Following the Wise Men What s Your Star? Matthew 2:1-12

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1 1 Natalie W. Bell January 4, 2015 Epiphany Sunday Following the Wise Men What s Your Star? Matthew 2:1-12 Has anything grabbed your attention lately? What was it? And could it be God could God be using that to draw you closer? To take you on a new journey in life? When have you had any epiphanies? Or a-ha moments? Maybe you have, and you just aren t thinking of it as a God-incidence (I think there are NOT any coincidences). Today is the day we take time to think about those moments or situations. It s Epiphany Sunday-- when we remember the wise men from the East who went out of their way to find God An epiphany means a sudden appearance, an experience or revelation from God Today s epiphany is about a brightest star, a sign from God, that someone had been born, a Savior, King of the Jews. It was a star that led the wise men on a journey that would change their lives forever. These men, who paid attention to the skies, these astronomers who had studied, and watched, and waited, finally saw an awesome star and knew it was from God. They saw the star, and didn t label it as coincidence, or dumb luck, They knew it was an epiphany. So they left everything, and traveled a great distance, bringing their finest gifts to Jesus. I can only imagine the shock of their families as they left. And the shock of Herod and the chief priests when they saw these exotic men from the East come riding into town looking

2 2 for a NEW King of the Jews! The Bible tells us that when they finally reached Jesus, they were overwhelmed with joy. These men knew they had found the Savior, so they opened their treasure chests and gave Jesus their finest gifts gold, frankincense, and myrrh. These wise men were paying attention. They were looking for signs. They paid attention to the skies every day, and they knew when to stop and follow that one special star. Leading them to the Savior and to overwhelming joy. I wonder, are you paying attention to the skies in your life? Is there something that has caught your attention? I asked Ed yesterday what kind of epiphanies he s had and one of the biggest was four years ago this fall when his Dad said, Son, I think you need to go back to church. He knew there was a Presbyterian church nearby, so he Googled us. I know he had a God moment last year when he felt called to go back and finish his degree, which may not seem like a journey to Christ but it is changing his life for the better, and bringing him joy. So what is getting your attention in life right now? Could it be God? Maybe an opportunity to draw closer to Jesus? It could be a book, or a conversation. Maybe it s an illness, a tragedy, or an opportunity. It might even be a fresh insight into an old problem. Is there anything that s urging you to move in a new direction? Something that might just bring you that God-given joy? For me, right now, my star is a book I just read.

3 3 I was hesitant about it at first, I have great respect for people of other faiths, and I think it s God s business to judge their hearts. But this book was really different than what I expected. It s one Patti loaned me, called Face to Face with Jesus by Samaa Habib. The author is a former Muslim, living in the Middle East, who converted to Christianity, and saw 5 of her siblings, her mother, and eventually her father convert to Christianity as well. But the point of her story is how she met Jesus, and what she went through for her faith. Her experience is humbling to say the least. She was persecuted in so many ways for her Christian faith. Her family stopped just short of disowning her, her brothers beat her, strange men tried to accost her, her friends and neighbors threw stones at her, at one point she was so severely injured, she was essentially dead, after being hit by a bomb that had been planted in her church. Through it all she describes a vibrant relationship with Jesus, visions of His love for her, and the courage to live through war, and famine, and persecution. Reading about her journey of faith made me think about my own faith in new ways. It got me thinking--what am I willing to sacrifice for my faith? What lengths will I go to, to try and live like Jesus? Am I even half as dedicated to Christ as someone whose life hinges on their faith? I think it s hard for most of us to imagine being persecuted just for being a follower of Jesus. We take it for granted that we can worship as we choose, and read the Bible any time, anywhere. We can buy a Bible in a hundred different translations and styles. We are used to a very comfortable Christian faith. But when we put our faith to work in the world, in our offices and classrooms, our neighborhoods and social groups, when we try to live like Jesus outside the walls of the church, then we can and will run into some resistance and challenges.

4 4 Like the wise men we have to be paying attention to the stars so to speak, to the ways that God is speaking to us and then we need to have the courage to follow that to Jesus. Like the wise men, we might be challenged to leave behind old ways of living to follow the light of Jesus Christ. So, what might be a star in your life right now leading you closer to Christ? What conversation, or book, or situation has got your attention? Is God trying to draw you closer? And if so, how will you follow that star? Samaa Habib s star leading her to Jesus was actually a free tae kwon do class in her neighborhood. She signed up because of all the danger to young girls on the streets. It was at that class that she was invited by the teacher to a church service, where she experienced the love of Christ so profoundly that she gave her life to Christ. When she surrendered her life to Christ, she says, I started weeping afresh with this revelation of God s mercy. I felt as if I would explode with joy at the offering of this incredible gift. Habib, Samaa. Face to Face With Jesus. Chosen: Minneapolis, 2014, Pg. 91 She says, I d always felt that something was missing in my life, but try as I might, I could not find what it was. Now I knew only Jesus held the peace I d been longing for. Despite my transformation, my circumstances did not change. Our country was still at war. But instead of the fear I constantly lived with, I now had a supernatural joy and the kind of peace that the apostle John talks about (in John 14:27). Pg. 95 Going to the tae kwon do class, following that star in her life, changed everything for her. Samaa writes, I was no longer striving for acceptance and approval from the people around me. My fear of what others thought of me had left, because I was now living to an audience of One

5 5 I just wanted to please my Beloved [Jesus]. Habib, Samaa. Face to Face With Jesus. Chosen: Minneapolis, 2014, Pg Wow. That s what the book is doing for me encouraging me to live for an audience of One. I want to be just focused on what God wants from me, each and every day, one day at a time. Reading this book has encouraged me to listen even more carefully for God s voice. And pay attention to the little signs and wonders that come up in everyday life. And think about that Audience of One. Are you being led to do something that gets you beyond what other people think of you and into a place where all you care about is what God thinks? When we follow the stars that pop up in our own lives, Something important happens. I think when we are led closer to Christ, we have the opportunity to bring our very best to Jesus. It might be hard work, or dedication, compassion, or faith. Time, talent, or money. The wise men brought costly gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh these were treasures in that day. Some say that the gifts were brought as symbols to show the royalty, power, and eventually the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. I believe it s important that they brought their best to Jesus. So, what about you? What s happening in your life? And are you willing to bring your best to that place, and that situation? Are you willing to use your valuable time, Or your God-given talents, and what about your resources? What costly gifts can you bring on your journey to our Savior?

6 6 You might feel like you have nothing to offer God. That you don t have any extra time, or talent, or money. But I challenge you to think about what you have been given by God. We ve all been given time, and talent, and if we don t have material resources, we have been given the ability to offer kindness and compassion to others. We all have something we all have a best something to bring to Jesus. And when we follow the star that God sends, the end result is amazing. It s Joy. We may also find peace, love, grace but we will find joy. The wise men were overwhelmed with joy at the sight of Jesus. When we follow Jesus, we come to places where we are overwhelmed with joy. Couldn t you use a little more joy in your life? Many of us have been making New Year s resolutions. I have a resolution like so many, to exercise more, and get in better shape. But I also have a spiritual resolution to be more courageous in what I say and do for that audience of One and to experience the joy that is promised me when I do that. What kind of spiritual New Year s resolutions could you make? Friends, hear the Good News of the Gospel: God still sends bright stars into our lives. Let s pay attention and follow the stars getting closer to Jesus, And closer to the Joy. Amen.

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