Epiphany Sunday - January 7, 2007 Matthew 2: 1-12: “WORSHIP YOUR SAVIOR WITH THOSE WISE MEN!” In the name of Jesus, dear Christian Friends, Who were these mysterious Magi? Where did they come from? What was this special star they saw? Traditions and legends and even certain Christmas songs like “We Three Kings of Orient Are” have tried to answer those questions. But the Bible doesn‟t tell us that these men were kings, nor does it tell us that they were from the Orient. The Bible doesn‟t even tell us there if were three of them. Much has been written to explain the miracle of the Christmas star. Some say Jupiter and Venus came together in their orbits and that‟s what the Magi saw. Once again the Bible tells us no such thing. If God had felt all these things were important, he would‟ve told us. But these important things he does tell us through Matthew. Even though we don‟t know their names, their number, or their nationality, God has told us that these foreigners from a far away land were not Jews, but Gentiles. This star they saw they called “his star” which means it was owned by baby Jesus himself. The King of kings used a part of his creation -“his star”- to lead Gentiles to him. These are the facts which remind us that God‟s Son is a Savior for all people. That‟s the heart and core of this beautiful story which still has a message for us: “WORSHIP YOUR SAVIOR WITH THOSE WISE MEN!” 1. By always seeking Jesus 2. By always serving Jesus. I. In ancient Babylon the name “Magi” was used for the educated men of society, what we‟d call the university professors and scientists of our day. We know from Bible history that almost the entire Jewish nation had been carried off in captivity to Babylon because of their great sins against the Lord. Among those exiled Jews was a fellow named Daniel. You remember him, don‟t you? He worked with these educated men of Babylon and had probably befriended some of them. A faithful believer like Daniel would tell his friends from his Bible about a promised Savior. That might be the reason why many years later these particular Magi knew about his coming. The Lord used his Star to bring these Gentiles to the religious hub of the Jews, the city of Jerusalem. When they arrive, there‟s only one question on their lips and it„s not: “Where can we find a motel that has a swimming pool and a free breakfast?” Their number one question is: “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We have seen his star in the east and have come to worship him.” How surprised these foreigners must‟ve been not to find God‟s “chosen” people joyfully traveling those 7 miles back and forth from Jerusalem to Bethlehem to worship their newborn Savior. Surely the news that Bethlehem‟s shepherds had shouted to their neighborhood had filtered back to Jerusalem. Surely Simeon‟s song about Jesus being the Light to lighten the Gentiles and the glory of Israel had been passed on. Surely someone had heard that little old lady, Anna, talk about him. Yet King Herod and all of Jerusalem seem to be in the dark about the Messiah‟s birth. It‟s kind of like a visitor coming to St. Matthew‟s on Christmas Eve only to find out we weren‟t having any worship services! When Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. Herod was a guy always afraid someone was out to get him. He had murdered members of his own family when he thought they might be plotting to overthrow him. When he hears about a newborn king, his stomach churns and his adrenalin flows. When Herod is disturbed so is all of Jerusalem. Pictures of violence and blood shed come to mind because everyone knows what can happen when this paranoid king feels threatened. Herod was smart enough to know where to go to find the answer to the Magi‟s question. He turns to the pastors and teachers of Israel who know the Old Testament like the back of their hands. Yet how far away they all were from baby Jesus! “The BOOK says Bethlehem”, they tell Herod and then they went back to figuring out how far a person should be allowed to walk on the Sabbath. Herod now uses the Magi as his own private detectives. This blood-thirsty hypocrite tells them: “Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me so that I too may go and worship him.” We know what Herod‟s real intentions were for the baby Jesus. The secret meeting ended, the Magi are on the road again. Now we read the best part of the story: 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 worshipped him. What a sight to see! Grown men kneeling down to worship this little one. What power the Holy Spirit has to convince sinful, human hearts that this Child born of Mary is not just a another human being, but God wrapping himself in our flesh and blood to save us all from our sins! You know, as I studied this text, I couldn‟t help but wonder what these wise men might think if they were to ride their camels into our lives today. Like them, we too are Gentiles. Our names are mainly German and our backgrounds are mainly Lutheran. Many of us were born into Christian homes. We went to Christian Day Schools and Sunday Schools and had catechism classes. Some of us even got to go to Christian high schools. But just maybe we‟ve had the Savior so long that sometimes we take him for granted. Just maybe those wise men need to remind us again how truly blessed we are. You see, God‟s Grace has brought us here just as it brought the Magi to where the Christ Child lived. It was the Living God in that house in Bethlehem. For you and for me it is the living God who‟s right here in our Janesville house of worship. He is the written and spoken Word! How blessed we are to have such a Savior with us on the pages of his Book each and every time we open it up! How we need to keep searching this living Word so we can keep growing in our knowledge of Jesus! For these Magi the miles were long and the trip was difficult. There were so many other things they could have been doing. But still they came seeking him because he is their Savior. Might those Magi wonder today: “What‟s wrong with St. Matthew‟s that not everybody always wants to be with such a Savior one hour a week? Might they after traveling over 500 miles be miffed over the fact that we who have this beautiful worship facility in our own neighborhood sometimes won‟t travel but a short distance to worship our Jesus? Might they wonder why so few young people want to be with him