Christmas Stories: Christmas Sermon Series
The Wise Men’s Story
The guiding light of the star was a point of reference for the searching Magi. It pointed the way and helped them to navigate to the destination of their journey. In our contemporary society, what will be our spiritual point of reference? Which star will those who continue to search follow?
This morning we are going to see that those who seek God will find Him, He will make a way for them to come to know Him. This morning we answer the question, “How Do We Find God?” Isaiah 55:6 “Seek the LORD while he may be found; call upon him while he is near.”
Look For God While He Can Be Found (vv. 1-2)
Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, 2 saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”
“The main purpose is to show the reception given by the world to the new-born Messianic-King. Homage from afar, hostility at home; foreshadowing the fortunes of the new faith; reception by the Gentiles, rejection by the Jews.”
God, in His mercy, wanted the world to know Jesus and He wanted the world to know how to find him. Today we see that there were men (Magi) who were seeking God, they looked for truth beyond the clouds and observed the stars, and the stars pointed the way to “king of the Jews.”
It is not explained to us, but this group of “wise men from the east,” were watching the skies for a sign, they knew that a God king had been born, and they were desiring to worship Him. But, When we look at the OT and see where God’s people were carried off into captivity (Assyria, Babylon, Persia, etc.) because of their sin, we think to ourselves, what a waste. But God’s people would have taken their copies of Scripture with them – forced missionaries are still missionaries.
Romans 1 also tells us that mankind can easily become so focused on the creation and not think that it points to creator Himself. He knew that the world was consumed with the worship of the stars, and looking to them for guidance. So as the creator of the stars, He moved them to get mankind’s attention.
Today we would call this a miracle, where the normal way the universe works, is superseded by the all-powerful hand of God. He guided a star that men were looking to, and moved the star over to the one who would give them what they truly were looking for.
Moses when he was in the desert, was keeping his sheep and as he was going along a path he saw a strange sight. It was a bush that was on fire, yet feeling the heat and seeing the light – the leaves did not burn, it was not damaged in any way. So Moses was intrigued and went to take a look – and there on that spot God spoke to Him. Moses’ life changed forever that day.
It makes sense that a king would be found in a palace. But we are going to see that this king Messiah, Savior, is different than anyone had expected. He will constantly turn everything upside down. Also, there is a false king, sitting on the throne, where the true king should be sitting – but that will be made right.
Not much is known about the Magi other than they were a group of men who were seeking truth, knowledge, and God. They had a belief system that mingled astrology with astronomy; religion with science. Myth with Mystery. They had heard of stories of a special king who would come.
These men were not followers of Christ, but they were seeking something. They were looking for something to fill the vacuum in their lives that science, myth, religion, and riches could not.
This morning if you are here searching for truth, and wanting more than you have ever experienced to fill the void in your soul let me point you to the light that God sent to the world – His name is Jesus, and God moved heaven and earth so that you could meet Him.
Look For Him No Matter Where it Leads (vv. 3-8)
3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; 4 and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. 5 They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet: 6 “‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’” 7 Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. 8 And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.”
The priests and teachers give a paraphrase of an Old Testament reference (Micah 5:2) for where the Messiah, the promised king, the Savior would come from. This prophecy gives the town of Bethlehem, but there is something special about Bethlehem. It was despised and thought very lowly of.
But the priests and teachers of the law add “And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; What was once thought lowly of, now is a city of honor and love. The Savior of mankind was born in Bethlehem.
I don’t know what people think about you, I don’t know what your reputation is, I don’t know what you even think about yourself. But when Jesus comes into your life – all that changes. You are by no means least among people. You become a child of the king, you become forgiven of sin, you get to start over.
Now the priests and teachers could have stopped at (v. 6) “. . . rulers of Judah,” but they went on to say, (v. 6) “for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.” Herod was not a shepherd. A good shepherd guided the sheep with gentleness and love. A Shepherd was willing to sacrifice his own life for the sheep. A shepherd fought off wild animals that would divide and hurt the flock. This genuine king of the Jews would rule, as a king should – as a shepherd.
Herod taxed and worked the people heavily. When the people discovered that the Magi were seeking the true king of the Jews, it says, “[Herod] was troubled (disturbed), and all Jerusalem with him.” The people were terrified of Herod. There is only one way to make sure that no one challenges Herod’s rule – kill all of them.
This is why Herod asks the Magi secretly when did they see the star. If they saw it two years ago – then kill every male child two and under. It was done secretly so that none would escape.
The star is moving all throughout the story. It moved or shown to get the Magi’s attention. It moved from the palace to the house where Jesus was – but why did God direct the star to stop at Herod’s palace? Why not just direct them straight to the house?
Herod has to come into the story. Herod is an evil king. He killed wives, children, advisors – anyone, at any time that he viewed as being competition – he killed. The Ceasar Augustus gave a famous line that he would rather be Herod’s pig than Herod’s son – he would live longer. The birth of Jesus exposed Herod as a counterfeit king of God’s people.
There are two people who are being called “King of the Jews,” one was placed over the government by man (Rome), and the other was placed on earth as king by God.
