Still Follow the Star (January 5, 2020)

Sermon Text: Matthew 2:1-12

Pastor Daniel Schmidt

What do Harriet Tubman, the flight crew of Apollo 13 and the graduates of the United States Naval Academy all have in common?  Harriet Tubman and the other leaders of the Underground Railroad used the stars to help them lead 1,000’s of slaves north to freedom.  The crew of Apollo 13 had to use the sun to guide them back home to earth, after an explosion caused their navigation system to become useless.  Today, cadets who graduate from the U.S. Naval Academy do so having taken a class on how to navigate by following the stars.  Even with today’s advanced technology (which could be rendered useless by a cyber-attack), being able to follow the stars is still important.

The Magi who came to visit Jesus, did not have a GPS which they used to find Jerusalem and Bethlehem.  But, the almighty Lord of the heavens had provided them with a special star.  It was important that the Magi continued to follow that special star as it guided them to the exact place where Jesus, Mary and Joseph were staying.

Our enemy Satan and the sinful world around us would love to see you and me become spiritually lost.  So, on this Epiphany Sunday, it is important for you and me to hear encouragement from God’s Word to STILL FOLLOW THE STAR as you lovingly search for the Christ-Child and as your joyfully worship the Christ-Child.

There are a lot of questions asked about the Magi who came searching for the Christ-Child.  What country did they come from?  Were they kings or “Wise Men” who studied the stars for a living?  How many were there?  What were their names?  These are questions that the Bible does not answer for us.  What we are told is this:

“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 in the east 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 Christ 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 be the shepherd of my people Israel.”

Did you notice the different reactions to the question of the Magi, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews?”  Herod, a non-Jewish person, does not know the Old Testament prophecies about the coming Messiah.  He only sees this child as a threat to his power and kingdom.

Knowing that Herod would go to any lengths to protect his rule as king, including putting to death members of his own family, we are told that all the people of Jerusalem where also upset by this news.  Rather than rejoicing that all the Old Testament prophecies about the coming Messiah had been fulfilled, rather than be filled with joy that the King of kings and Lord of lords had been born, the people of Jerusalem were filled with fear of how Herod would react to this news.

The experts of the Bible knew the prophecy of Micah that the promised Savior would be born in Bethlehem.  But did you notice something?  Did you notice that not one of them went along with the Magi to find the Messiah.  It is only these Gentiles, these non-Jews, who continued to follow the star as they lovingly searched for the Christ-Child.

How about you?  By God’s grace, most of us here this morning are not like King Herod.  We know the Good News about Jesus’ birth.  But, are we ever guilty of being like the people of Jerusalem, and allow the things of this world to stop us from lovingly searching for the Christ-Child?  Think about this for a moment: what was on your mind most this past Christmas?  Was it, “I sure hope I get everything on my list this year!”  Or maybe it was, “How are we going to pay for all the gifts we bought this year?”  Are you and I ever like the chief priests and teachers of the Law, and ignore our God’s Word?  Far too easily we give in to the temptations to set our Bibles aside.  We don’t always read, study and take to heart the message of God’s Word.  You and I have a sinful nature that wants nothing to do with the Christ-Child.  Our sinful condition, our sinful thoughts and sinful attitudes towards the Christ-Child make you and me guilty, and deserving of only the punishment of hell.

But the Good News that we celebrate during the Epiphany season of the Church Year is that Jesus came as the one and only Savior of all people.  Jesus came for you and me.  The Christ-Child came to pay in full the price for all your sins and mine. In love for you and me, Jesus searched for you and me, and brought us into the family of our Father in heaven.  As King David writes in Psalm 139 “O LORD, you have searched me and you know me.”  Because our loving Savior-God searched for and found you and me, because our Father in heaven knows us as his children, in response you and I gladly and lovingly search for the Christ-Child as we spend time in his Word.

As we look at the visit of the Magi, we notice that not only did they lovingly search for the Christ-Child, but when they found him, they joyfully worshipped him as well.  We are told, “They went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east 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 and of incense and of myrrh.”  Their long search for the Christ-Child had come to an end.  Led by the Almighty Lord and the star he provided, they were now standing before the Promised Savior they had been told about. In joyful response, we are told that they worshipped him by offering him gifts of their treasures.

My dear friends, do you and I always joyfully worship the Christ-Child?  Think about your attitude as you came to worship today.  Did you come with joy in your heart?  Or did you come because someone made you come or because you felt you HAD to come?  Think about the gifts that you place in the offering plate week after week.  Do you give those gifts in joy, as part of your worship of the Christ-Child?  Do you always give him your best treasures, or do you sometimes reluctantly give him whatever is leftover?  Each one of us here today will confess that we have, at times, failed to be joyful worshippers of the Christ-Child.  Because of that sin, you and I deserve to have our Lord God take away from us the treasures of heaven.

But in his great love for you and me, God the Father gave you and me his best treasure – his one and only Son.  Jesus came for you and me to pay in full the price for your sins and mine.  Jesus is the one who has freely given you and me the treasures of the forgiveness of all of our sins and eternal life with him in heaven.  In joyful response to this Good News, you and I joyfully worship the Christ-Child.  You and I look forward to the opportunities we have to come into God’s house, because we know that this is where we are able to meet with our loving Lord face-to-face.  We joyfully worship the Christ-Child as we give back to him our treasures.  We joyfully give back to our Lord the best of our time, the best of our talents and the best of our treasures.  As we sing in the words of the hymn:

Take my life, and let it be
Consecrated, Lord, to Thee;
Take my moments and my days,
Let them flow in ceaseless praise.

Take my silver and my gold;
Not a mite would I withhold;
Take my intellect, and use
Every power as Thou shalt choose.

Take my love; my Lord, I pour
At Thy feet its treasure-store.
Take myself, and I will be
Ever, only, all for Thee.

My dear friends in Christ, STILL FOLLOW THE STAR! The Good News of Christmas and the Epiphany season is that Jesus came to this earth for all people.  Jesus came for you.  Jesus made you a son, Jesus made you a daughter, of your Father in heaven Jesus won the forgiveness of all of your sins. Jesus made heaven your eternal home. May this Good News of your Lord and Savior continue to fill your heart as each day you lovingly search for the Christ-Child and joyfully worship him.  Amen.