Matthew 2:1-12
In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea,
wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child
who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its
rising, and have come to pay him homage.” When King Herod heard
this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling
together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of
them where the Messiah was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem
of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet: ‘And you,
Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the
rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my
people Israel.’” Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and
learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then
he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the
child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also
go and pay him homage.”
When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of
them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped
over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had
stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. 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. And having been warned in a
dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by
another road.

Mark 1:4-11
4 John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism
of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.  5 And people from the whole
Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to
him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their
sins. 6 Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt
around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey.  7 He proclaimed,
“The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not
worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals.  8 I have
baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

9 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized
by John in the Jordan.  10 And just as he was coming up out of the
water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a
dove on him. 11 And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the
Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

The stories of the visit from the Wise Men and the Baptism of Jesus
cover a scope of time of about 28 years.
The story of the Wise Men proclaims an eternal truth: Jesus is God’s gift
born for the purpose of manifesting the presence of God to all people of every race,
ethnic background, nation and religion.
The story of Jesus’ baptism points at a moment in time when Jesus joined
his Jewish brothers and sister in preparing and anticipating God creatively working
through the awaited Messiah. Also, Jesus’ baptism was the beginning of his claim
to his divine purpose of bringing about God’s Kingdom.
Both stories reveal God’s intervention in human history, and also, both
stories are confirmations.
The Wise Men’s visit once again confirmed to Mary and Joseph that their
child was like none other – 1born for God’s purpose.
Jesus’ baptism was his own confirmation that he was pursuing the right
course for his life. “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”
God’s words to Jesus allude not only to Psalm 2:7 where the Psalmist recalls
God’s declaration to the messiah (the anointed king), but also to Genesis 22:2
where Isaac is known as the only [Greek: beloved] son of Abraham, and Isaiah
11:2 where God’s spirit rests on the king of Israel, and Isaiah 42:1 where God’s
spirit rests on the servant in whom God delights.

These loving words,”You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well
pleased,” comforted, inspired and propelled Jesus throughout his entire life’s
mission. Oh, there were other voices Jesus heard as well. Voices attempting to
mislead and derail his mission. Yet, Jesus focused on God’s voice, a voice of
empowerment and love.
As we enter this new year of 2018, I think it would do us all well to reflect
on two questions, “What voices do we hear?” and, “Which voices do we allow to
influence our lives?”
Last night I saw a blurb on the CBS Evening News. The interviewer
discovered the oldest yoga instructor who had just been awarded the title of ‘the
oldest dance competitor’. I didn’t catch her name. She lives in upstate New York
and is 99 years young. She moved with grace, lifting her legs and spinning around
like I could only hope to do in my dreams. When asked for her inspiration, she
told the interviewer, “I only let the positive in my mind. Don’t let the negative in
because it will effect your body.” And, I would add that the negative also effects
our soul.
There are good voices we can listen to, voices inspired by God. And, there
are voices everywhere trying to mislead and derail our life’s mission of embracing
and sharing God’s love. We must be aware of this reality.
Listen to the empowering, loving voice of the One who sent Jesus. Only in
that voice can we find whatever we need to survive and thrive in our life and
Only in God can we discover the depth of how very much loved
and valued we really are.