception and birth, his circumcision and presentation in the temple. He’s a physician, a doctor, all of this is part of his world. I’m surprised he didn’t include the baby’s birth weight. Matthew takes a different tack. From him we hear about the conception from Joseph’s point of view, who as a righteous man, a good Jew, was deeply troubled. An angel shows up in a dream to assure him it’s OK to takes Mary as his wife. She bears a son, he names him Jesus. That’s it. No stable. Not even a manger. Instead Matthew puts us in Herod’s palace, where visitors from the East who have been following a rising star inquire about a newborn king. Herod has his scholars consult the scriptures and sends the wise men to Bethlehem with the request they return to tell him where to find this newborn king. He does so because it’s a big problem if a newborn king is found somewhere else than the royal nursery. With the information they needed the international visitors follow the star to Bethlehem where they worship the infant who is the King of the Jews, and through their adoration the child becomes the Savoir of the nations. Warned in a dream not to return to Herod, the Wise Men go home by another way.
Scholars say Matthew tells the Christmas story this way because he’s very concerned about a problem in his own church where Jewish and non-Jewish, Gentile, Christians were struggling to get along with one another. Who’s in and who’s out, who’s accepted, who’s rejected, is an issue in every community, including Phoenixville. So, the only ones who visited the newborn king are foreigners, the ultimate outsiders. We can see hints of this throughout his whole Gospel. And then at the very end of Matthew, the Risen Lord commands his followers to “Go and make disciples of ALL nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. Surely, I am with you always to the end of the age.” First, the nations come to the child, and now that same child, the Risen Lord, sends his disciples out to the nations.
I love this. I love how both Luke and Matthew put the gift of Christ into their own context. And then how throughout the ages, the followers of Christ have done the same. I experienced this during the Christmas of 1978 while on internship at Emanuel Lutheran Church located at 4th and Carpenter Streets in the heart the Southwark Projects. The teenagers decided to produce an Emanuel Christmas Pageant. Neely Eaddy, now Emanuel’s Pastor, his friend, Gary Jones and Neely’s brother Gino wrote the script along with an original score. Homeless Mary and Joe sang the blues as they search for a warm, safe place. Finally, she gave birth in a laundromat, assisted by women doing their wash. One offered her a clean towel to wrap up the baby. Another let her borrowed a laundry basket for his crib. Meanwhile on the other side of Washington Avenue there were a group of teenage boys playing basket-ball when suddenly they were interrupted by rapping angels who sent them to visit the homeless, holy family. There was even a Herod who looked a lot like an African American version of Mayor Frank Rizzo. The visitors from the East were Three Wise Guys from Ninth Street, the Italian Market. Even though they came from only five blocks west, it might as well have been another continent. The pageant ended with everyone exuberantly singing Joy to the World for in Southwark, Jesus was born, disciples were made and God, Emanuel, was with them.
That’s true for us, too. With a very short Advent, it was wonderful to have the Sunday School Pageant get us in the spirit and lead us right into hanging the greens. Then on December 24th, we began the day with Advent carols and lessons and ended it joining with all of heaven and nature singing Joy to the World. Between the four worship services over 600 people rejoiced in the birth of the newborn king. Jesus, our Emmanuel was with us and has remained with us through the twelve days of Christmas. Thank God because it’s been a challenging time as there has been five deaths. First, William “Bill” Kunsch, then Amelia Lynn Bechtel, both of whom who died on the fourth day of Christmas. On the fifth morning, Herman Charles “Chuck” Villwock died, on the sixth day Lorraine Saxton and then finally, on eleventh one, Jean Yanchek.
For so many in our community Christmas joy has been tempered by sadness, sorrow and grief. I say “tempered” because of something that happened when preparing the first funeral, the one for Bill. As we were picking hymns one of his sons asked, “Can we sing a Christmas carol?” I replied, “Sure.” He suggested “Good Christmas Friends, Rejoice” because it was his Dad’s favorite. In singing it we were given the Gospel, specifically in the final verse. It’s 288, let’s sing, the third verse: “Good Christian friends, rejoice with heart and soul and voice; now ye need not fear the grave; Jesus Christ as born to save! Calls you one and calls you all to gain the everlasting hall. Christ was born to save! Christ was born to save!” I said our Christmas joy was “tempered” because just as when steel is “tempered” it becomes tougher, less brittle, stronger, harder, I think that is also true for joy. It goes beyond happiness and it is transformed into the deep joy that knows Christ our Savior calls each of us to gain the everlasting hall. Christ was born to save – you, me, Bill, Lynn, Chuck, Lorranie, Jean and the whole blessed and broken creation.
