Summary: A look at the fact that the Magi did not come to Bethlehem but to Nazareth. The sermon uses that truth to talk about following God's direction instead of the man's leading.
STAR OF BETHLEHEM MYTH: The star led the Magi to Bethlehem.
- We’ve all seen this in a hundred Christmas plays.
- Unfortunately, it doesn’t happen to be the way that the Bible actually says the story happened.
- This morning I want to talk about the way the Bible says the story actually happened and what the spiritual truth is that we can pull from that story.
THE BIBLICAL TRUTH: The star led the Magi to Nazareth.
- Piecing that together:
a. The Magi come to Jerusalem and are told the prophecy is for the child to be born in Bethlehem.
- As noted last week, they didn’t follow the star to Jerusalem. Rather, they saw the star that was a sign to them that someone had been born King of the Jews, so they came to Jerusalem because that’s the capital of Israel.
- The scholars are right that the prophecy said Bethlehem was the birthplace.
b. The Magi had seen the star when Jesus was born, but then still had the whole journey in front of them.
- Matthew 2:7.
- Likely they saw it on the day He was born.
c. The star reappears as they leave Jerusalem. Why? Because it was necessary to lead them in the right direction, so they wouldn’t go the direction they’d been told.
- Matthew 2:9.
d. Two additional reasons from Matthew that we know there’s been a lapse of time: (1) it says the Magi found the Christ Child in a “house” (v. 11) and not a stable or cave, and (2) when Herod realizes he’s been deceived, he slaughters all the children under two years of age (v. 16), in accordance with the time he’d learned from the Magi.
- We know the trip from Jerusalem to Nazareth would not have taken an especially long time.
e. In Luke, we are told that Jesus’ parents soon after His birth went to Jerusalem (Luke 2:21-22) and then having offered the required sacrifice returned to Nazareth (2:39).
THE CHOICE: Trust God’s direction even when it doesn’t totally add up.
- Matthew 2:8 (sent to Bethlehem) vs. 2:9 (to the place).
- Of course, the Magi likely had never been to Israel before. I wonder if they were traveling along following the star and presuming that they were, like the scholars had said, heading to Bethlehem. They travel for a while, then ask a fellow traveler, “How much farther up this road is Bethlehem?” The man looks quizzically at them, then says, “Bethlehem is that way! You’re heading toward Nazareth.” They look at each other and wonder what’s going on, but they know they must continue to follow the star, since it’s a clear sign of God’s leading.
- There are moments in life when what people tell us and what God is leading us toward don’t add up.
- Some of the pieces of pursuing this:
a. We have to trust that He’s smart.
b. We need to remember that He’s come through for us before.
c. We need to know that He sees the big picture, the hidden connections.
- Imagine you’re in a football game with Peyton Manning. He looks over the field and audibles to send you deep instead of the crossing route that the original play called for. Maybe you don’t see what he sees, but you trust his deep football knowledge that he sees something you don’t.
- In your life, God sees things you don’t and sometimes sends you in a direction that doesn’t initially make sense to you. You’ve got to trust His vision is greater than your’s.
- Similar example: playing a chessmaster who is working several moves ahead. Some of his choices don’t make sense to you, but he’s working a plan you don’t understand.
- Another example: me and the kids walking somewhere. I’m usually going to see who we’re looking for first because of my higher perspective.
d. We should remember that humans have limited understanding and perspective.
e. God knows what He’s doing.
- This is part of walking by faith. Faith requires that we trust even when the evidence is unseen.
- Following God requires accepting counter-intuitive thinking sometimes.
- Of course, the missing piece of the puzzle for them seems obvious to us: the fact that the baby was born in Bethlehem did not mean that He had to stay in Bethlehem.
- This is a big part of the reason that the star reappeared: they again needed divine guidance.
- Their logical conclusion that the first step of their journey was to go to the capital of Israel served them well. They went there and in so doing had gotten closer to the child.