Cloth for the Cradle
Rev. Dr. Glenda Hollingshead; December 15, 2019
3rd Sunday of Advent
This morning we consider a text generally reserved for Epiphany—the story of the wise men following a star from the East to pay homage, or to honor baby Jesus. No doubt, a lot of what we assume about the wise men comes from Christian folklore rather than Scripture. For example, tradition tells us that the wise men were three and that they were kings, that they were named Melchior, Gaspar, and Balthasar, and that their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh signified a gift worthy of a king, a gift worthy of divinity, and a spice foretelling of Christ’s death, respectively.
While the wise men play a significant role in this story, so does the star burning bright—the star that leads them to their destination. With Christmas so commercialized these days, I daresay, we still need a star to find our way to Jesus. One scholar puts it this way:
Because we are almost blinded by the culture, the star is a sign, a wonder, a revelation, a guidepost, a traffic light, a tracking device, and a GPS that brings us to the point and place of divine revelation about the Messiah. For the real meaning of Christmas, we must “follow the star.” [i]
While tradition might have us focus on the star and on the three wise men, the real point to the story is, of course, paying homage to Christ. Before the wise men present their gifts to the child, they kneel and worship him. First, they give themselves completely to Christ. Then they offer their gifts.
Interestingly, when it was time for the wise men to return home, there is no indication that the star guided them. Could it be that they no longer needed it? Could it be that once they saw the child, the external light became internalized as hearts aflame? Moreover, shouldn’t it be true that when we follow the star to the Christ-child, when we behold the Messiah, when we bow, worship, and give our gifts to the child, we, too, leave with hearts aflame?
Today, led by the star, we have come to worship the Christ child. We come, we kneel, we worship, and we offer our gift. What is your gift to bring? My gift is to stand before you and point you to the Christ-child. Others bring gifts this morning.
Elise Phelps brings a gift for the Christ child. She brings the gift of a story.
Zachary Routsong brings a gift for the Christ child. He brings the gift of music.
Evan Phelps brings a gift for the Christ child. He brings the gift of laughter.
Jaxson Routsong brings a gift for the Christ child. He brings the gift of a song.
Take a moment to reflect on what gift you bring to Jesus. [Silence] There is a cradle on the Lord’s Table and there are strips of cloth available. When the music begins, you are invited to come forward, take a strip of cloth, and lay it in the cradle to symbolize your gift. While the choir leads us, singing the verses of “Cloth for the Cradle,” we will join in the refrain as we come to the cradle.
[Cloth for the Cradle experience]
We have followed the star and the way of the wise men. With joy we have bowed, we have worshiped, and we have presented our gifts to the Christ-child. Now, may we leave with our hearts aflame and may we never forget what we have seen. Amen.
[i] Frank A. Thomas, Feasting on the Word
*Cover by Stushie Art, used by subscription; Affirmation of Faith by Rev. Rebecca F. Harrison, Spanish Springs Presbyterian Church, Sparks, NV @ https://www.liturgylink.net/2012/11/26/advent-statement-of-faith/