Saved by Christ, what is for us left to do? To be like the Wise men — to give gifts. Not gold, frankincense and myrrh – but something even more precious – ourselves — our time, talent and treasures. There are lots of ways to do that here at St. John’s. One of them, the Phantom Food Packs program provides a back-pack full of nutritious for families of kindergarteners, first and second graders who are food “insecure” which means they are eligible to receive free or reduce lunches. With the winter weather the program had a challenging week. I was concerned about them and then on on Friday I received an email from Laura Geiger, the program’s coordinator, that began: What an amazing group of volunteers! I think we faced every problem imaginable this week and came out winning! We got our packs filled and distributed to the schools! The odds we faced: the packing team coming down with the flu; the snow and cold weather; the food bank not being able to deliver their food; getting the food to the school during school hours with a two hour delay! I am so thankful for all the helpful ideas, time, and commitment of this group. Laura went on to especially thank those who stepped up and helped and then concluded: This is truly a beautiful community. Thank you all for your help ensuring the young minds of Phoenixville are fed. It is important work. Gratefully yours, Laura
Let us bring the Christ child, the gifts of our selves – our time, talent and treasure – nothing is more precious for in the giving we will discover everlasting joy! Amen.
Pastor Cynthia Krommes
Matthew 2: 1-12
On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Matthew 2: 11
So here we are in Act Three of the Christmas Pageant, at least in how it took place here at St. John’s on December 17th. Act One was from the Gospel of Luke with Mary and Joseph arriving in Bethlehem, Joseph searching in vain for a place to stay, the offer of the stable behind the inn, the birth of Jesus. Act Two began with an Angel proclaiming the good news to the Shepherds, who then dash to Bethlehem to see the child. In Act Three, the pageant jumped to the Gospel of Matthew for the story of the Wise Men. Director Elisa Khan wisely edited out the part about insecure, anxious King Herod, sending the Wise Men directly to Bethlehem, where they knelt at the manager and gave the newborn King gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. It was a wonderful pageant, appreciated by all.
But did you catch what Elisa did and what pageant directors have almost always done? She merged the two different stories of the birth of Christ together into one. Luke provides intimate details about Jesus’ conception and birth, his circumcision and presentation in the temple. He’s a physician, a doctor, all of this is part of his world. I’m surprised he didn’t include the baby’s birth weight. Matthew takes a different tack. From him we hear about the conception from Joseph’s point of view, who as a righteous man, a good Jew, was deeply troubled. An angel shows up in a dream to assure him it’s OK to takes Mary as his wife. She bears a son, he names him Jesus. That’s it. No stable. Not even a manger. Instead Matthew puts us in Herod’s palace, where visitors from the East who have been following a rising star inquire about a newborn king. Herod has his scholars consult the scriptures and sends the wise men to Bethlehem with the request they return to tell him where to find this newborn king. He does so because it’s a big problem if a newborn king is found somewhere else than the royal nursery. With the information they needed the international visitors follow the star to Bethlehem where they worship the infant who is the King of the Jews, and through their adoration the child becomes the Savoir of the nations. Warned in a dream not to return to Herod, the Wise Men go home by another way.
Scholars say Matthew tells the Christmas story this way because he’s very concerned about a problem in his own church where Jewish and non-Jewish, Gentile, Christians were struggling to get along with one another. Who’s in and who’s out, who’s accepted, who’s rejected, is an issue in every community, including Phoenixville. So, the only ones who visited the newborn king are foreigners, the ultimate outsiders. We can see hints of this throughout his whole Gospel. And then at the very end of Matthew, the Risen Lord commands his followers to “Go and make disciples of ALL nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. Surely, I am with you always to the end of the age.” First, the nations come to the child, and now that same child, the Risen Lord, sends his disciples out to the nations.
