Summary: A sermon for Advent.
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.