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Where Is He?

Christmas Questions (wk 4)  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Musings about why the wise men stopped in Jerusalem.

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Where Is He? (wk 4)
Isn’t the cartoon cute this morning? It reminds me of how often we joke about the fact that men, as a general rule, don’t stop and ask for directions. Like the joke that says, in 1492, Columbus set out for the Orient and ended up in the Caribbean, thus setting a pattern that has continued for over five hundred years. Men still won’t stop and ask for directions.
But with the advent of Map Quest, Yahoo Maps and Google Maps…and GPS apps…men can and do, get directions before they leave. We don’t have to stop and ask for directions any more. So sooner or later—the jokes will end!!
Not only that—but cars can come equipped with GPS and now your car can literally tell you how to get where you’re going. The point is, that the wise men could have used GPS. Although technically, a star is a satellite, so, a case could be made for claiming that the star the wisemen saw was the very first Global Positioning Satellite – or GPS.
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."
Then if we skip the whole troubled Herod part of the story…we pick it up in verse 9…
…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.
So basically, what you have is this trip that started with the wise men from the east, who saw a star and recognized it as fulfilling a prophecy—and so they followed the star and in the end, the star led to Jesus.
We know nothing of their trip…the hardships, the struggles, the dangers they faced, how long they traveled, or really, even when they arrived.
All we know is that they followed the star for hundreds and hundreds of miles…and then when they got to Jerusalem—they stopped and asked for directions. All I can think is that one of them must have brought his mom. I was going to say “his wife” but it’s Christmas Eve so I thought I’d go easy on our wives.
When you read the story minus the episode in Jerusalem, you can’t help but note that the star led them from the east some where far away, right to the house where the Babe and His mom were staying.
Turns out they didn’t need to stop in Jerusalem at all …so why did they?
Pray with me…
So the question is, Why did the wise men stop and ask Where is He? I mean apparently the star didn’t stop. We know men don’t usually ask for directions. So why did they stop?

They Stopped Because They Were Tired

Well one possible reason might be that they were simply tired. It had been a long trek. We really don’t know where they came from exactly—except that they came from countries East of Israel. Well--to get to Bethlehem, which is on the West side of the Dead Sea—you’re going to have to go around the top of the Dead Sea—which will in turn, bring you very close to Jerusalem.
Pictures depicting the travels of the wise men often show them on the backs of camels…traveling in a caravan, three of them. More likely there were servants and soldiers or bodyguards with them. A contingent large enough to travel safely—small enough not to be considered a threat.
And they traveled hundreds of miles…and the trip took weeks, maybe even months. And they did it without paved roads, SUVs and Holiday Inns.
They traipsed through the desert sand and heat, up and down mountains and through the valleys. God only knows what they ate and drank.
My point is that theirs was not an easy trip. Perhaps they stopped in Jerusalem; stopped following the star; stopped their trek—just because they were tired.
Not only that…I can’t help but wonder if they wondered…as they wandered out under the stars…where all the other worshippers were?
“The King of the Jews is born and are we the only ones who know about it?”
It may well be that they were tired and discouraged…unsure that what they were doing was right. I think that they were ready for the trip to end and Jerusalem—the “capital city” of Judaism—made sense—so they turned aside.
It may well be that they were tired and discouraged…unsure that what they were doing was right. I think that they were ready for the trip to end and Jerusalem—the “capital city” of Judaism—made sense—so they turned aside.
The Apostle Paul, wrote to some men and women who were doing good and were discouraged at the same time, in , “But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary of doing good.”
Doing “good” isn’t always easy. Sometimes doing “good” can be challenging. We’ve certainly experienced that recently. Sometimes we just might feel like turning aside. We’ve trekked far enough.

