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Follow the Star Into the Advent Season

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INTRO: It’s very hard to know how long the wise men followed the star until they reached the baby Jesus, but we’re pretty sure they were not present at the birth. But, to me, that makes their trip all the more poignant; if you want to encounter Jesus, any effort you expend is going to pay off in a way that ill have eternal consequences.
They wanted to encounter Jesus, and the fact that they were not going to be present at the birth was not going to deter them at all.
They wanted to experience the ADVENT.

What is advent?

· Technically, it is the arrival of a notable person or event; in our case it is the arrival of God, in person as Jesus Christ, and the event of His birth.
· My challenge to you today is to enter into the season, which begins next Sunday, with some expectation, with anticipation, and with excitement.
Children know the spirit of the advent season much better than we adults.
They are awaiting what might be under the tree on Christmas morning.
They know that exciting days are ahead; of lights and music and gifts wrapped under the tree.
They look forward to the Christmas shows on TV; Rudolph, Frosty, the Grinch and Charlie Brown.
They know that family gatherings are ahead; playing with cousins they haven’t seen in a while; “Chex-mix” everywhere, homemade candy and cookies, and all the rest that makes this season so anticipated by children.
But, what about us grown-ups?
Are we as excited to be in the season of celebration of the birth of Christ?
Or, are we dreading what can become an overwhelming spectacle?
I want to challenge you to participate this year.
Participate in the journey from this moment to the day we celebrate Jesus’ birth.
Participate and celebrate!
Not the stuff! Enjoy the stuff, but celebrate the incarnate Jesus and all that His birth means to lowly mankind.
Remember the excitement of your childhood and translate it into a great Christmas season.
On a plaque marking Abraham Lincoln's birthplace near Hodgenville, Kentucky, is recorded this scrap of conversation:
· "Any news down 't the village, Ezry?"
· "Well, Squire McLain's gone t' Washington t' see Madison swore in, and ol' Spellman tells me this Bonaparte fella has captured most o' Spain. What's new out here, neighbor?"
· "Nuthin' nuthin' a'tall, 'cept fer a new baby born t' Tom Lincoln's. Nothin' ever happens out here."
· Some events don’t cause much stir on the world.
· The birth of Abraham Lincoln didn’t seem to be much to celebrate.
· For most, even the birth of Jesus didn’t cause much of a stir.
· But, we know now that these were, indeed, wonderful events for the world.
· Such might even be the case when one comes to Christ through salvation; the world will not likely stop and recognize you.
· But, we know that this is the most wonderful event that can happen in a person’s life; the beginning of a great journey

A Primary Truth: God's plan and purpose for every person is to take him or her on a spiritual journey that leads to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

· Has your journey begun?
· Perhaps your journey began years ago, but you have been stuck on the side of the road for some time now.
· Whatever the case, God wants to reintroduce you to His son Jesus through the greatest story ever told.
· As we move next week into the Advent Season ask yourself, “Where am I with God? Am I closer to Him, at the beginning of the Advent Season 2017 than I was when, a year ago, I heard the first sermon of Advent 2016?
· Is my journey progressing?
· Am I growing?
· Do I really know Jesus, the One whose birth we celebrate at this time of year.
For a moment, I wnat to talk about the amazing journey of the Magi.
Matthew 2:1–8 NIV
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 when it rose 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 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 shepherd 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 search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”
We see greeting cards, and plays where 3 wise men are standing around the manger where Jesus was born, and beside the fact that they weren’t there at the birth, we don’t know how many there were.
· More than 1 for sure.
· They brought three gifts and that is more than likely where the number comes from.
· But, the bible tells us that Herod sent forth men to kill all children 2 years old and under, “according to the time he diligently enquired of the wise men.”
· So it was likely some time later when the wise men arrived.
· We don’t know if they were kings, or magicians (we get our word for this from magi), or astronomers, or what.
· We’re not sure where they came from.
What I want you to realize is not whether there were 3 wise men or not, not whether they were at the birth or not, or any of the other things that are minor points about these men.
· But that these men felt moved at this event to disrupt their lives and begin a journey that would have far reaching effects on them, and the rest of the world.
· When the Magi left the comfort and convenience of their own homes to follow the star, a dangerous desert stood between them and Jesus.
· They had to face many dangers and cross it if they hoped to find Him.
Such are the connotations of taking a journey, as opposed to a trip.
· We take a trip to the grocery store.
· We take a trip to the beach
· But, a journey implies that there is something deeper at work here.
· A journey means there is a greater purpose afoot than just getting from point A to point B.
The journey that these magi embarked on meant several things, but what it surely didn’t mean was that they would take it and not be changed!