I love this. I love how both Luke and Matthew put the gift of Christ into their own context. And then how throughout the ages, the followers of Christ have done the same. I experienced this during the Christmas of 1978 while on internship at Emanuel Lutheran Church located at 4th and Carpenter Streets in the heart the Southwark Projects. The teenagers decided to produce an Emanuel Christmas Pageant. Neely Eaddy, now Emanuel’s Pastor, his friend, Gary Jones and Neely’s brother Gino wrote the script along with an original score. Homeless Mary and Joe sang the blues as they search for a warm, safe place. Finally, she gave birth in a laundromat, assisted by women doing their wash. One offered her a clean towel to wrap up the baby. Another let her borrowed a laundry basket for his crib. Meanwhile on the other side of Washington Avenue there were a group of teenage boys playing basket-ball when suddenly they were interrupted by rapping angels who sent them to visit the homeless, holy family. There was even a Herod who looked a lot like an African American version of Mayor Frank Rizzo. The visitors from the East were Three Wise Guys from Ninth Street, the Italian Market. Even though they came from only five blocks west, it might as well have been another continent. The pageant ended with everyone exuberantly singing Joy to the World for in Southwark, Jesus was born, disciples were made and God, Emanuel, was with them.
That’s true for us, too. With a very short Advent, it was wonderful to have the Sunday School Pageant get us in the spirit and lead us right into hanging the greens. Then on December 24th, we began the day with Advent carols and lessons and ended it joining with all of heaven and nature singing Joy to the World. Between the four worship services over 600 people rejoiced in the birth of the newborn king. Jesus, our Emmanuel was with us and has remained with us through the twelve days of Christmas. Thank God because it’s been a challenging time as there has been five deaths. First, William “Bill” Kunsch, then Amelia Lynn Bechtel, both of whom who died on the fourth day of Christmas. On the fifth morning, Herman Charles “Chuck” Villwock died, on the sixth day Lorraine Saxton and then finally, on eleventh one, Jean Yanchek.
For so many in our community Christmas joy has been tempered by sadness, sorrow and grief. I say “tempered” because of something that happened when preparing the first funeral, the one for Bill. As we were picking hymns one of his sons asked, “Can we sing a Christmas carol?” I replied, “Sure.” He suggested “Good Christmas Friends, Rejoice” because it was his Dad’s favorite. In singing it we were given the Gospel, specifically in the final verse. It’s 288, let’s sing, the third verse: “Good Christian friends, rejoice with heart and soul and voice; now ye need not fear the grave; Jesus Christ as born to save! Calls you one and calls you all to gain the everlasting hall. Christ was born to save! Christ was born to save!” I said our Christmas joy was “tempered” because just as when steel is “tempered” it becomes tougher, less brittle, stronger, harder, I think that is also true for joy. It goes beyond happiness and it is transformed into the deep joy that knows Christ our Savior calls each of us to gain the everlasting hall. Christ was born to save – you, me, Bill, Lynn, Chuck, Lorranie, Jean and the whole blessed and broken creation.
Saved by Christ, what is for us left to do? To be like the Wise men — to give gifts. Not gold, frankincense and myrrh – but something even more precious – ourselves — our time, talent and treasures. There are lots of ways to do that here at St. John’s. One of them, the Phantom Food Packs program provides a back-pack full of nutritious for families of kindergarteners, first and second graders who are food “insecure” which means they are eligible to receive free or reduce lunches. With the winter weather the program had a challenging week. I was concerned about them and then on on Friday I received an email from Laura Geiger, the program’s coordinator, that began: What an amazing group of volunteers! I think we faced every problem imaginable this week and came out winning! We got our packs filled and distributed to the schools! The odds we faced: the packing team coming down with the flu; the snow and cold weather; the food bank not being able to deliver their food; getting the food to the school during school hours with a two hour delay! I am so thankful for all the helpful ideas, time, and commitment of this group. Laura went on to especially thank those who stepped up and helped and then concluded: This is truly a beautiful community. Thank you all for your help ensuring the young minds of Phoenixville are fed. It is important work. Gratefully yours, Laura
Let us bring the Christ child, the gifts of our selves – our time, talent and treasure – nothing is more precious for in the giving we will discover everlasting joy! Amen.

St John’s Lutheran Church Phoenixville