The Star of Christmas Part 3
Series: Special Occasions
December 17, 2017
We are now three weeks in to a special series on the Star of Christmas. Of course, you know that means we are talking about the special star the wise men saw, a sign the King of the Jews - and of the whole world - was born.
The Star was important because…
It showed the magi the way to Jesus. And that’s of cosmic, this-changes-everything importance because Jesus shows us the way to God.
We need to be shown the way to God because we can’t find our way in the deep spiritual darkness we all are lost in. If not for Jesus, life would be hopeless. He is the light of the world, the One who rescues us from the darkness. One of his name’s is the Morning Star!
The star that led the wise men to Jesus reminds us that Jesus is the light of hope we need so badly to lead us out of the darkness into a relationship with his Father, our Creator. The star leads us to HOPE. That hope is a person: JESUS.
The star that led the wise men to Jesus also guides us into to the truth that even though we are utterly unlovable as we are because of sin, God loves us anyway! We love God because HE first loved us; God is love. And He loved us so extravagantly he gave his one and only Son to take our place on that cross and give us eternal life. The Star of Christmas is about the hope we have in Jesus and the love we have in God.
The Star of Christmas isn’t finished, though. There’s more.
Let’s revisit Matthew’s account of the wise men and see what that is.
Matthew 2:1–10 (ESV) — 1 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, 2 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.” 3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; 4 and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. 5 They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet: 6 “ ‘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.’ ” 7 Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. 8 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.” 9 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. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.
Verse 10 is interesting and enlightening. Luke described the magi’s reaction to finding Jesus in a dramatic way.
When they saw the star they were not just joyful, they were exceedingly rejoicing with great joy. The word rejoice and joy come from the same root word in the Greek. The word great is from the Greek word megas, meaning great or loud, from which we get the common and probably overused prefix mega, meaning very large. It’s a mega-sale!
What Matthew says of the wise men here would be like me saying of my wife, she didn’t just sleep, she slept exceedingly with mega sleep. Which she does every night, while I lay awake trying to go to sleep.
When we put that all together in verse 10 here, we don’t have a Yay kind of joy, we have a shouting, hollering, jumping, dancing, mega kind of joy!
They were so thankful for the star’s guiding them to Jesus they were abundantly overjoyed. What that star did for them, Jesus does for us. Jesus brings mega joy.
What is joy? It is defined as a feeling of great pleasure or happiness. Joy is a feeling in response to something. It’s not very rational or thought out, is it? As one pastor puts it…
“[Joy] … is not an idea. It is not a conviction. It is not a persuasion or a decision. It is a feeling. Or — I use the words interchangeably here — an emotion. One of the marks of the difference between an idea and an emotion or feeling is that you don’t have immediate control over your feelings or your emotions. You can’t snap your fingers and decide to feel something.”
It’s a reaction much like fear. You don’t decide to be afraid. Imagine you’re swimming in the ocean and you see a fin break the surface as it heads your way. You don’t start analyzing: I’m in the ocean. Sharks are in the ocean. Sharks have razor sharp teeth. They use those teeth to bite. I should be afraid right now. OK, I’m making the decision to be afraid.
One of the cards from the kids encouraged me that more people die from falling coconuts than shark attacks. Uh - huh.
The emotion or feeling of great happiness is a universal experience. All people of all cultures and times know some degree of joy. But Christians know it in a way unique to our faith. You might even say Christianity has a corner on joy. From the very beginning, Jesus was associated with joy…
Look in Luke 2, a familiar Christmas text where an angel announced Jesus’ birth to shepherds…
Luke 2:8–11 (ESV) — 8 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
Guess what Greek word great is here: megas. The angel brought good news of mega joy.
That day a savior was born. Why does that bring mega joy? A savior is someone who rescues a person or people from great danger. When you are rescued from a life threatening experience, joy is what you feel!
If you’re staring down a shark as your legs dangle into the black abyss of the ocean and someone saves you (a savior), you don’t just say, “Thanks, dude.”
What exactly are we saved from? Another angel gives us the answer. Before Jesus was born and his parents were officially married, Joseph found out Mary was pregnant…
Matthew 1:20–21 (ESV) — 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
Jesus means God saves, and what he saves us from is our sins. We’ve already established we all are dirty, rotten, stinking sinners. The Bible makes it clear our hearts are wicked and deceitful and everyday experience bears that out.
