Follow the Star

January 3, 2021

Pastor John Hering

Matthew 2:1-12

Matthew 2:1-12

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, when Herod was king, Wise Men from the east came to Jerusalem. They asked, “Where is he who has been born King of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” When King Herod heard this, he was alarmed, and all Jerusalem with him. He gathered together all the people’s chief priests and experts in the law. He asked them where the Christ was to be born. They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, because this was written through the prophet:

You, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are certainly not least among the rulers of Judah: because out of you will come a ruler, who will shepherd my people, Israel.”

Then Herod secretly summoned the Wise Men and found out from them exactly when the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. When you find him, report to me, so that I may also go and worship him.”

After listening to the king, they went on their way. Then the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them, until it stood still over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with overwhelming joy. 11 After they went into the house and saw the child with Mary, his mother, they bowed down and worshipped him. Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12 Since they had been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they went back to their own country by another route.

Early morning was his favorite part of the day.  He would get up and make a cup of strong coffee and sit on the front porch to watch the stars rise in the northeast.  Once the sun rose, he couldn’t see the stars anymore, but he knew they were still there.  Actually, his family had been making a living watching the stars.  He knew just about everything anyone could know about the stars, planets and comets.  He didn’t make big money because he knew the constellations so well, but because he could interpret the stars.  People would pay him big money to tell them what the stars were forecasting.  That made it even easier to get up early in the morning, enjoy his coffee and watch the stars.

One morning he followed his routine, sat down, took a sip and looked up.  He blinked his eyes a couple of times to make sure he wasn’t seeing things.  But, there it was.  A bright star he had never seen before.   He wasn’t sure what he was seeing, but knew it was weird.  He got together with a few of his colleagues and they all agreed this was very usual.  One guy said, “Yay, my grandpa told me that something like this was going to happen one day.  And there it is!”

Is that how it all started?  I don’t know.  I made it up throwing in a couple of things we do know to make it sound plausible.  What I do know is what is recorded for us in the Bible.  A group of men, maybe three or maybe not, probably astrologers, but certainly not kings, saw a star rise in the sky and became convinced that it signaled the birth of a king in the land of Israel.  I know the star moved and they followed it to Jerusalem.  Then it moved again and stopped over the house where Jesus, Mary and Joseph were staying in Bethlehem.  I know they found Jesus and worshiped him with gifts.  I know these things because, just like you, the Holy Spirit revealed the mystery to us in Matthew’s gospel.  And that’s why today we are remembering “Epiphany”—the Gentiles’ Christmas. Today we may have more questions than answers, but the most important question is answered when we

Follow The Star

With Confident Faith

Matthew records the setting for us: “After Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, when Herod was king, Wise Men from the east came to Jerusalem. They asked, “Where is he who has been born King of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” For some, the question is this:  What did they know and how did they know it?  Matthew makes it clear the question is NOT what or how, but Who they were looking for.  They didn’t know his name, but they came asking questions to find out.  Whether they were looking for an earthly king or a spiritual king we can’t be 100% sure.  But, they could have known the Old Testament Scriptures and read Balaam’s prophecy: “I see him, but not now. I behold him, but not near. A star will come out of Jacob. A scepter will rise up out of Israel” (Numb 24:17).  How could they have known the Jewish Holy Scriptures?  Remember, the Jews were held captive in Babylon during the days of Daniel.  We learn that Daniel himself was considered among the “magicians, enchanters, sorcerers and astrologers,” (Dan 2:2, 13). Do you know the story of King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream from Daniel 2?  (Tell the story or you can read it in Daniel 2).  Do you suppose after Daniel did that the other astrologers would pay attention to Daniel’s words?  It is very plausible Daniel used the platform to share the prophecies concerning the Messiah.  So when the Magi saw the star, they knew it was something special. With confident faith they followed the star!

They arrived in Jerusalem to gather more information and they got it. When King Herod heard this, he was alarmed, and all Jerusalem with him. He gathered together all the people’s chief priests and experts in the law. He asked them where the Christ was to be born. They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, because this was written through the prophet: You, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are certainly not least among the rulers of Judah: because out of you will come a ruler, who will shepherd my people, Israel” (Micah 5:2). Then Herod secretly summoned the Wise Men and found out from them exactly when the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem…  We don’t know if they were believers in the one true God before they saw the star, but they were getting closer to finding the goal of what they hoped to find and the Holy Spirit gave them confident faith to Follow The Star.

Consider what the Magi knew to what you know—from Jesus’ conception to Ascension!  You know why Jesus’ came—it was for you!  Jesus knows our sins of knowing so much about him we become lazy to want to know more.  Jesus knows our sins of evil thoughts before we knew them.  Jesus knew all this sin in our lives would mean sadness and death to stand trial before a holy God.  We know so much more than the Magi knew, yet all too often our lack of desire to know more, to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ flickers and faints.  We know so much more than the Magi knew of Jesus from cradle, to cross, to resurrection because it’s all right here in the book!

