A Star is Born
December 24, 2017 sermon
By John Ulrich, Lead Pastor
Of all the characters in the Christmas story, Jesus, is the only one who gives the activity of the season significance. Tonight, we join not simply in tradition or habit, but like the Magi, come to recognize truth — that Jesus is the prophesied, everlasting, and divine king, who gives hope and peace to the whole world. Meet your King….“The Star” …who is King Jesus.
- Jesus is the Prophesied King (Micah 5:2, 4-5). Jesus didn’t just randomly appear on the scene at some random place and time to unexpected, or ill-prepared parents. But rather, was prophesied by more than a dozen prophets speaking scores of predictions over centuries – which all came true. Such proofs testify to his Kingship. No such detail about any other leader, religious figure, or king, had ever been predicted in such scale of evidence as had been for King Jesus. Will you kneel before your King tonight?
- Jesus is a world-wide King. Matthew opens his gospel with a genealogy. His account confirms Jesus was a descendant of both King David and Abraham. Just as important, the record of Jesus’ lineage, the continued story of the pagan wise men bringing gifts from nations afar, shows that Jesus was not just from Israel, nor was he to be only for Israel. From this point on, the Jews – and all of us – are to recognize Jesus as a world-wide King – the Son of God, a Savior to all people. With brothers and sisters around the world, will you celebrate your King tonight?
- Jesus is Divine King. As Christians, we believe Jesus is fully God. In Micah’s prophecy, the coming ruler was to have origins from ancient times (literally everlasting). Only God fits that description. Jesus’ deity is also revealed in the response of the wise men. By God’s sovereign invitation, these men came. Though they studied the stars (not the Creator of them), when they saw him, they worshiped him, and gave him kingly gifts. Will you worship your King tonight?
- Jesus is our King. The most amazing thing about Christmas is that this prophesied King, this world-wide King, this Divine King chose to be our King. This King chose not to keep his distance. This king chose not to be raised in wealth in splendor, but in humility and gentleness, seemingly powerless – he came to be one of us. Jesus came for you. Will you receive your Savior King tonight?
- The Jews studied the prophecies that predicted the coming Messiah, yet, seemingly overlooked those that foretold his humble beginnings. What fixed or biased ideas may keep you from seeing Jesus as He intended you to see him?
- What can we learn from a review of the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew 1? How can you apply that knowledge to aspects of your own life?
- What is Jesus offering over the conventional ideas of Christmastime? What does that mean to you? How will you respond this Christmas to his offering?
So in our children’s reading, we heard one part of the Christmas story about the Shepherds from the Gospel of Luke. I want to start our talk tonight by reading the other part of the Christmas story to you the part about Jesus and the wise men. It’s found in the gospel of Matthew. Matthew tells the story this way:
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.”
When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ (or Messiah) was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:
“‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.’”
Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “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.”
After they had heard the king, 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 worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.
– Matthew 2:1-12
We have been looking at this story of Jesus and the Wise Men, or Magi, over the last three Sundays. Each Sunday we’ve looked at a different character in the story. We started the series by looking at the prophets, those who foretold Jesus’ birth. We saw that they were the predictors of this story. Then we looked at the Wise Men and saw that they took the role of unlikely worshippers. These Magi were actually Pagan Astrologers who came from a far country that didn’t know or worship the True God. Yet God gave them a special invitation to come and worship Jesus at his birth. Then last Sunday we looked at Herod. Herod is the villain in the story of Jesus’ birth. He was a Jewish ruler with lots of spiritual advantages. Nevertheless, he went to great lengths to resist Jesus and try to hold onto his throne. So we’ve looked at all of these characters in the story of Jesus’ birth.
Tonight we’re going to take a brief look at another character in this wonderful story. Tonight we’re going to look at the Star. Not the star that guided the Wise Men, but the real star, the star of the show – the character that gives all of these other characters and this whole story and everything that we are doing tonight significance. Tonight, on Christmas Eve, we are going to look at Jesus. More than anything else in this story, Matthew wants to tell us one thing about Jesus and who he is. The prophets were predictors. Herod was the villain. The Magi were unlikely worshippers. But Jesus? Jesus is the King.
As we look at this story together, I want to ask you one simple question: Will you join the wise men? Will you join me? Will you join worshippers all around the world and kneel before the King in your heart tonight? Will you worship King Jesus tonight?