One cannot embark on a journey to meet Jesus Christ and finish unchanged!

· I am amazed at the people I see that say they have taken a journey with God, a faith journey, and yet remain seemingly unchanged, or unaffected by the journey.
· When we truly submit to the adventure that God has in store for us through salvation in His Son, Jesus Christ, WE WILL BE CHANGED!
· And a lot of the reason we are changed has to do with the challenges we face for simply beginning this journey with God.
When the wise men answered the call to go and see the child they submitted themselves to something that wasn’t going to be easy.
We should note that God never promised that our faith-journey would be easy, either.
· In fact we are warned that there may be hardships that we could otherwise avoid.
The Journey of the Magi:
1. A Demanding Journey: they had to cross a vast distance.
a. A spiritual journey is risky: how many of you have lost friends because of your faith?
i. The spiritual journey is at heart a journey of faith.
1. As such we can’t prove much of what we believe.
2. We can’t prove it in the sense that we can prove that we are here today, or that we are breathing at this moment.
3. We travel on faith, things unseen.
4. We progress through this world holding on to that which we have never held, the hand of Jesus.
5. We are saved by faith, healed by faith.
ii. In this journey it is truthful to say, "Nothing ventured, nothing gained."
1. If we were to wait on the things that we can only see, we would miss the best part of the journey, the faith part.
2. Even many of those who have seen the miracles of God haven’t believed.
iii. The most demanding part of this journey for many people is the first step.
1. For most, it isn’t that they can’t see the benefit of living the Christian life, it is that they are afraid of the first step toward Him.
2. What will so and so think?
b. The spiritual journey is costly;
Matthew 16:24–25 NIV
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.
1. It will cost us time and energy.
Just coming to church is a sacrifice; it takes up some of your weekend.
Sometimes we don’t feel like it, but we come because we know that the closeness we feel in church is beneficial to our journey
2. It will cost us comfort and convenience.
When we do a community outreach, many times that involves manual labor (weed pulling, trash pick-up, digging, hauling, etc.); 1st world discomfort and inconvenience.
In a couple of weeks we will hear once again from Shahadat Hossein, the Bangladeshi pastor whose Muslim family nearly killed him just for embarking on a journey with Christ; if not for his mother releasing him in the night, his father and brothers would have.
Such things we generally don’t worry about here…yet…,but there are still sacrifices.
3. It will cost us money and possessions.
There is no way to look at this life and come to any other conclusion other than that what we have does not belong to us.
We can’t be a part of something like a church and really think that the way things get done has nothing to do with my money and possessions.
A Difficult Journey – the journey of faith that leads to Christ is a difficult one that is filled with obstacles.
· The obstacles are of our own design because Christ said...
Matthew 11:30 NIV
For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Believing and living for Jesus is easy, so why does it seem that we struggle so with it?
· We struggle with:
a. The obstacle of discouragement.
Life circumstances
People failures
Endurance issues
b. The obstacle of doubt.
The world tells us we are dumb for believing.
We let doubt creep in and steal our joy, faith and belief
c. The obstacle of opposition.
Sometimes the people closest to us see us as wasting our time with God.
Even within the church we see division about how to proceed on the journey.
3. A Delightful Journey
a. The great joy of this journey is that it leads to a personal relationship with Jesus, "the bright Morning Star" and the gift of eternal life through faith in Him.
Revelation 22:16–17 NIV
“I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.” The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!” Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.
Conclusion: When Pope Julius I authorized December 25 to be celebrated as the birthday of Jesus in A.D. 353, who would have ever thought that it would become what it is today.
· When Professor Charles Follen lit candles on the first Christmas tree in America in 1832, who would have ever thought that the decorations would become as elaborate as they are today.
· It is a long time since 1832, longer still from 353, longer still from that dark night brightened by a special star in which Jesus the king was born.
· Yet, as we approach December 25 again, it gives us yet another opportunity to pause, and in the midst of all the excitement and elaborate decorations and expensive commercialization which surround Christmas today, to consider again the event of Christmas and the person whose birth we celebrate. - Brian L. Harbour, James W. Cox, The Minister's Manual: 1994, San Fransico: Harper Collins, 1993, p. 254.
· As we experience the modern holiday, let us still remember the original, and those who began a journey to find the Christ-child.
· Have you experienced Him?
Set out on a fresh journey this Advent.
· If you have never made a commitment to a personal relationship with Christ, make that commitment of faith today.
· Renew your commitment to follow Christ, and experience the advent season in a new way.
Let us pray...
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