“After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one 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 disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written: “ ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’” Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.” After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.” (Matthew 2:1–12, NIV)
I remember a marathon in which someone had mis-marked the course. Somehow one of the signs was pointing the wrong way. At first nobody noticed the mistake and several of the lead runners went running down the wrong path, taking them miles off the correct course. Others who came later had the benefit of corrected signage. As the marathon came to completion, they were the ones who came in first, even though they were the slower runners. Meanwhile those who started first, and were the faster runners, came in last.
Isn't it amazing how one small sign can change things so dramatically?
Today we have a lesson about sign-age too. Matthew tells of the wise men from the east, and how they followed the star to Israel to find the new born king.
Only this sign, was kind of like that one sign in the marathon, that led the runners in the wrong direction. This sign in the heavens, whatever it might have been, led them first to King Herod. A dastardly villain who had no intension of worshiping the new born king but only eliminating him.
It was only through Herod's consulting of the priests, prophets, and God's Word, that the wise men got back on the right trail. And then through a dream they were warned not to return to King Herod, but to take a different rout home, as they returned to their country in the east.
What a story and how relevant it is for us today!
For like the wise men of old, we too seek Jesus, only just like the wise men of old, we often wind up on the wrong trail.
How do we find the real king we are looking for? The real king who can give us a real hope that will endure for all generations?
Like the wise men of old, we need to not just look to the stars in the heavens, but to the Word of God. For as God's Word guided the wise men to Bethlehem, so also will the Word of God guide us to the Jesus we seek.
What are some of the false signs that we follow as we make our journey through life? How bout the false sign of “consumerism”, the belief that “the more we have, the happier we will be”?
This is a “star” or “sign” that is guiding many in our world today. Indeed whole nations have gotten hooked on following the star of “consumerism”.
At first, consumerism makes sense. If one diet coke makes you happy, shouldn't drinking fifty more make you fifty times happier?
“More is better” we say and so goes the garage and closets and storage rooms. According to one article I read..
One in 11 Americans pays an average of $90 per month to use self-storage, finding a place for the material overflow of the American dream. According to SpareFoot, a company that tracks the self-storage industry, the United States boasts more than 50,000 facilities and roughly 2.3 billion square feet of rentable storage space. In other Words, the volume of self-storage units in the country could fill the Hoover Dam with old clothing, skis, and keepsakes more than 26 times over.
Isn't that amazing! And what kind of an affect is following the star of consumerism having on our world? If you read the report on global warming put out on black Friday, the affects of over consuming this planet's natural resources, could be catastrophic.
According to some estimates every year there are 150 plastic bags manufactured for every man woman and child on the planet. If you put them all end for end, they would circle the globe more than four thousand times.
Every year we pump out 32 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, largely from the burning of fossil fuels in automobiles and power plants.
And good old coca la cola? It's estimated that the soft drink giant produces over a 100 billion plastic bottles every year world wide, many of which wind up in our oceans and land fills, never to be recycled.
Consumerism is a miserable star to follow, for the promise of “fifty diet cokes making us fifty times happier”, simply is not true. And the side affects of consumerism are down right toxic to this planet and its inhabitants.
Material things do indeed make us happy, but the happiness they give is limited and fleeting. Material things can fill the human heart only so full. We need something better than consumerism to make us truly happy.
We need to “hitch our wagon to a better star” so to speak, and what is that better star? God's Word about Jesus.
Someone once said that the human heart has a hole in it and that hole is shaped like a cross. Nothing but the cross of Jesus will fill the human heart as it was meant to be filled.
This morning as we read and study God's Word, we are filled with the cross of Jesus. As we commune and receive the body and blood of Jesus, our hearts are filled with the cross and love of Jesus. As we give of our tithes and offerings, our hearts are filled with the life bearing cross of Jesus.
Jesus wants to fill us up with his life. Only we have to “hitch our wagon to the right star”. We have to hitch our lives to the life giving gospel of Jesus found in God's Word.
This Christmas, may we join the wise men in their search for the new born king. Only unlike them, let's not look for signs in the heavens, but signs in a story we never get tired of hearing about. The story of God's love revealed to us in the Word about Jesus. Amen.
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