Summary: The story of Christmas is wrapped around people... real life people. This four-sermon-series looks closely at this special cast of characters in an attempt to find our stories in theirs. Alliterated and expository, with PowerPoint available.
Christmas: Cast of Characters (4)
Scott Bayles, pastor
Blooming Grove Christian Church: 12/23/2012
I’d like to welcome all of you to Blooming Grove and wish you all a Merry Christmas. Whether you’re a first-time visitor or life-long member, we’re glad you’re here and honored that you chose to make Blooming Grove a part of your Christmas celebration this year.
If you’re just joining us, we’ve spent the month of December getting to know the colorful cast of characters associated with the birth of Christ. The story of Christmas is wrapped around people—real life people. Common people whose lives are marked by unexpected surprises, unusual signs, and unbelievable stories. And in the midst of them all… hovering over them all… is the writer and director of it all. God.
We’ve seen how God chose Mary, a humble Hebrew girl, to be the mother of his own Son. How he spoke to Joseph, a confused carpenter, encouraging him to take Mary as his wife. How he sent the angels to announce the birth of the Savior to unassuming shepherds keeping watch over their sheep in the fields nearby. There’s just one more group of cast members in the Nativity story that we’ve yet to see—the Magi, the Wise Men from the east. The Magi come cloaked in magic and mystery.
We normally think of there being three of them, though the Bible never says that. There may have been a dozen or more for all we know. And we don’t really know if the Magi arrived the actual day that Jesus was born or not. In fact, in prior centuries Christians use to celebrate the day of the Magi’s visit twelve days after Christmas, on January 6—thus the 12 Days of Christmas. Regardless of when they arrived, however, these Wise Men have played an unforgettable role in the story of Christmas.
Although I did hear someone suggest that Jesus would have been better off if it had been Wise Women instead of Wise Men—they would have asked directions, arrived on time, helped deliver the baby, cleaned the stable, made a casserole, and brought practical gifts from Baby’s-R-Us, like diapers, wipes, and formula. But that’s an entirely different story.
The actual story of the Magi’s visit is told in Matthew 2. And, as with Mary, Joseph and the rest of this cast of characters, I believe we can find our own story in theirs. The Wise Men’s story begins with their pursuit.
• THE MAGI’S PURSUIT
Holiday time is often highway time. Ever since the Magi packed their bags for Bethlehem, the birth of Jesus has caused people to hit the road. Interestingly, the Christmas trips we take have a lot in common with theirs. We don’t have stars leading the way, but we might need a nightlight on the way to bathroom. We don’t sit at Kings’ tables during our travels, but grandma’s cooking might be a feast fit for one. And we don’t ride on camels, but six hours in a minivan with four kids might make some moms with they had one. But while our travels usually involve family and friends, the Magi’s journey was all about Jesus.
The Bible says, “When Jesus was born, some wise men from the east came to Jerusalem. They asked, ‘Where is the baby who was born to be the king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him’” (Matthew 2:1-2 NCV).
These wise men pursued a star, shining in the night, from as far away as Persia, Arabia or India. Their journey may have been weeks or even months long. And I don’t know exactly how God got their attention—whether they saw an angel, read the prophecies, or simply studied the stars—but somehow they learned about the birth of Jesus and they dropped everything to find him, to pursue that star.
Christmas is all about that pursuit—the journey of faithful people trudging through the desert to find their Savior. And people today are still seeking Him, although they don’t always know where to look. For the wise men, the journey ended with the baby in the manger. But for all of us today, that’s where the journey begins.
These Magi didn’t grow up in the church. They never prayed with their parents before bedtime—at least not to this God. They never went to Sunday school. They never memorized any Bible verses. Chances are they didn’t know Genesis from Job. But at some point they saw the light—and they choose to pursue it. When they did, they found Jesus. God promises the same to us.
The Bible tells us, “God’s purpose was for the nations to seek after him and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him—though he is not far from any one of us” (Acts 17:27 NLT). God created each one of us so that we would seek him and pursue him the way these Magi did, but we don’t travel nearly as far as they did. If we’ll simply reach out for him, we’ll find Jesus just like they did.