Summary: Christmas Eve sermon. The wisemen made a wrong turn. Instead of following the star all the way to Bethlehem, they thought the new King would be born in a royal palace. They eventually got it right. This message is for those who are at crossroads in their
Dear brothers and sisters, have you ever made a wrong turn in your travels? I know I have! My misadventures usually come from taking the wrong exit off a freeway. Thirty some odd years ago I drove from new York to Seattle. As you may know, getting out of New York City is not the easiest thing in the world, so once in Jersey, I though I had it made. Except for one little detail – driving in the right lane which became an exit only lane. By the time I realized it, it was too late. I had to follow the crowd and ended up in an area that looked like a mixture of factories and run-down homes. I was awfully glad to get back on the Interstate.
Now, you would think that I would have learned a thing or two over the years. Well, a month and a half ago, we went to visit a cousin who lives in Los Angeles. I don’t know how many of you are fond of driving in LA. I am not. Getting there wasn’t so bad because of great directions from mapquest.com, but going back, I relied more on the signs that Mapquest, and the inevitable happened – I took the wrong exit. Boy, was I glad to see Victorville again! Many of you here can share your own story.
Part of the Christmas story is the journey of the three wisemen, the Magi, astrologers; some call them kings, who also made a wrong turn. Understanding the constellations, they observed a bright new star, a nova, that signified to them the birth of a great new king. They set out on a journey to pay homage to him, as they followed the bright star.
And they almost made it, except for one moment when they followed their male intuition instead of the heavenly sign. It happened when they reached Judea and started thinking: hey, wait a minute! The star is pointing us to a little jerk-water town, but the big city of Jerusalem is that-a-way. A great king would not be born in the boonies, would he? A king would be born in a royal palace, right? So, they had a directional dilemma. Not having their wives with them who would tell them, “Why don’t you pull over and ask for directions?” they abandoned their original itinerary, and made a wrong turn – they went to Jerusalem.
By the way, do you know what man’s new best friend is? The GPS – Global Positioning System, a great little device in the car that tells us how to get to where we are going without having to stop at gas stations asking for directions.
But asking for directions was what the wisemen inevitably had to do. “Where is he who was born the king of the Jews?” they asked. “He is to be born in Bethlehem,” answered the priests and the teachers of the law.
So, the wisemen made a U-turn, backtracked a little, and followed the star like they were supposed to in the first place. And when the star stopped over the place where the Child was, they were overjoyed. In spite of the detour, they had found Jesus. They bowed to Him in adoration and brought Him their gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
There is a good lesson to learn from this – a lesson for our own journey. You can make the right turn to Jesus, you can also make the wrong turn away from him. It’s important to know our sense of direction.
Have you ever made a wrong turn in your spiritual journey? I have. Was baptized, went to church as a boy, was going through the confirmation program, but then took the wrong exit in my rebellious teenage years, and drifted away from the church and from the Lord for twenty years. Oh, there were plenty of direction hints given, just like you would get from your GPS today – “You missed the turn. Go back and fix it!”
But I would not listen. There were plenty of invitations to church, but I followed my own course instead. I thought faith was nice, but not for me; I didn’t want to take it seriously. Whenever someone offered me a spiritual direction, I would answer, “Good for you; just don’t bother me with that stuff. I don’t need it!” Or so I thought.
Invented some of the best excuses for not going to church, but I ain’t tellin’ in case you might want to use them someday.
I was like a stubborn driver who ignores directions and follows the way to destruction, until one morning when I woke up with chest pains. Then, in the hospital, my heart stopped for five minutes, and the Lord in His mercy showed me a glimpse of heaven, and I even felt the warmth of His loving presence. He showed me the other place too, and gave me a directional dilemma. I could not ignore it. Upon recovering from the heart attack, for once in my life, I was led to make the right turn and I have never regretted it. It is only by the grace of God that I am now sharing the good news of Jesus. It is absolutely amazing that God can use even someone like me. He sure has a sense of humor, I tell you that.