Jesus is the King. This story teaches that again and again. Right before this story, Matthew gives us Jesus’ kingly genealogy. The story begins with a kingly inquiry where the wise men ask where the King of the Jews is to be born. It continues with a kingly prophecy about Jesus. The story concludes with kingly gifts. It’s clear as we read this that Matthew wants us to understand, in no uncertain terms, that Jesus isn’t just a baby in a manger. He isn’t just an historical figure. He isn’t just a great teacher. Jesus is a King. By looking at this story, we can see four important things about Jesus’ Kingship. Let me give them to you briefly tonight and introduce you to your King.
Jesus is the Prophesied King
Jesus isn’t just some guy who randomly appeared on the scene. His coming was predicted by the Old Testament Prophets hundreds of years before he was born. His coming was anticipated by Israel. In our story, Herod, the villain, hears about the birth of a great King. He asks Israel’s greatest Bible Scholars where this Messiah (this predicted King) was to be born. They immediately know the answer. They know it, because 7 ½ centuries before Jesus was born the Prophet Micah wrote about a ruler who would be born during Israel’s darkest hour. Listen to what Micah says:
“But you, Bethlehem, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” (literally “from everlasting”)
He will stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God. And they will live securely, for then his greatness will reach to the ends of the earth. And he will be their peace.
– Micah 2:3-5
Notice that Micah predicts the tiny town that Jesus would be born in. He predicts that he would have ancient origins, that his fame would be to the very ends of the earth, and that he himself would be our peace.
Listen, that’s Jesus! And only Jesus! He’s the only one that fits that description. But did you know that’s not all that is prophesied about him. Old Testament prophets, more than a dozen of them over hundreds of years, made scores of predictions about who Jesus would be.
- They prophesied his virgin birth. (There’s something that doesn’t happen every day!)
- They prophesied his lineage from Abraham, from Isaac, from Jacob, from King David.
- They prophesied that he would come from the tribe of Judah.
- They prophesied that he would minister in Galilee, a different part of Israel than the one he was born in.
- They prophesied about his death, that it would be unjust, that it would be painful, that he would die alongside criminals, that he would die with his hands and feet pierced, that he would die while people gambled for his clothing.
All of these things were prophesied, and all of them happened to Jesus.
Now think with me: There is no leader, no king, no religious figure that was ever prophesied about like that. Muhammad, Buddha, Confucius – they were never prophesied like that. Maybe someone said a great leader would be born before their birth, but more than a dozen prophets speaking over centuries, writing down scores of predictions that came true? That’s never happened before or since. My point is that Jesus is the prophesied King. He’s the real King. He’s exactly who he claimed to be. This is your King. Will you kneel before him in your heart tonight? The second thing that Matthew wants us to know is that:
Jesus is a World-wide King
It’s so important that we understand this. Jesus isn’t just some outdated relic of our local religion. We’re not gathering tonight as a nod to our historical roots. This isn’t just an American thing. Jesus is a world-wide King.
Matthew wants us to see that in this story. In the centuries before Jesus came on the scene, God’s doings with mankind were primarily through the nation of Israel. They were the ones that were given the ten commandments, and the Old Testament, and the Sacrifices, and the Temple. God dealt with mankind primarily through the nation of Israel.
As Matthew starts his gospel, we can see that with the coming of Jesus, all that has changed! Matthew starts his gospel with Jesus’ genealogy (family tree). He goes to great lengths to point out that Jesus’ lineage is not just Israelite. He also has a Moabite, and someone who was married to a Hitite, and a Canaanite in his genealogy. Jesus wasn’t just from Jews. He wasn’t just for Jews. As Matthew continues with this story, we see wise men from the nation of Babylon to the east bring gifts from the nation of Arabia to the south that enable Jesus go to Egypt in the West.
Matthew very much wants us to understand that with the coming of Jesus God isn’t just about Israel any more. Jesus is a world-wide King. Just like the prophecy in Micah predicted, his greatness has gone to the ends of the earth.
This is important for us to know because sometimes we think that Christianity and the celebration of Jesus’ birth is just an American thing. Or that it’s just a western thing. Or that it’s a dying religion. But it’s not. Jesus is a world-wide King!
Tomorrow morning at 4am my family will stagger out of bed and board an 18 hour flight to Zimbabwe, Africa. Do you know what people in Zimbabwe do on Dec. 25? They celebrate the birth of Jesus! They are having Christmas! 78% of the population of Zimbabwe claims Christianity as its primary religion. Two-thirds of all Sub-Saharan Africa claims to be Christian! Did you know that?
