Nations shall come to your light, and rulers to the brightness of your dawn.
Today Western Christians observe Epiphany while Orthodox Christians prepare for their celebration of Christmas. The Magi kneel before the Child whose light is for all the nations; God's power is revealed in the vulnerability of an infant. Sadly, today as of old, the light is mocked as innocents are slaughtered. Rachel weeps again in the lands of Jesus' birth as Herods unleash tanks and rockets while the rulers of nations look on from the safety of their palaces with cruel cynicism to see how their own interests might be advanced in the continuing violence. The Magi's haunting question, posed by the poet T. S. Eliot, challenges us today: "Were we led all this way for Birth or Death?"
Today our hearts and prayers are with all those innocents in and around Gaza who tremble before the advancing armies and who live under the shadow of terror from the skies. In particular we remember our Palestinian Christian partners who bear witness to non-violent resistance even amid this latest manifestation of a bitter Occupation. And in our dreams we hear the urging of God to walk with the Magi by another way.
Today we call on members of the United Church of Christ to look beyond comfortable and self-serving justifications of this latest war to see the deeper violence that has gripped a people in a near imprisonment of despair. Today we call on members of the United Church of Christ to give generously that now and in the months to come the victims of this slaughter might find relief and hope. Today we call on members of the United Church of Christ to demand of our own U.S. leaders a more insistent word and a more urgent action to end the violence and to join the community of nations in a clear chorus of "no" to war as the solution to endless cycles of violence in the land we call holy.
Today we hear the Psalmist remind us of a Sovereign who "delivers the needy when they call, the poor and those who have no helper, who has pity on the weak and the needy, and saves the lives of the needed, who from oppression and violence redeems their life." This Child-Sovereign we worship the world over today invites us home by another way where, as the poet suggests, we find ourselves "no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation, with an alien people clutching their gods." May we no longer be at ease in a world grown comfortable with its cruelty and war. Indeed, may we be so ill at ease that Rachel's wailing drowns out the cruel silence of our rulers, and Herod's sword is stayed by the Child who is the redeemer of life. For once again the light has come, the glory of the Lord has risen, and nations shall come to the light, even rulers to the brightness of God's dawn.