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Pastoral Letter, January 11, 2023

To the Saints in the City of Saint Charles January 11, 2023 So it's raining. On the whole, it's a good thing. Be careful if you must drive or go somewhere. Watch for falling trees. Play baseball another day. Don't be in a hurry. Otherwise, turn on your favorite music, make a cup of hot cocoa, maybe light some candles and enjoy a rainy day, or two, or three . . .

Last week I talked about the Three Kings or Wise Men, sermon at bottom.

This coming Sunday I will talk about them again, and mention King Herod as well. How wise these three visitors were to heed the warning of an angel in a dream and departed the scene before Herod caught up with them. Herod was one of the baddest of bad guys in the Bible, and that is saying a lot, for the Bible is full of bad guys. And, of course, some good guys, and gals. The light shines in the darkness. By way of announcements, we will have a Council Meeting after church this Sunday and Annual Meeting after church on January 29. More information on Annual Meeting will follow. It's not too early to prepare for the annual crab feed:

Sermon, 1st Sunday of Epiphany San Carlos Community Church Since it is the first Sunday of Epiphany, I’ll be talking about the wise men; and about dreams and about the new and unexpected things that burst into our lives. As I have been reading the Christmas story this year, I have noticed the surprisingly large part played by dreams. As you know the Christmas story in the Bible begins with the annunciation to Mary, which we read about in the Gospel of Luke. An angel appears to her, not in a dream but in real, waking time. But Joseph, of course, knew nothing about the angel and the annunciation and, apparently, Mary did not tell him. So when he learns of the pregnancy, he is resolved to quietly call off their engagement, but is told not to do so by an angel in a dream. Then the birth happens, the shepherds come and eventually the wise men, who find the child, offer their gifts, and bow down and worship him. Then, being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they return to their own country by another way. That angel must have been very busy that year, for immediately after the wise men depart, the Bible tells us, behold, an angel of the Lord appears to Joseph in a dream and says, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there till I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” So some very important, life-saving information comes through dreams in this story. Sometimes the truth breaks into our lives in surprising ways, through dreams, through angels in dreams, through kings, wise men, unexpected visitors, perhaps even angels when we are wide awake. Now as for these kings, astrologers, wise men, sages or whatever you call them. The Bible does not describe them or reveal their names or tell us how many they were. In fact, the Bible does not call them kings at all, but simply Magi, or Wise Men and tells us that they came from the east, from the land of the rising sun. Who might they have been? The term ‘magoi’ applied first to a priestly caste who rose to power in ancient Persia and then to any people who were good at astrology and the interpretation of dreams. As to these particular magi who showed up at the birth of Jesus, we do not know much. Much of material we can find dates back to the 8th century in England, to a wonderful and justly revered figure who wrote the first history of the place we call England: the Venerable Bede. He lived in in Northumbria, in the border area between England and Scotland. He described three visitors thus: "The first was called Melchior; he was an old man, with white hair and long beard; he offered gold to the Lord as to his king. The second, Gaspar by name, young, beardless, of ruddy hue, offered to Jesus his gift of incense, the homage due to Divinity. The third, of black complexion, with heavy beard, was called Balthazar; the myrrh he held in his hands prefigured the death of the Son of man." Thus the three gifts had a spiritual meaning: Gold as a symbol of kingship on earth, Frankincense (an incense) as a symbol of deity, Myrrh (an embalming oil) as a symbol of death. So there we have the essential characteristics of Jesus: Jesus is our ultimate authority, or King. He mediates between us and God the father, which makes him our Priest. His martyrdom made him our Saviour. Jesus was and is our Lord, Our High Priest and our Saviour. The wise men who gathered around the Christ child were the first to recognize this. The coming of these visitors from a great distance further symbolizes the world’s acknowledgment of the authority of Jesus. Most importantly, from the infancy of Jesus, certain moral obligations follow: Because Jesus was born weak and helpless, we are obligated to help the helpless. Because of God’s generosity in giving himself to us, we resolve to give of ourselves to others. Because Christ was a child, we especially honor children in this season and remember to honor the child in all of us; and allow ourselves to be delighted by the bright, delicious, sugary, over-the-top sweetness of this season; for as we become as little children, we inherit the kingdom of God. Now, just some questions, questions resulting from interpreting this dream- and angel-filled story as if it were a dream. Dream are wonderful aspects of human being. We dream them up every night, so they are obviously our own creations. Yet they present themselves to us as if they come from somewhere and someone else entirely. They are entirely our own productions, yet seem so strange. How do we interpret them? One was is to aspect of the dream as if were part of our very selves, which, indeed it is. So: As if we were these ancient wise persons ourselves, what are we searching for in this season? What is coming into our world that we’re not looking for? Something that may be announced by an angel or a dream, or an angel in a dream. What is coming into our lives like little children? What little, tiny surprises are entering our lives unexpectedly? What is being announced to us by angels, as if we were shepherds abiding in the fields, as we abide here in the woods and lakes and fields of Maine? Let us honor the Christ child and the Christ in us and in others and be awake this winter for the stirrings of new life.

- Pastor Richard Hyde Community Church of San Carlos

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