But really, is the book so different from the star?  The star was real.  The Magi saw it.  They followed it because they believed it would lead them to a king.  The Bible tells us who that king is—Jesus Christ!  May we be even more eager to follow the pages of Scripture to learn even more “…that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name (John 20:31).  Yes, Follow The Star with Confident Faith.  For the same Holy Spirit that led the Magi to worship Jesus, lead us to Jesus Christ

With Fitting Worship

The Magi listened to the religious leaders in Jerusalem and headed to Bethlehem to worship the King.  Ironic that those who didn’t know anything, went to look, and those who knew it all, failed to take a step.  St Paul nailed it in today’s reading, This mystery was not made know to people in past generations, (Eph 3:5).  The Magi went to find the King at the cunning encouragement from King Herod: Then Herod secretly summoned the Wise Men and found out from them exactly when the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. When you find him, report to me, so that I may also go and worship him.  After listening to the king, they went on their way. Then the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them, until it stood still over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with overwhelming joy. 11 After they went into the house and saw the child with Mary, his mother, they bowed down and worshipped him.  The expectations of the Magi were to find a king…maybe in a palace, a throne-crib, a purple blanket?  What they found was the several week or month old Jesus with his mother, still helpless in all his humble humanity.  But, they Followed the Star with Fitting Worship.  Matthew was inspired to use two words, “bowed down” and “worshipped.”  These words speak volumes about who the Magi were and who they considered Jesus to be.  You bow down on all fours with your noses touching the ground.  It was only fitting.

I’ll be the first to admit that I haven’t been on my nose to the ground in worship of Jesus.  Would you agree that all too often Jesus has just become too common in our lives?  Have we made Jesus out to be little more than cup of hot coffee to give us a jolt every once in a while?  Or a spare tire that we keep in the truck until we need him?  Or maybe Jesus is like my sofa into whose arms I can comfortably collapse into at the end of the day.  Or just like my soft pillow on which I can fall asleep during my prayers at night.  I don’t think I do this on purpose.  I want to see the majesty and the mystery the Magi saw at this little child.  I want to sense the pomp and circumstance of the King of kings and Lord of lords!   What?!  You say I can?  How?  It’s right there at the cross.  We need to be reminded over and over again what Jesus did as our King.  He went to battle for us and defeated Satan for us.  He paid the penalty of our sin on the cross.  He opened the gate of heaven for us.  Yes, let’s Follow the Star with Fitting Worship.  Worship, because Jesus is worth it.  Worship, because Jesus deserves it.  Worship, because the Light of God’s Word calls us to offer our lives With Confident Faith and Fitting Worship of our King!  Let us follow the Magi’s example and Follow the Star

With Fitting Gifts

11 After they went into the house and saw the child with Mary, his mother, they bowed down and worshipped him. Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. There are all sorts of ideas about these offerings presented to Jesus:  Gold fit for a king; Incense for the sacrifice Jesus would offer;  Myrrh to anoint his body in death.   Nice symbolism for students of the Bible, but not specially spoken of in this way.  We know Joseph was a carpenter who took his family to Bethlehem.  They were staying in a house, and these gifts could have been sold to pay the rent.  Or even sold to support their family while in Egypt.  What we do know is that these gifts were fitting for the Savior of the world.  The Magi offered them from sacrifice to journey the great distance, to present meaningful, planned, cheerful, proportionate, generous gifts.  These were gifts from their hearts As the Followed the Star with Fitting Gifts for the King of kings.

We just finished our Stewardship Emphasis called Growing Gifts.  The guidelines from Scripture for God-pleasing offerings is fresh in our minds.  The Magi supported the King with their gifts and we support the King by using our time, talents, treasures and testimony to proclaim the gospel to more and more people.  So, what do our gifts look like?  We can participate in the ministry at Divine Peace with our active presence, or by sharing our digital worship links with our friends, or share the story of Jesus’ love with our friends.   With thankful hearts we Follow the Star with Fitting Gifts to our glorious Lord.

It was time for the Magi to go home. 12 Since they had been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they went back to their own country by another route.  The Lord was protecting Jesus and his family and the Magi received the answer to their question:  What was at the end of the star they were following?  Their Savior was revealed.  Now we are entering 2021.  I can’t read the stars to tell you about the future virus, vaccine, economy, job or health.  But, I can tell you the mystery has been revealed.  Yes, this Epiphany we follow the Word of God with confident faith, fitting worship and kingly gifts.  It is the Star of God’s Word that leads us to Jesus.  May the Lord bless our hearts with the same love, joy, zeal and caring for God’s Word until it leads us to the place where Jesus is—heaven! Amen!

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