It’s hard to sink in, though, because none of us like hearing it (including me), but we must come to terms with how serious sin is. Sin is far more serious than we will ever know because…
It separates us from God.
Isaiah 59:2 (ESV) — 2 but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.
Separation from God brings…
It brings death
Romans 5:12 (ESV) — 12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—
Romans 6:23 (ESV) — 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
This death is not only physical, it’s even more so spiritual. The sin separating us from God…
It condemns us to hell
Mark 9:43–48 (ESV) — 43 And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. 45 And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell. 47 And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, 48 ‘where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’
Revelation 20:14–15 (ESV) — 14 Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
One preacher explains it this way…
“God is a God of such infinite perfection that not even the slightest sin in His presence can be tolerated. When Isaiah, the prophet of God, saw God upon His throne, he fell upon his face, terrified, and said, “Surely I am ruined, I have seen the Lord” (Isa. 6:5, author paraphrase). When Uzzah reached out his hand to steady the Ark of the Covenant where God’s Spirit dwelled, he was struck dead.
God is a God whose holiness and perfection is so complete that sin cannot exist in His presence. I hear people often speak glibly about “seeing God.” If God ripped the roof off the place where you were sitting right now and you saw His face, you’d immediately die. Standing in the presence of God with sin would be like a tissue paper touching the surface of the sun.
We often think we have done God a favor by down-playing the whole idea of His judgment. Our user-friendly God does not punish sin. He certainly doesn’t send people to hell. But hell gives us a picture of the absolute perfection and beauty of God. Hell is what hell is because God is who God is. Hell is what hell is because that’s what sin against an infinitely beautiful and glorious God deserves. Hell is not one degree hotter than our sin demands that it be. Hell should make our mouths stand agape at the righteous, just, holiness of God.”
All right, Pastor Brad, I’ve had all I can take. I was all excited about your sermon series for Christmas ‘cause I LOVE the holidays. The tinsel, the trees, the music, the ornaments, the chestnuts roasting on an open fire, watching It’s a Wonderful life, family getting together. I was expecting the warm fuzzies and you keep bringing up all this stuff about sin and darkness and now hell? That’s not what I want Christmas to be about!
Oh, dear friend, it is what Christmas is about.
We will never know the true joy of Christmas and certainly the true joy of being a Christian unless we know and embrace how desperate our situation is because of sin, unless we know how awfully bad we need a savior.
Our joy is mega joy because we know from what we were delivered. Our joy is mega joy because we didn’t have to jump through hoops to get delivered. Jesus did it all; Jesus paid it all.
Romans 6:23 (ESV) — 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Psalm 32:1–2 (NLT) — 1 Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sin is put out of sight! 2 Yes, what joy for those whose record the Lord has cleared of guilt, whose lives are lived in complete honesty!
Christianity is the religion of joy because through our Savior, Jesus, we have been delivered from sin and death! That is Christmas joy. And it is for us all…
Luke 2:10 (ESV) — 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.”
Are you people? Then this is for you. There’s no stipulations or fine print.
Conclusion: The world can know joy, but only those who have come to know God through Jesus can know Christian mega joy. One pastor describes it this way…
Christian joy is a good feeling in the soul, produced by the Holy Spirit, as he causes us to see the beauty of [Jesus, our savior].
The Christian knows joy no matter the circumstance, because he knows not only what he’s been delivered from and where he’s been delivered to, but he knows the One who delivered him. Spurgeon says…
In the nativity of the Savior there is joy for us—the babe in Bethlehem born; God has taken man into communion with Himself. Jesus the Savior: here is release from the groans of sin; here is an end to the moans of despair. He comes to break the bars of brass, and to cut the gates of iron asunder. — Charles Spurgeon
Before I finish, just a quick word to some here who may be crushed right now. The holidays are brutal if you’ve experienced a loss or are going though hard times. Do not think Christian joy implies you must laugh and shout and sing when your heart breaks. It does not mean you must pretend. It simply means that because of who Jesus is and what He did, you hold on to the hope that…
Psalm 30:5b (ESV) — 5b … Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.
The star of Christmas points us to the hope we have in Jesus and the love God showed us in giving us Jesus. It also shows us the joy we can experience in being saved by Jesus.
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