Faithlife Sermons

The Dark Days of Christmas: More Faith, More Joy

The Dark Days of Christmas  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  39:24
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Wrapping up the Dark Days of Christmas, we look closely at the wise men coming from the east. What were their motivations to seek out fulfillment of a Jewish prophecy and how does that relate to us today.

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Intro:
we are wrapping up our series, The Dark Days of Christmas
I was talking to a mentor of mine, and he saw the series we were doing, and he called me the Grinch for doing a series like this. I thought it was funny. I also wished I had a grinch costume to preach with this morning in honor of him
Over the course of the series we’ve been looking at the real struggles that people deal with during the Christmas season, and last week I said that as we’ve going through, we’ve actually been following the advent themes in our own way.
We talked about loneliness, and we wanted to trade loneliness for hope.
We talked about anxiety, and we wanted to trade anxiety for peace
Last week we talked about love, and how we are encouraged through media and to love stuff, and we really need to focus on loving our families better, and ultimately loving Christ better, since Jesus is the heart and foundation for Christmas
As we close, we were going to look at the last group of people mentioned in the Christmas story, the magi.
Fun fact is that in every church I was in leading up to my return, if I got to do a Christmas message, this was always the one I did. I always ended up talking about the magi. I don’t know why. So as soon we hire a youth pastor, I’m making them do the wise men sermon. It obviously has some value in training or preparing, so it is only fair.

Question 1: What is one of your favorite Christmas memories?

As you discuss at home or with the people around you, I would invite you to head over to Matthew 2 on whatever form of bible you are using this morning. Matthew is the only Gospel writer who gives an account of the wise men or magi.
Matthew 2:1–12 ESV
Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “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.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet: “ ‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’ ” Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.” After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.
so a little backstory about the wise men
first and foremost, we have no idea how many of them there were. It is safe to assume there was probably a good number because they traveled a fair distance to get to Jesus
we are not entirely sure where the magi came from. Most people agree that they probably came from Persia based on the name magi. Magi was the name often given to the royal court of advisers in Persia or Mesopotamia.
they were educated and devoted a lot of their time to studying ancient and sacred texts. They were also astronomers and would often combine what they saw in the stars and planets with what they saw in the scriptures
because of the fact that the Jewish people were in captivity under the Persians before Cyrus let them return, there was a chance that the magi had interacted with Jewish teachers in their time, or at the very least they had access to the Jewish scriptures
there are two things of importance to note here. First, these magi are not Jewish. There is chance that the religion believed in one god, and that this god had an evil counterpart, but it was not the God of the bible
the other important thing is that these magi were not just a couple blocks away. As you can see in this map, these guys traveled a LONG way to get to where they needed to be
just note on this southern option. There are some that wondered if the magi came from Yemen due to the large amount of gold found there at the time. Most agree though that if Yemen was the place, Matthew would’ve said men from the south, cause that is definitely way more south then east
You see the legend at the bottom here, how far 300 km is in relation to this map. This group travelled a LONG way.
If they came by camel, the top speed of a camel is 65 km/h, and they don’t maintain for that long in comparision to this journey. It would have taken them several weeks to make that journey.
this is where I want to stop and have us consider what is about to happen here. One day, the magi are doing their thing, watching the stars and studying the texts and suddenly they see a star they had never seen before. So they consult all the resource material they have access to and conclude that this is the star that marks the brith of the Messiah, the new Jewish king. Not their god, not their Messiah, not even their texts.
Something within them, and I would suggest there is a bit of a nudge from the Holy Spirit, inspires them to pack up their stuff, rally the crew, load up the camels, and head out on a journey that is going to take them months to complete, to meet this king

Question 2: When was the last time something inspired you that strongly to act?

it could be scripture, it could be something you watched, something you heard someone say, something you felt led to in your prayer time. When was the last time you felt inspired to do something out of the norm? Like these guys weren’t making this trip frequently.
Now here is why this is so incredible to me. They could’ve travelled all that way and found nothing. A star appears, and there is some ancient text from some group of westerners that suggests that maybe something has happened. There is a measure of faith required to take the risk that they did, for the chance of discovering something out of the ordinary.
in fact, the prophecy that told of the star comes from Numbers, and it wasn’t even a Jew that made the prophecy. It was a guy named Balaam who was supposed to be cursing Israel, and instead the Spirit of God inspired him to bless them. In one of these blessings, he mentions that a star will rise out of Jacob.
So armed with nothing more then a vague scripture and a randomly appearing star, these magi head out. I can’t help but be in awe of them because they exhibit more faith in less evidence then I have ever acted on. I can’t help but think of how many times God has called me to do something big and the first thing I do is ask for more evidences, and more assurances.
We don’t need more assurance and more evidence; we need more faith in the one who knows the beginning from the end. Our world needs to see that followers of Christ, those of us saved by the love and grace of Jesus actually trust the God who saves us to do what only he can do. He will make the crooked paths straight. He will call all people to account for the things they’ve done. He is the ultimate authority. Like the magi, we need to focus our attention on Jesus and pursue him above all else. We need to take those steps of faith to reach out to those we feel God is calling us to. We need to be more generous to the person needing a hand out and less concerned about what they’re going to do with it.
Paul tells us to do everything as unto the Lord, because he sees everything, even those things done in secret. We are accountable to God first.
The author of Hebrews says it is impossible to please God without faith.
And what was the prize that awaited the Magi when they found Jesus, when the star appeared again and led them to the home. It says they were filled with great joy.
As much as the world needs to see God’s people living lives of bold faith, we need to see more joy. Everywhere you look, everything you read, there is so much anger. There is so much fear in the undertones of every post. We need to be people of contagious joy.
Big steps of faith almost always leads to inexpressible joy.
So many times in the books of Acts the apostles did something that required great faith and joy followed.

Question 3: What step of faith is God calling you to today?

maybe your step of faith is committing your life to fully following Jesus. Maybe you’ve got a lot in common with the magi, and you kind of believe there’s a god, but you don’t really know who he is or if he can be known. Let me tell you, the God of the bible can be known and he already knows you and loves you. He has been pursuing you your entire life, even in those times when life felt darkest, God was always there. Today, he is extending his hand to you to follow him, to accept his love and forgiveness, and to step into the life he has called you to. He is calling you, just like he called me and everyone else here who loves Jesus, to a life of redemption, everyday refining you and making you more like Jesus. We don’t always get everything right, but everyday we keep trying.
Maybe today your big act of faith is to share your faith with someone, telling them about how Jesus spoke to you and changed your life. Maybe your step of faith is recognizing you’ve been a Christian in word but not in deed, and you just need to fully commit to him, to let him do in your life what only he can do.
I want to close with this. Taking a huge step of faith does not mean doing something completely irrational, and here’s why I say that
when the magi took off on their journey, it may have been the star passage that they connected, but they knew the scriptures well enough to know that this king was going to change the world. They had context, they understood all that Jesus stood for.
the other thing to note is their journey. They avoided any unnecessary risks. The magi went around the Arabian desert. Why? Because there was a good chance, due to lack of water, lack of protection, and the presence of raiders, they wouldn’t have made it. But taking the safe route didn’t make it any less of a crazy venture.
God will never call you to do something that is contrary to the teaching of the bible. Too many people have taken some obscure scripture and done something that is contrary to God’s teaching.
God will call you to great acts of faith that may seem impossible, but often the difficulty is based more on our comfort or lack of experience, and less about the actual impossibility.
with all that said, let us be people who live lives of bold and audacious faith, and let the world see our contagious joy as we see our faith realized.
Let’s pray.
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