after confirmation for worship and Teen Bible study? Might they be amazed at how little time we all seem to have each day for prayer and Bible reading? Oh, we could answer them: “You know how it is. I‟m so busy I work hard all week. Sunday‟s the only to sleep in. I had tons of things going on at school. I was out pretty late last night... It‟s so hard to find time for family devotions....And on and on and on... But those excuses get stuck in our throats, don‟t they, when we look at these wise men at the end of their long search on their knees worshipping their Redeemer from sin, death, and hell? Matthew describes their attitude with just one word: “overjoyed”! You know, it‟s a fact that stars shine the brightest in a black sky. Isn‟t that the way it often is with Jesus in our own lives? When we‟ve made a mess of things with sins we have committed, how the tears of joy flow when we hear this good news from Christ‟s lips: “You are forgiven!” When we‟re flat on our back in a hospital bed with no place to look but up or when our life seems to be coming unglued, it‟s then we find our only joy in the precious light of Jesus‟ words.. Yes, the Star of Jesus has a way of shining brightest when the skies are dark in our lives. But what about the rest of the time? What does Jesus really mean to us? Our answer has a direct bearing on how hard we will seek him. If we believe that God hates every sin and that hell‟s fires are still burning, if we believe that Jesus is our only hope for ever going to heaven, then we will seek him and his blood-bought forgiveness everyday. If we know that we cannot live one moment without him; that life‟s burdens are too heavy; that life‟s temptations are too dangerous; and life‟s problems are too complex, then we will seek him every day. How desperately all of us Gentile sinners still need this Jesus! Worship your Savior with the wise men! But don‟t just do it this morning. Seek your Jesus again and again this New Year! He‟ll be waiting for you with his blessings where he always is– right here in your Bible! II. They say that “treasure-filled hearts are always matched by treasure-filled hands.” Isn‟t that exactly what we read here? Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of’ incense and of myrrh. The worship of these wise men continued after they got off their knees. They served their Savior by offering him the best they had: gold fit for a King, incense, and this expensive perfume - myrrh. Those gifts were not leftovers. How could they be? They were bringing them to their Savior.” The Magi didn‟t bring those expensive gifts to the little Lord Jesus because he needed that stuff. The Lord Jesus doesn‟t need anything from sinners, including their money. Sinners need Jesus. That‟s why the Magi brought such gifts to this little baby. Their giving to him was an expression of their love and appreciation for what he came to earth to give them! Isn‟t that what Christian giving is still all about today? When we sit down and prayerfully plan what our weekly gifts to Jesus will be in 2007 will we say: “What is the church‟s budget number this year? How much does St. Matthew‟s need to get by?” That‟s not what these forgiven Gentile sinners were thinking about when they opened up their wallets in Bethlehem. If the wise men could look at this part of our Christian life, would they see how much we love him because he first loved us by our offerings? Or might they see how much we love ourselves with our money? My friends, faith in Jesus still means giving to him, not from the bottom of the pile, but from the top of the mountain of blessings he gives us. What compels us to do such a thing is the fact that Jesus so loved us that he left his glorious heaven to come to this sinful world so that people like you and me can someday go from this sinful world to his glorious heaven! And it‟s not just those gifts of gold we bring to such a Savior. It‟s also our time and our many different talents that we also lay at the feet of this little Baby. Lord willing, there will be another 8,760 hours in 2007, just as there was in 2006. How many of the 8.760 hours of this New Year will we dedicate to the service of our King Jesus? Whether we are newly elected church officers or Sunday morning ushers, a pastor or a teacher, retired or still working, a widow or a widower, a single parent or a college student, a Mom or a Dad, a son or a daughter, every Christian here has the greatest of all privileges – the privilege of serving our Jesus with the best we have of everything he‟s given us! One final thought. After the wise men worshipped Jesus, they listened to God and didn‟t go back to Herod. This added many more miles to their already difficult journey, but the Magi didn‟t consider God‟s command a burden. They were glad to go in another direction to avoid hurting Jesus. That was worship too, wasn‟t it? Did you know that our God also has a different route he wants us to take than the one our sinful flesh and the world wants us to follow. That route is not always the easiest one, but it is the best one. It‟s the path Jesus has laid out for us. My friends, its time all of us took our worship out of this sanctuary and into the streets of Janesville, into our family life, into our jobs, our school and our social life. Worshipping Jesus is not only keeping that appointment with him every Sunday. It‟s also walking on the path he‟s shown us here in his Word. It‟s serving him on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday wherever we are. It‟s listening to him and not to all the King Herods of this world. Like those wise men, worshipping Jesus is gladly obeying his commands in the choices we make and the directions we take in life so that nothing we do would ever hurt him. And his path is also sharing him with others. We‟ve got a shining star who takes away all doubt about God loving us, a shining star that gives us power to face life, a shining star that will carry us to heaven when our eyes close for the last time. Our shining star, Jesus! He‟s the one we will share with someone who doesn‟t have him so that that person might become a wise man or woman too. My fellow Christians, WORSHIP YOUR JESUS WITH THOSE WISE MEN…By seeking and by serving him always! Dear Savior, make that so for every last one of us here today! Amen. Preached by Pastor Mark P. Lindner, St. Matthew‟s Evangelical Lutheran Church, Janesville, WI.