12/28/97, First Sunday After Christmas, Year C

When They Saw the Star…”
Matthew 2: 1-12

hristmas is based on an exchange of gifts: God’s gift of His Son to us, and our gift of our hopes and dreams back to Him. Christmas began in the heart of God and is only complete when it enters our hearts. The shepherds came to the manger and found their Savior. The wise men followed the star and found true wisdom. We too can see stars and find God’s perfect plan for our lives.

As Matthew relates the events surrounding Christ’s birth his emphasis is on the visit of the magi: Celestial scientists from what is today called Persia, or Iran. Some bible scholars guess that by the time these three kings, along with their entourage of servants and camels, made this thousand mile trek, Jesus would have been at least one year old; however, my own favorite "scholarly" source places the elegantly dressed visitors at the actual manger scene: It is my mother’s olive wood, hand carved, crèche. We purchased it together in Bethlehem in 1970, and it has the three wise men standing tall with their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Although most Liturgical churches celebrate the arrival of the magi on January 6th, Epiphany; who’s to know for absolute certainty. We Methodists in a, semi- liturgical, and mostly evangelical tradition, like to include the wise men in the nativity story.

Wise men and women have constantly speculated for 2000 years as to the true nature of the star. Was it like the planet Saturn so bright in the evening sky this winter, which we followed back home from North Carolina last night. Or, perhaps it was like last year’s Christmas visit of the brightest comet ever, Hale-Bopp. Or, just maybe, it was an especially created star, as Matthew relates, that the God who flung all of the stars into space, created just for his Son.

However, the timing of the Magi’s arrival, or the nature of the star, is not the paramount point. The existential issue is that as they followed the star by faith and found the source of true wisdom. We too can find our own star--- God’s plan and calling for our lives.

The good news is that through the agency of the eternally present Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ aggressively seeks us still today. Or, as the last book in the Bible promises, "Behold, I stand at the door and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me." (Rev 3:20 KJV). In other words, Christ-mas, Christ’s presence, is an ever present possibility for anyone who will find their star and follow it to their own Bethlehem.

One of the most popular T.V. sitcoms is "Friends". It is a series about five young people living in a New York loft together. The program has caught on so that each of the twenty- something year olds is paid $ 100,000.per episode. The show has a catchy theme song in which the phrase "I’ll be there for you" is repeated many, many times. The essence of the message is that true friends are supposed to be there for each other, through whatever happens.

And this is the truth the wise men found in Emmanuel, which means, "God is with us." The Christ Child is God meeting human kind’s long expected hope that the Almighty Creator would manifest Himself on a friendship level. Jesus is God’s way of saying "I’ll be there for you." We can catch sight of our new friend’s star and trust it to lead us in an upward way.

Our Wise Men became an integral part of the Christmas story because they were willing to set off in a long and expensive journey of a thousand miles, around what we call The Fertile Crescent, or as it appears from space, a long crescent shaped green arc that connects Persia with Palestine. It took a long time by caravan, but since the star appeared well before Jesus’ birth, they could have arrived in time to be at the manger.

Professor Bill Hitch, and Adina, e-mailed an interactive Christmas card to our home this week. The little figures rode along on camels pointing up at the star. It was interesting to me that a highly educated scholar can affirm faith in this mysterious event surrounded by angels singing, a virgin birth, and a specially created star. Indeed, Wise men still seek him.

In his latest book, and the third of his Road Less Travelled trilogy, Dr. Scott Peck sums up his long quest to know the truth by saying, "In the end all things point to God..." (The Road Less Travelled,and Beyond, Touchstone edition, 1998,p.286).

Is it not amazing how we sometimes wander all over the place before we find our star? Sometimes we set out after the wrong star, the wrong friends, the wrong job, the wrong goals. And some never find their star, or grab hold of the wrong star. Among stories in the news in 1997 was that of the Heaven’s Gate Techno-Religious mass suicide of 39 who thought that they could grab hold of Comet Hale-Bobb.

So, the question comes to us, will we seek and find God’s star for us, or will we exercise our freedom to shake our fist in the face of God and cry, No! Will we have it God’s way, or seek our own way?

If you will go with God, he will guide you daily into his perfect plan tailor made for just you. There are streams that only you can ford, there are mountains that you have the unique ability to be used by God as an instrument for climbing. It will be an exciting adventure of faith as you walk with God.

The beginning of a New Year would be a good time to polish our star of hope! Walking from glorious yesterdays into star directed tomorrows.

a sermon synopsis by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor

12/28/97, First Sunday After Christmas, Year C