Sermon Series: "Christmas: The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly"
"Let's Keep the Wise Men in Christmas"
Who were these magi from the east?
People have been asking this question for nearly 2,000 years.
We know very little about them from the Scriptures.
They weren't Jews; we know that.
They were foreigners, perhaps from Persia.
Some say that they were from India.
In any event, they were students of the stars.
The word "magi" comes from the same root word as "magician" or "magic."
Most believe they were some kind of combination of philosophers and astronomers.
As part of their religion, they paid special attention to the stars.
It's fantastic how God uses so many different avenues to bring us to a knowledge of Him.
Some come to God by humbly studying science, and the facts we know about how complex even the tiniest molecule is...not even to mention the entire, eternal universe!!!
Others come to God when they get to the end of their rope.
Still others are drawn to God by studying other religions, by searching, seeking and finally finding the One True God--the Only One Who can truly save, redeem and transform.
Before my conversion, I used to read the horoscope section of the newspaper--in my case it was the college paper.
And I remember reading, perhaps the day or week before I gave my life to Christ, my horoscope.
I don't remember, any longer, what it said but I do remember that I felt it played a part in helping me to be particularly ready for the moment when I gave everything to Jesus.
I remember telling my pastor about that at the time, and his response was: "I believe Ken, that God is willing and does use just about any means to bring us to Himself."
God really does use what we've got, or call us to Himself just as we are with whatever tools we have with us at the time.
What did Jesus say in Matthew Chapter 7?
"Ask, and you will receive. Search and you will find. Knock and the door will be opened to you."
If we are honestly searching for the Truth...honestly...I believe the Truth will make Himself known to us.
That's how much God loves us.
That's how much God desires to be in relationship with us.
And, after-all, even our desire to seek the truth is a gift given to us by God.
If we were not searching for a better way, for life eternal--then the Holy Spirit would not be working in our life...
...or another way to say this is: It is the Holy Spirit working in our life that causes us to seek God.
So God used the magi's knowledge of the stars and their search for the truth through them, to bring them to Himself.
The Bible isn't endorsing astrology.
Instead, it is testifying to the power and love of God to use any means to bring us to a saving knowledge of Himself.
It's been said that "the tragic comedy of this story is underlined by the way Matthew juxtaposes the magi over against King Herod's Bible scholars.
The Scripture experts have scrolls; but they miss the Messiah's birth--and when they get a whiff that the Scripture might actually be taking on flesh, they recoil and lash out defensively."
Now, let's go back to the fact that these magi were not Jewish, they were foreigners.
They didn't know the Hebrew Scriptures, at least not fully.
They didn't know that the prophet Micah had foretold that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem.
But they did know that King Herod had rebuilt the Temple in Jerusalem--so beautiful, so magnificent, that it was known throughout the civilized world.
So, it makes sense that in their seeking, in their journey to find the newborn King of the Jews, they would head for the center of Judaism, Jerusalem itself!!!
They must have been very wealthy men.
It's believed that they had an entourage of servants, drivers and animals, and their gifts were extravagant.
And King Herod loved prominence and power.
So, he gave these dignitaries exuberant hospitality.
He even called the Sanhedrin together...the Sanhedrin were the Jewish religious scholars and leaders to meet these foreign dignitaries, so they could ask them "where the Christ was to be born."
And they said, "In Bethlehem of Judea," and then they quoted the prophet Micah.
But of course, the very words: "the newborn king of the Jews" struck fear in Herod's paranoid heart.
And Herod, who was obsessed with power, "secretly called for the magi and found out from them the time when the star had first appeared..."
Later he would send "soldiers to kill all the male children in Bethlehem and in all the surrounding territory..." in order to try and protect his crown.
So, the Jewish religious elite who knew the Scriptures didn't seek out the Newborn Messiah.
They knew the truth, so to speak, but they ignored it.
Instead, these foreign astrologers went seeking God's One and Only Son--the Savior of the world.
If Jesus is the King of the Jews, that certainly doesn't mean that His rule is limited to the Jewish people, and we find this out right away through the actions of the Magi!!!
God's salvation has always been and always will be open to all people--to all who will seek and when they find--allow Jesus to be King of their lives.
Another neat thing about the magi, these scholar-wise men is that they were willing to listen, to take advice, to hear Micah's prophecy...
...and in spite of their obvious wealth and learning--they were humble!!!
They humbly followed the star.
They humbly found their way to Jesus.
They humbly knelt before Him and His young peasant mother and carpenter father.
And they humbly and prayerfully gave Jesus the precious gifts that they had carried for hundreds of miles.
Humility in the hearts of the rich, the powerful, the intellectual elite is a wonderful thing!!!
Some powerful people are full of themselves.
They are too proud to associate with "the common folk."
They decide to trust in their riches rather than in God.
Some want special privileges; some want to bend the rules in their favor.
But how many of you have known some dynamic leaders--powerful men and women--who humbly kneel to receive Communion, and who help the homeless with their money, their time, their talents?
Let's face it.
The wisest people in the world believe and trust in the Lord!!!
The fools get caught up and lost in themselves.
When the magi entered the house "and saw the child with Mary his mother...
...[they fell to their knees], they honored him.
Then they opened their treasure chests, and presented him with" very expensive and exotic gifts--"gold, frankincense, and myrrh."
Obviously, they at least stayed the night in Bethlehem, because we are told that "they were warned in a dream not to return to Herod..."
And so we are told, "they went back to their own country by another route."
They had been to Bethlehem, they had knelt before the King of kings--and they had been changed.
A very strong spiritual message is here...right here in Matthew Chapter 2:8.
"They went back to their own country by another route."
When we give our hearts to Jesus Christ, we go home "by another route."
Our lives are forever changed.
Jesus said, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life."
Jesus' way is a different way than the way of the world.
Jesus' way is a different way than the way we used to live before we came to know Him.
In today's world, some people are telling us lies; Jesus is telling the truth.
Some folks are stealing, while those who are truly following Christ are giving to the poor.
Some adults are abusing children, while others, those who are truly following Christ, are taking children in their arms and blessing them.
Many of us forget that Christian discipleship is a "way"--the "way" of life.
Some think that Christian discipleship is merely, "Raise your hand if you believe in Jesus."
But our Lord clearly stated, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life."
And Jesus strongly insisted, "Not everyone who says to me 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven. Only those who do the will of my Father who is in heaven will enter."
As Christians, we are to walk a different path than the world.
We are to go a different way than we did before we met Jesus.
Like the good Samaritan, we will give aid to the sick and the wounded, regardless of their race or what they believe.
Greed will not control us.
We will feed the hungry, clothe the naked, heal the sick, visit those in prison, love the outcast--love, even, our enemies!!!
When we meet Jesus we have "a ministry."
We are to love the world.
We are to put what we believe into practice.
Once we meet Jesus, we are to "go by another route."
We need to keep the wise men in Christmas because they remind us that the King of the Jews came to save everyone.
We are to keep the wise men in Christmas because they remind us that God uses all sorts of means to bring people to Christ.
We are to keep the wise men in Christmas because they remind us that no one is too far away that they cannot travel to Bethlehem.
We need to keep the wise men in Christmas because they remind us that even the wealthiest and the most intelligent of people need the Savior.
We are to keep the wise men in Christmas because we need to be reminded that when we meet Jesus Christ...
...from that point on-wards...
...our lives are changed...
...we no longer take the same path we took before...
...we take another route.
May it be so.
May it be so.