Summary: Next sermon in the advent series dealing with the Wise Men and how we can and should relate to them with regard to seeking and approaching Christ.
A visitor in a small Southern town comes across a beautiful Nativity scene. It was obvious that great skill and talent had gone into creating it. One small feature bothers the man - the three wise men are wearing firefighters helmets. Unable to come up with a reason or an explanation, the visitor gets in his car and heads out of town. At a Quik Stop on the edge of town, he stops and asks the lady behind
the counter about the helmets. She flies into a rage and yells at the visitor, "You darn Yankees never do read the Bible!" The man assures her that he does, but simply can’t recall anything in the Bible. She jerks her Bible from behind the counter and ruffles through the pages, and finally jabs her finger at a passage. Sticking it in his face she says, "See, it says right here, ’The three wise men came from afar.’"
Here we are one week closer to Bethlehem and we
have just read one of my favorite passages in the Christmas story. Here we meet three men who were in awe of the birth of what they knew was going to be a great man. When I was in seminary I learned that some of the "great" theologians of our day are now doubting whether or not these wise men ever even existed. Actually there is no concrete evidence that they did exist, but the story is contained in the word of God and so it is worthy of our attention and oh, does it have some things to teach us.
Actually, there’s a great deal of Internet research and
revisionist thinking going on about these characters in the Christmas story. Some of have suggested that things would have been considerably different if these wise men had actually instead been wise women. And things sure would have been different. If it had been ‘Wise Women’ instead of ‘Wise Men’, they would have probably asked directions, arrived on time, helped deliver the baby, cleaned the stable, made a casserole, and brought practical gifts including diapers, baby wipes, bibs and formula. But that’s an entirely different story…
Actually, there are several main characters in this story and we can relate to each of them at some point in our lives, I am sure. We have the wise men of course who sought to pay homage to the newborn king. And of course, we have Herod, who was fearful that his reign was about to be threatened politically. As we learn later, Herod was motivated by greed and fear so great that he would order the
massacre of as many as several hundred young boys to
ensure that his reign would not be threatened.
But, what is so Great about Bethlehem anyway? We know that it is a small town with little or no importance at the time of the birth of Christ, so why was Christ born there instead of one of the more important centers of commerce or government. Have you ever realized why Bethlehem was known as the city of David? I guess, I never really cared to ask myself that question until just a few years ago and it was only then that I realized that King David, perhaps the greatest and most respected King to ever rule any nation in the history of mankind was born in Bethlehem too. Isn’t that amazing that the most beloved king in Israel was born in the same little village as the king of our hearts today. A side lesson here: don’t ever say, I’m just from a small town. Wear it like a badge of honor. Jesus Christ was a small town boy and the world would never be the same after this small town boy
In fact, I think that this is what impresses me the most about this story. We have these three wise men from the east. Probably, Babylonian astronomers, who travelled many miles across the desert to follow a star to the little town of Bethlehem. The entire known world at that time, was let in on the birth of the Messiah. That, I think is the most powerful message in this story. That Jesus Christ was born in Judea to bring salvation to the nation of Israel, but even these foreigners were allowed to have a part in the salvation that Comes from Jesus Christ. Some people are concerned by the fact that the wise men found out about the birth of Jesus as the result of astronomy. My main understanding from this story though is that they quit following the star and started following the Savior!
Take special note in this story of the contrasts between King Herod and the birth of Jesus Christ. Herod was living in the lap of luxury, Jesus was born in a stable. Herod lived in Jerusalem perhaps the most exciting and glamorous city in the world. Jesus was born in the lowly town of Bethlehem.