Monday Matters (January 3, 2022)

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.
-Matthew 2:1-12

Searching for joy: a poem in anticipation of Epiphany

If I could meet the magi, the question on my mind:
What made them take that road trip? What did they hope to find?

Assume their lives were comfortable. It paid well to be wise.
They spent their days at camel chase. At night they scanned the skies.

They knew the stars like back of hand. They’d studied well and hard.
Advanced degreed astrology, In school they got gold stars

Another way to ask it: What was it they were lacking?
Was there some royal restlessness that sent them westward packing?

One eastern night when moon was hid and stars were shining bright,
They wisely cast a glance above and spied a different light.

Next night the same, but brighter. Where did that star come from?
How could they have been missing it? And had it been there long?

Mounting camels, off they went following that light.
No need to go to mapquest. The star would steer them right.

I’m sure you’ve heard the gender jokes, how men can’t ask directions.
Not so for these astrologers: They made a course correction.

By calling on a colleague. King Herod, deemed much wiser.
They asked if he would point the way. He called in his advisers.

Who searched the scripture for a text to pass along to them
They told the Magi where to go “Head straight for Bethlehem”

We each are like the magi. I wonder if you know it.
(Though you may think it less than wise for priest to pose as poet)

Our lives become predictable. We live out our routines.
But then a light makes us look up and restlessness creeps in.

We realize then we’re seekers for things that fill the bill.
Will money make us happier? Relationships fulfill?

We sometimes shop at Herod’s (the king, and not the store)
To see if power fills that place. We’re always after more.

If we could just work harder. The next promotion reach.
If we could just act better. And practice what we preach.

We each are on a journey to find joy in our lives.
In many ways, we try to fill the gaps that life supplies.

What are you seeking in your life? Is search for joy your quest?
Have you a clue where it is found? Or where it’s best expressed?

A search for joy can lose its way when clouds obscure the star.
And pain of life can hide the light and then we don’t get far.

Our search for joy can get bogged down, get gridlocked spiritually
Our lives get in a traffic jam. There’s no green light to see.

We focus on what others have. But what we fail to do
Is seek for joy by looking up, by looking for what’s new.

What’s new is represented in Bethlehem’s young boy.
That’s where we find an answer if we’re really seeking joy.

Like those kings who made that trip and left their status quoing.
There’s new life to be found by all if we will start let going.

Let go. Let God. Our travel tip. Let star become the guide.
And know that when we take a step we go with God beside.

We each are on a journey that’s guided by the Spirit.
It sometimes is a bumpy road. It’s sometimes hard to steer it.

But the journey is a gift itself when made by me and you.
When traveling with other folks we come on something new.

A life we’d not expected. Grace that helps us cope.
A light that shines in darkness. Amid the cold night: Hope.

Community in loneliness. A place to bring our gifts.
A common spirit traveling. A star that spirits lifts.

It’s possible to travel far and never leave this place.
A journey of the spirit starts with one small step toward grace.

The biggest trek can be one step of welcoming God’s love.
Of worshipping with eyes raised up. That is the way we move.

Our world sure needs us magi. Needs wise folk seeking love
Who look beyond the glitter to see a star above.

So let’s head back 2000 years to what these magi teach us.
Across the miles, across the years their witnesses still reach us.

We find the magi traveling. The Exit: Bethlehem
They’re slouching in their camel seats. The next step’s up to them.

They’ve traveled far. They’re tired. They’ve quarreled just a bit.
Go right. Go left. Head north. Head south. But it was worth the trip.

For when they met the infant king, entitlement surrendered.
They offered gold, incense and myrrh, the best they had to tender.

The star they followed led them to the child they now adore.
The one they flood with presents has given them back more.

It all made sense, so quickly clear, the reason for those miles
The search for joy now ended with holy family smiles.

It all made sense in worship. They found it filled their needs
And when we worship Christ child king, our search for joy succeeds.

This ending a beginning. Move ahead they must
They headed home another way, left Herod in the dust.

Their story teaches lessons still, through years more than 2k
It teaches us to move ahead. Go home another way.

Go forward from the place you offered gift on bended knee.
Go forward to the journey next based on Epiphany

Go forward based on glimpse of light that guides when dark surrounds.
Go forward on your journey. There’s more joy to be found.

-Jay Sidebotham

Good Book Club to start 2022 with Exodus

Start the new year with a renewed spiritual practice of reading God’s Word. Forward Movement, with support from partners from around the Episcopal Church and Anglican Communion, will celebrate the time of Epiphany with a new round of the Good Book Club by reading the first half of the Book of Exodus.

Exodus recounts the journey of the Israelites from slavery to freedom. We hear the great stories of Moses, from his discovery by Pharaoh’s daughter on the bank of the river to the burning bush to his presentation of the Ten Commandments. Along the way, we encounter God’s covenant and explore the grand theme of redemption.

This year, we have a bonus time of scripture engagement: the Good Book Club will dive into the first twenty chapters of Exodus from Epiphany, January 6, to Shrove Tuesday, March 1. For those who want to keep reading, we’ll offer a daily reading guide and an overview of the second half of Exodus. That reading period will conclude on Easter.

The full schedule, including the list of daily readings is available at

Sign up to receive updates on Exodus.

Joining the Good Book Club is easy: Open your Bible and start reading!