They Stopped Because They Were Impressed With the City

And then I was thinking…maybe it wasn’t so much that they were tired…maybe it was the city of Jerusalem itself that made them turn aside.
2,000 years ago, Jerusalem was already 1,000 years old. It must have been a hustling, bustling place. Full of travelers, and full of accommodations for travelers.
It reminded me of Kent Roland Lavoie, some of you might remember him as LOBO or maybe you’ve heard his song, “Me and You and a Dog Named Boo”. The last verse starts out, “I'll never forget the day we motored stately into big L.A./ The lights of the city put settlin' down in my brain…”
I can’t help but wonder if the sights and sounds and lights of Jerusalem are what caused the wise men from the East to turn aside from their travels. I wonder if the lights, the smells, the promise of hot food, wine and a soft bed, caused the kings to turn aside from following their star. The call of comfort, rest, ease…
Do you know the story of the disciple named Demas? He was a follower of Christ, one of the many who worked and traveled with Paul on his missionary journeys and Demas later ministered to Paul while he was in Prison.
Near the end of the little book of Philemon, verses 23-24 Paul writes, “Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, greets you, as do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, [and] Luke, my fellow laborers.”
Then, near the end of Colossians, in 4:14, Paul mentions Demas again,Luke the beloved physician and Demas greet you.”
Demas comes before Luke in Philemon but after Luke in Colossians and in Colossians his name comes without adjectives. Just a mention of his name.
Then, in Paul’s very last letter—right at the end, Paul writes in , “Make every effort to come to me soon; for Demas, having loved this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica”.
Now what’s going on here isn’t exactly clear, but when these letters are read chronologically, as I have just done. It seems that Demas starts out in favored status with Paul, “my fellow worker”, then he just becomes “Demas”; then he becomes Demas the deserter.
Demas apparently was too interested in life here and now…his worldly life…to risk his life, to give his life, to live his life, for the Kingdom of heaven. And so, like the wise men, he turned from following…Jesus said in,
, “Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.”
The truth is that distractions are out there…that’s why in , Jesus gives us this warning… "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God."
When I shop with my wife I am the “follower”. She even teases me about it. She knows what she wants and so we take off through the store. But I inevitably get distracted by something on sale or even just for sale—it doesn’t even matter—when I turn back to following, Pam is gone. And I end up searching the store for her.
Fortunately for the wise men, when they went back to following—the star was still there.

They Stopped Because They Thought They Had Arrived.

I was also thinking that perhaps the reason they turned aside at Jerusalem is because they thought their journey was done—they thought they had arrived.
I mean this too makes sense. Perhaps it even makes the most sense. They get to Jerusalem and there is the palace and there is the seat of government and there is the capital of Judaism and the Temple. Why look further, surely the One born king of the Jews would be born here. And so, they turn from following the star and enter Jerusalem.
There they approach the Palace and ask, “Where is He that is born King of the Jews?”
They weren’t asking for directions to Bethlehem…they were asking for directions to the correct wing of the palace. Surely, they thought they had arrived. They were ready to present their gifts… “just show us the Babe.”
Pam and I were chatting one day and Pam made a very insightful comment and I liked it and told her I would tell you she said it, she said, “We want to finish God's sentences.”
You know I have a pretty good vocabulary—I just don’t have great control over it and people are forever finishing my sentences. Friday morning, counting kettles, we even talked about it. But, our minds work like that…while we listen to people, like some of you are doing right now, we are anticipating what the person talking is going to say.
The problem is that we’re not always right.
The wise men saw that Palace and thought they knew the end of the sentence. “Follow the star and it will take you… Here.” They thought. “Show us the Babe! We’ve come to worship Him.”
They must have been way surprised to find out that there was no baby king in the palace. The puppet king Herod got his think-tank together and they remembered that the prophet Micah had predicted the Babe would be born in nearby Bethlehem. So, off the wise men went…resuming their journey.
And isn’t it just like God to keep the star up there? Turns out they didn’t need the directions…they just needed to follow.
The moral of the story has to be…
press on my friends you haven’t arrived.
Are you Tired? There’s a lot of that going around—Press on! says, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”
Distracted? It’s happens to the best of us—Press on! "Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith...”
Think you’re done? Think you know the rest of God’s sentence—Press on! says, “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” I keep on following!
I love that there isn’t a precise description of who the wise men were. We have theories galore but we don’t know who they were. That allows them to be us. Strangers, foreigners, on our way to worship.
Perhaps that’s why I love the advent season so much. What Easter is to victory—Christmas is to worship.
“o Come let us adore Him.”
“Come and worship”
“I love thee Lord Jesus…”
“Hail the heaven-born prince of peace”
“Let every heart prepare Him room”
The carols all invite us to worship!
I don’t know where you are in your journey…but I know we can get tired, distracted, and even think we’ve arrived. But friend…the saying goes, “wise men and women still seek Him.” Press On! Keep Jesus the reason for your season.
Pray with me…
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