Do Not Get Lost in the Woods

January 3, 2021

Epiphany Sunday

by Pastor Charles

Scripture Reading: Matthew 2:1-12

Happy New Year. I hope you had a wonderful and exciting Christmas and New Year. Have you already made your New Year’s Resolutions? Well, you are running out of time if you have not. Two of the most popular New Year’s resolutions are to eat healthy and exercise more. A more spiritual resolution for Christians may be to read the Bible and pray more. I do not know what is on your list, or if you even have one, but I do know one priority that ought to be at the top of everyone’s list for 2021. It is to worship God with all our heart, soul, and mind. Today’s sermon talks about staying focused during this New Year. Stay focused on God and do not get lost in the woods.

Have you ever been lost before? I have been lost several times, especially in the big cities and towns. I remember getting lost on my first visit to both Washington DC and New York City. The many tall buildings and busy road networks, among other things, makes someone new to the area easily lost. Thisseems to be the case with the magi or wisemen in today’s scripture reading.

Who or what are magi? The magi were originally a priestly group that flourished in the Persian Empire, some 500 years before the time of Christ. By the time of Christ, the term magi was used for anyone who possessed secret knowledge or unnatural powers. In Acts 13, the word is translated sorcerer. The Magi see a moving star and they interpreted it to mean someone important has been born whom they should travel to find and worship. There is no tour bus chartered. There is no airplane or boat reserved. The Journey to Bethlehem is a journey of faith. It is a quest for Christ the King. It is about seeking Him. It is about knowing Him. It is about worshiping Him.

Matthew 2:1-2 reads “1Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men [Magi] from the east came to Jerusalem, 2saying, ‘Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.’”

The question one might ask is why the Magi got lost in Jerusalem? Why did they lose sight of the star? Jerusalem was a very big metropolitan city of the time, so its possible the Magi lost concentration on their journey and the star because of the beauty of the city. When you are lost in any way be very careful about those you ask for advice and direction. Some of them can lead you astray or into more trouble. They ask Herod, of all people, and this created tension with the possibility of even putting the life of Jesus in danger.

What I like about the Magi is they were committed to their quest to find this newborn king. Like the Magi, if we recognize the goal of our journey, we will gladly endure the struggles in order to gain Jesus Christ and the life, joy, and strength that we find only in Him.

The Magi’s goal was to worship Jesus as king. We learn this in Matthew 2:11, “And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.”

Their goal was not to come with balloons and say, “Hey congratulations!” They were not there to take pictures with the baby. No. They were there for one reason. They left the comforts of home and endured the journey to worship the new king.

I think this is the main idea that Matthew wants to communicate by including this story in His Gospel. He has just shown in chapter one that Jesus is descended from the kingly line of David, and now he confirms Jesus’ identity with this story about foreigners coming to worship Jesus as king. And look at how they worship. We are told that they fell before Him, and then offered Him tribute; they offered him very valuable gifts, gifts fit for a king.

I see three abiding truths from this story. If the Wise Men can find Jesus despite how many barriers they had to cross, then so can you. There was a culture barrier, a distance barrier, a language barrier, a racial barrier, a religious barrier, a hostile king, and indifferent religious leaders. It was not easy for them to find Jesus, but they did.

If they found him, then so can you. If God can use a star to reach these pagan astrologers, then he can use anything to reach anybody.

If God can reach the Wise Men, He can reach anybody. If the Wise Men offered Jesus gifts fit for a king, then so should we. It is good to remember that the tradition of giving gifts at Christmas time started with the Wise Men.

It is good to give gifts to each other; it is even better to give gifts to Jesus. It is good to show our love to those we love; it is even better to show love to the One who loved us when we were unlovable. The baby that the Magi are looking for sleeps in Bethlehem surrounded by regal gifts and foreign eyes wide with wonder. Do not get lost in the woods, but rather search for the star that will lead you to Jesus Christ this new year. Amen.