Grace, mercy and peace be unto you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. AMEN! Our text for this morning’s sermon is taken from St. Matthew’s gospel account the second chapter (Matthew 2:1-12).
Beloved in the Lord,
It was on the fourth day. On the fourth day God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens and let them be for signs and for seasons, for days and for years.” On the fourth day the Lord created the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to rule the night – and the stars. It was on the fourth day that God created the stars and set the happenings of our text in motion. For the stars were given for signs and for seasons.
The shepherds were given more than a sign, they were given a prophecy. The Lord of all honored them with angels and archangels and all the heavenly hosts praising God and singing, “Glory to God in the highest and peace to His people on earth.” It was the angel from heaven who directed the shepherds to Bethlehem. It was the angel who announced the Lord’s birth. It was the angel who pointed them to a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes.
The magi were not given angels. They were given a sign. And their sign was set in motion from the foundation of the world. Their sign was a star. And the star too was prophesied. “A Star shall come out of Jacob and a scepter shall rise out of Israel” (Numbers 24:17b).
The star was their light. And that light led them to Jerusalem. Where else would one find the king of the Jews? But alas, these magi find no infant king. Herod’s household is barren as are the palace’s of this world. Thus man in his wisdom, even though led by the signs of creation, still cannot find his creator. The magi followed as far as they could but did not find him who was born King of the Jews. This is man’s end when man follows creation. St. Paul says as much when he writes, “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse (Rom 1:19-20 ESV). The signs are there and humanity is without excuse but Humanity still hasn’t found what they’re looking for.
If the King is to be found by magi, shepherd, peasant or disciple He wishes to be found with faith. Faith must have an object and that object must come from outside of self. So, rather than turn around and go home, the magi ask, “Where is He who is born king of the Jews?” No longer following the star, the sign, they now seek a word, a direction, a prophecy.
They’re question is humanity’s question, it is the question of questions. “Where is God?” It is a question that humanity has been trying to answer for centuries. The Jews had an answer because the Jews had God’s Word. Where’s is God? God is in Jerusalem. God is in the temple! They could point to it. They could see it. They could visit it. NO Jew would ever think to look inside of himself or herself for God. That would be absolutely ridiculous, silly, and contrary to God’s revelation in His Word. God had promised to be in the temple. God’s presence was connected to His promises.
Now, here come the gentiles, they have no word, these gentiles have only a sign. The sign doesn’t get them to God. The sign gets them to Jerusalem. In Jerusalem the magi find an earthly king behaving as earthly kings behave. No surprise there! What should we expect to find.
People today are still looking to find God. “Where’s God?” they ask. And the sad thing is that too many are listening to the wrong prophets, to false prophets. The magi listened to Micah and they made their way to Bethlehem. But people today are going anywhere and everywhere. Where are you going? Where are you looking? Are you listening to false prophets? Are you following glimmers in the night?
Faith must follow the Word. Too many of us these days would rather follow our feelings. It is our fallen nature that wants to feel and be certain before believing. And it is our fallen nature that makes us feel the way we feel. It is sin that makes us feel bad. It is separation that makes us feel lonely. It is lust that makes us feel dirty. It is guilt that makes us feel shame. It is failure that makes us feel worthless. It is selfishness that makes us feel anger. It is arrogance that makes us feel offended. And rather than repent of our sinful heart we prefer to correct our feelings. And so begins a hard wrought battle to feel good, accepted, clean, proud, valued, peace, and honored. And if I am to change how I feel then I must look inside my heart. I must turn in on myself and seek the divine within. I must open myself to God, empty myself of all my bad feelings and bad thoughts and let God come to me in the quiet still moments of my life. Only then will I find God and feel right about myself and the world I live in.
This is what the world is saying. This is what Oprah is saying. This is why so many false prophets and false teachers are making so much money from you who buy their books, watch their DVD’s, and take their classes at the YMCA. It’s not only silly and foolish but it’s sinful and it’s idolatry! Repent!
Yes, beloved, repent and follow the example of these Magi. Close your eyes to all that glitters before the world and look rather on the despised and foolish things of God. Herod and the priests knew the Word and did not go to Bethlehem. They did not believe the Word. They despised the Word of God and stayed home in their own comfortable houses, but not these magi. They were not concerned with such trivial things. They were seeking the truth not warm feelings. They were seeking the King of the Jews not some Semitic guru who could lead them on the path to emotional liberation. They were seeking after Jesus, not the god within but God in the flesh.
The Word of Micah told them where He was to be born, so they were going to Bethlehem. They weren’t feeling their way. They weren’t trusting their hearts. If anything they were going against what their hearts were telling them. Instead they were following the Word. The were trusting the Word. The Word came from outside of them and gave them directions. The Word gave them certainty.
Following the Word the beheld the star in a new light. They were enlightened by the Word and rejoiced to see the star once more. With the Word and the sign they made their way to a house. In the house was the child Jesus with His mother. No more a stable. No more a stall. No more lying in a manger. They found Jesus and fell before Him. They worshipped Him. They beheld God in the flesh and bowed the knee. Now, I ask you, how many adults would worship a child? How many elders would bow the knee before an infant? Yet, here in this place God manifested His presence to the world that both Jew and Gentile, young and old, male and female, slave and free may draw near. For in the child Jesus God is reconciling the world unto Himself. God is providing the lamb who is take away the sins of the world, your sins. In Jesus God is joining Himself to humanity. He is taking away all loneliness with His presence. He is washing away your dirt with His baptism. He is covering over your shame with His innocent blood shed on the cross. He is exalting your humanity with His own humiliation and suffering at the hands of Pilate. He is calming your fury with the forgiveness of your sins and honoring you by receiving you even as He received these magi.
Thus beloved you are not to search your feelings, follow your heart, listen to Oprah, or the gurus of this world, rather you are to follow and cling to the Word of God and only the Word of God. Like these magi of old you are to heed the voice of the prophets. You are to take to heart the doctrine of the Apostles. You are to listen for the voice of your shepherd. God is where His Word says He is. Thus if there is no Word from God there is no certainty of His whereabouts. And where there is no certainty of His whereabouts you ought not be looking for Him. You might feel like looking over here or over there. And where you look for Him over here or over there might even make you feel good. You might feel warm. You might be comfortable. You might be at ease. You might even be honored by the other people who are also looking over here or over there. But, if there is no promise from God, no Word or teaching that God said He would be over here or over there, then He is most certainly NOT there for you. In fact, what you may be feeling, though you may be feeling good about yourself, your life, and such, what you may be feeling could very well be demonic and therefore dangerous to your eternal welfare.
The Scripture is clear. The Christ is to be found where the Word has promised His presence. And this Christ is to be found only by faith. Therefore, Faith pays no regards to what it sees and feels but clings only to the Word and the blessed sacraments. For these have the sure and certain promises of God’s presence. Where the Word is taught in truth and purity there and only there is God for you. Where the sacraments are given out there, and only there is God for you, to forgive you, strengthen you, uplift you, unite Himself with you, fill you with His Holy Spirit and give you eternal life.
Beloved in the Lord, long ago magi from the east made their way to Jerusalem following the star that had been set in motion from the founding of the world. They failed to make it to Bethlehem on their own, without the Word. So too will you should you continue to follow your feelings or the many and various voices in this world. It was the Word that led them to the Child and it is still the Word leading us to Jesus. You don’t have to travel as far they did. God’s Word is here. The Lord’s Baptism and His Supper are here. These are sure. His whereabouts is certain. In the Word we see, we see light and we are enlightened with His light. In His light there is life, eternal life. And it is for you. AMEN!
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your heart and mind through faith in Christ Jesus. AMEN!