Summary: Discerning true worship from the example of the "Magi."
Good morning! I hope everyone has had a great Christmas. I want to thank each of you for being here this morning. Christmas is behind us and how many have taken that deep sigh of relief? This holiday season isn’t over and the Christmas story isn’t done. We have looked at Joseph, Mary, and Angels and, Christmas Eve night, Sister Mary read about the birth of baby Jesus and the shepherds. Each year, as we approach the holiday season, our preparations for Christmas include revisiting the events surrounding the birth of Our Lord. All of these are familiar to us. The rest of the story is told by those we see placed incorrectly, in Nativity scenes all around the state.
Let us turn in our Bibles to Matthew Chapter 2 and read in the first 12 verses about the Magi.
1 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi[a] from the east came to Jerusalem 2 and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”
3 When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. 5 “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:
6 “‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.’[b]”
7 Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. 8 He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”
9 After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.
Not much is generally known about the mysterious “Magi” who came to visit baby Jesus. We have assumed, in church traditions that there were three of them. The Bible text doesn’t number them. At one time tradition defined them as a select sect of priests from Persia. As time passed tradition portrayed them as kings. Somewhere in the 6th century they were given names and associated with Shem, Ham and Japheth- the three sons of Noah- thus representing Asia, Africa, and Europe. In the 14th century, Armenian tradition identified them as the kings of: Arabia, Persia, and India.
What we do know is their knowledge of the coming Messiah is attributed to Daniel. If you haven’t read Daniel, he had a dual capacity--chief of the Magi and principal administrator of two world empires.
Prophecies of the gifts from these travelers are found in Isaiah 60 and Psalm 72. As I studied for this sermon, I found more historical material about them then I can share. What I would like for us to consider from them is the different qualities of worship we can learn from these God seekers.
The first quality is demonstrated in the following of the star. Their worship was grounded in the understanding that God was and is working continuously in our world. For us as, Christians today, this is a wonderful reminder of God’s Prevenient Grace. Friends, we should worship in the assurance that God is going to meet us where we are. The secret to the wise men and to us today is; we must be seeking Him to see that He is here. The Bible reads in Jeremiah 29:13, “And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.” I don’t think these wise men we praying, God I hope I’m in Your will. God I’m not sure if You are here. God I hope You here my prayers, God I … and we could go on and on. How many of this morning, the day after Christmas, have lost our focus own God and it is evident by the “I” prayers in your life? By the “Magi” following the star, they teach us to worship knowing that God is working, He is here and, we like them, should be searching to see where we fit into His plan.