God has to show that His son Jesus is the true, “King of the Jews.” What we see with the birth of Jesus is a radical change from how things were done. God stops the star over the Jerusalem palace and the house with Jesus because you have to choose one or the other.
Jesus’ birth sparked a time of turning the world on it’s head – which king should we follow? Which god/God should we bow down to? Jesus’ life directly challenges the powers of this world. Jesus’ birth forces the world to make a choice. You either have passionate love Him or have passionate disdain for Him. If you are somewhere in the middle, then you don’t understand what the gospels are saying.
The star did not stop half way between the palace and the house, it did not say to the Magi – “this is the stop for you guys who want to hang out between the false king, and the real king – this is a safe spot in case you are wrong.” You can live a life that is pleasing to the world and to God – you don’t have to choose – just stay in the middle.
Two kingdoms war against each other on earth. One is led by Herods and Caesars; the other by Jesus Christ. One is built on war, oppression, power, self-interest, and control; the other on love, faith, hope, freedom, grace, compassion, and truth. One demanded sacrifice; the other offered it in our place.
Jesus’ birth demands that we make a choice between the two kingdoms. Christmas is more than buying and getting stuff. It’s more than catching up with family, or sitting next to a warm fire, or decorating your home. Christmas is a celebration of the fact that we get to choose a new king. There is another option to oppression, fear, guilt, and dread. We can choose a king who gives us freedom, love, and forgiveness.
Also notice in (v. 6) “for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people” – “In Hebrews 13:20 Jesus is called “the great shepherd of the sheep.” Jesus calls himself “the good shepherd” (John 10:11). Peter call Christ “the chief shepherd” (1 Peter 2:25). “The Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall be their shepherd” (Rev. 7:17). Jesus told Peter to “shepherd” the lambs (John 21:16). Our word pastor means shepherd.” Which king will you choose?
Do More Than Just Look (vv. 9-12)
After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. 11 And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. 12 And being warned win a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.
When the Magi found what they had been looking for after all this time, there was joy in their heart. There was success in their searching! The Magi at last find the true king, they have two responses. They bowed down before Jesus and worshipped him and they presented him with gifts out of their treasures.
To worship is to “give worth” to something or someone. When a person bows down, they are attributing honor and respect to the person they are bowing before. It shows an attitude of reverence, respect, and humility.
Gifts From the Treasury
A treasury is a place for the storing and keeping of precious and valuable items. Notice it says, “Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.” They seemed to have lots of things they treasured, even enough to keep in treasure boxes, and upon seeing Jesus they dig through the treasures and present three specific gifts.
If you were to rummage through your treasure box, what would you give to Jesus as a gift? The Magi recognized who Jesus was, with their gifts. Gold for royalty, a priest with incense, and myrrh was an embalming perfume – he would die for the sins of the world. The only thing Jesus truly finds of value is your heart and a recognition of who He is – Our Savior.
These men seem to know and understand who Jesus was – why did they go home? They were warned in a dream of Herod’s wrath – they had to leave. Moses could not stay at the burning bush, Daniel’s three friends couldn’t stay in the fiery furnace, and the Magi could not stay at Jesus’ feet – there always comes a time when we are drawn to Christ, we meet him, and then we are sent off.
In order for the Magi to see the star they have to be looking. In order to see where the star leads they had to follow it – they couldn’t stay in the east and at the same time find the Savior. In order to worship the Savior, they have to bow before Him. In order to determine what to give the true king, they had to know the king.
This morning God has shown you a great light, Jesus, are you interested in following Him. It requires that you bow your heart before Him. Another way to think of this is to realize that you are a sinner “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23 Also, Recognize that you are separated from God by your sin. “. . . the soul that sinneth, it shall surely die.” Ezekiel 18:4
Realize that the reason Jesus was born on Christmas was to come and die as a sacrifice for our sins. “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on Him (Jesus) the iniquity (sin) of us all.” Isa. 53:6
If you are interested in receiving this free gift, you can pray this prayer with me: “Lord Jesus, I know that I am a sinner and do not deserve eternal life. But, I believe You died and rose again from the grave to purchase a place in heaven for me. Lord Jesus, come into my life; take control of my life; forgive my sins and save me. I repent of my sins and now place my trust in You for my salvation. I accept the free gift of eternal life.”
 Josephus shows that Herod died in BC 4. He was first Governor of Galilee, but had been king of Judea since BC 40 (by Antony and Octavius).
 Herod “discouraged Messianic hopes, and, now that they have revived in spite of him, he must deal with them, and his first step is to consult the experts in as quiet a way as possible, to ascertain the whereabouts of the new-born child; it is not a historical question he submits to the experts as to where the Christ has been born, or shall be, but a theological one: where, according to the accepted tradition, is His birthplace? Hence present tense.” W. Robertson Nicoll, Editor, The Expositor’s Greek Testament, Volume 1 (Grand Rapids, Michigan; Grand Rapids Book Manufacturing, 1967) 71.
 (quoting Bruce) Archibald Thomas Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, Volume 1 (Nashville, Tennessee; Broadman Press, 1930) 14.
 Robertson, 18.
 Another translation could be “caskets.”