Jesus is a world-wide King! Did you know that Christianity, the religion Jesus founded, is the only major religion that has moved its power-center, it’s sort of headquarters, from one part of the world to another over the centuries? The center of Christianity has moved from the Middle East to North Africa to Europe to North and South America. Now I think it’s moving toward Asia. Why? Because Jesus is for everybody! He’s a world-wide King!
I get so excited about this! Do you realize that tonight as we gather to celebrate the birth of this baby in a manger we are joined by brothers and sisters in Christ all around the world. People from every single nation, 2.3 billion of them. Some are gathering in grand cathedrals in Europe. Some are gathering in rondavels in Africa. Some are gathering in house-churches in China. Some are gathering in little churches like ours. Some – in Iran and Afghanistan, places where it’s illegal to convert to Christianity – are quietly gathering on-line. There’s an underground website where thousands of them will light a candle and take communion and worship at the feet of Jesus together tonight. Because he’s a world-wide King. Is he your king? Will you kneel before him in your heart tonight?
Jesus is a Divine King
Jesus is not just a really amazing human King. What sets him apart is that he’s Divine. Again, we see this in the larger picture of our story. In the prophecy from Micah (the one I read a few minutes ago), Micah described this coming ruler as one whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” The Hebrew literally says “his origins are from everlasting.” Now there’s only one being who truly fits that description and that’s God!
We believe that Jesus was and is God. As Christians, we believe that Jesus was more than just a good teacher, more than just “a son of God” as we are sons of God, more than just someone with an extra measure of the divine spark. We believe he is God. Fully God. God, the Son, the second person of the Trinity. Jesus was a divine King.
Matthew shows us this not just with the prophecy he quotes, but with the response of the Wise Men. Notice that when they get to Jesus they don’t just see him and leave. They don’t just give him gifts. They don’t just say “Hey, remember us when you take over the world!” They worship him.
What an extraordinary thing. These great men caused a stir when they entered Jerusalem with their presence and were granted an immediate audience with King Herod. These Pagan Astrologers, who studied the stars to find meaning in life, were called by God from hundreds of miles away. When they arrive and see this tiny child, they recognize the truth that they are in the presence, not just of greatness, not just of royalty, but of deity. Matthew tells us they worshipped him. The word he uses means to prostrate oneself, to bow down before someone in worship. If what Matthew is claiming is true, this is the only reasonable response to Jesus. Worship. He is a divine King. Will you join the wise men and kneel in your heart before King Jesus tonight?
Jesus is (1) a prophesied King, (2) a world-wide King, and (3) a divine King, but that’s not all. Lastly:
Jesus is our King
Friends, this is the most amazing thing about Christmas. Period. It’s the reason we celebrate tonight. The most amazing thing about Christmas is not the decorations, it’s not the gifts, it’s not the spirit of generosity that we can exhibit, it’s not even the love we may have for our fellow-man. As wonderful as all those things are, the most amazing thing about Christmas is that this prophesied King, this world-wide King, this Divine King, the one whose goings have been from everlasting, the one who designed and created with world and brought it to life, the one who made the stars that guided the Magi, that God, the Creator-God, came to earth as a helpless baby.
The most amazing thing about Christmas is that this prophesied world-wide divine King chose not to keep his distance, but to become one of us. He chose to be born not in a palace, but a stable.
Chose to be born not to the powerful, but to the powerless. Not to the great, not to the movers and shakers of the world, but to a poor Jewish carpenter and his young virgin fiancé.
Why? Why would he do that? Couldn’t such a great King be raised in wealth and splendor? Absolutely, he could. But Jesus came among the powerless, because he wanted you to know that he didn’t just come to be the King. He came to be your King.
Jesus came for you, no matter what your station in life is, no matter whether you are great or small, rich or poor, successful or struggling. He came to be born in a prophesied town, to live a prophesied life, to die a prophesied death so that the Creator of the universe could become the savior of the world.
This is your King, not a distant dictator, not an unapproachable monarch, not even a righteous King with righteous laws that we could never live up to. Our King is a King who came to us in humility and gentleness. He came to be one of us. This is your King. Will you join the Wise Men? Will you join billions of Christian brothers and sisters? Will you join me and kneel in your heart before King Jesus tonight?