2022-01-02 Second Sunday after Christmas
Grace, mercy and peace be to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
One day a guy was out thrifting at the local pawnshops and found an old lamp. He picked it up and polished the brass a bit with his shirt sleeve. To his surprise, a genie came out and offered him three wishes! A bit flabbergasted and a tad bit thirsty, the man said “I want an ice cold Coca Cola right now!” POOF! He gets the Coke and takes a big swig. While he sipped on the Coke, he thought up his second wish. “I want to be on a tropical island with beautiful women who find me irresistible!” POOF! Suddenly, he’s on a white sandy beach surrounded by tons of gorgeous women eyeing him up lustfully. Then, he tells the genie his third and final wish. “I wish I only had to work one hour a week!” he said. POOF! The man was instantly made into … a pastor.
No doubt we would botch up our three wishes somehow. The old adage “be careful what you wish for” is very good advice. But perhaps we could take it one step further and say “be careful what you pray for.” King Solomon in our Old Testament reading had a very “genie-like” experience with God in a dream by night. God said, “Ask what I shall give you” (1Kings 3:5). Solomon answered in a very different way than we would answer. Most of us would ask for vast riches, sports cars, earthly pleasures for ourselves and families, or maybe even world peace. But Solomon answers God’s question like this: “Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people?” (1Kings 3:9). Or, put another way, ‘grant me wisdom Lord to do what you have called me to do’. “Grant me wisdom.” What an ingenious answer! I remember being back in Confirmation class and one of the elders who was helping teach the class said “always pray for wisdom, because if you have wisdom, you will always know what to pray for.”
What’s even more amazing than Solomon’s request for wisdom was God’s response. The scriptures say that “It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this!” (1Kgs 3:10). And not only was the Lord Almighty pleased because Solomon doesn’t ask for the usual genie stuff like long-life, cash, or vengeance over enemies, He says “behold, I now do according to your word.” God listens to Solomon and does his will! This is mind blowing! Normally it goes the other way. People strive to do God’s will, but here it’s the opposite. God grants Him the wisdom needed for being a King. And then, as a pure bonus, He throws in both riches and honour, the likes of which other kings can’t even compare!
This was how Solomon handled that “blank cheque” from God. He had the faith to ask for wisdom and then everything else followed behind it. It’s much like the Gospel of St. Matthew “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (MT 6:33). This text ought to shake us up a little bit! We’ve come to the beginning of another new year, usually the time of well-intended resolutions to start afresh with. We set our minds on spending more time with family and friends, slimming down, spending less money or giving up bad habits we’ve accumulated. However, we generally fall off the new year’s wagon of quality time, work out schedules and tight wallets pretty quickly. Seldom if ever do people think “jeepers, maybe I should spend more time praying or reading the Bible!” But maybe we should. Moreover, independent fact checkers have confirmed that we absolutely should spend more time praying and reading God’s Word!
Our sinful nature always wants to turn us away from God and into the world. It makes us forsake the Wisdom of His Word and chase after evil, or at the very least, stuff that doesn’t really matter. Have we been seeking first God’s Kingdom and righteousness or have we been seeking ourselves? Can we look in the mirror and honestly say we gave it all in our Christian lives? Have we sacrificed our own gain for the work of the Lord and the good of our neighbours? The answer is probably not. Or at the very least, not enough. Our sin is ever before us. What will make 2022 any different from 2021 if we don’t perk up our ears to God’s Word and repent of our sin?
The difference dear friends, is Wisdom, of which the fear of the Lord is the beginning (Psalm 111:10). Our culture and society are largely devoid of wisdom. If you think back to cultures of yesteryear, the Elders were revered for their wisdom. They were people you sought out to consult because they had been through a lot and had learned much. You could learn from them and prevent making their same mistakes again. Thus their wisdom became your wisdom and pretty soon you were so smart you couldn’t talk to yourself! But what happened to us? We hardly do that anymore because … we have smartphones! We have Google! We have the whole world’s knowledge in our pocket. But do we have wisdom? That’s the million dollar question.
As Psalm 111 tells us, the beginning of all wisdom is to fear the Lord, to know Him, to respect Him. To realize that He is God and we are not. It’s repentance. Turning from our sinful selves and thoughts, words and deeds and turning to the wisdom of God. Maybe in 2022 we can we devote ourselves to praying for God’s wisdom. St. James gives us the invitation when he writes “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him” (1:5). The writer of the Proverbs also to encourages us with these words: >13 Blessed is the one who finds wisdom, and the one who gets understanding, 14 for the gain from her is better than gain from silver and her profit better than gold. 15 She is more precious than jewels, and nothing you desire can compare with her. 16 Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honour. 17 Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace. 18 She is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her; those who hold her fast are called blessed (3:13-18).
Another way of looking at this is in the words of St. Paul “but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ [is] the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1Cor 1:24).
Christ Jesus our Lord is the wisdom of God! The call to pray for wisdom is the call to pray for Christ and the blessing that comes from clinging to His tree of life – the Cross. Can we devote ourselves to seeking God’s Wisdom – not like rubbing a magic lamp and scheming with 3 wishes from a genie – but rather by holding fast to God’s word of promise: that the blessings of Christ flow from His love for you. His Forgiveness. His Salvation. His Life. His death. His resurrection. His Hope. Let these things fill your hearts and minds as we begin another new year in God’s grace and with His blessing. For in Christ may you increase in wisdom and in stature and in favour with God and man; and may you always seek His Kingdom and righteousness now and forever. Amen!