The Star of Christmas - Part 4
Series: Special Occasions
December 24, 2017
Well, good morning and Merry Christmas. We are so glad you’ve joined us for this special day. No doubt there is a lot going on with all the presents and parties and preparations that come with the holidays. Your mind is abuzz with all the activities and festivities ahead. But thanks for slowing down and taking time to celebrate a ginormous event that really happened 2,000 years ago in the Middle East.
I’m going to be brief, but I do want to share a few things this Christmas Eve, things that hopefully will help us focus on it’s deeper and life changing meaning.
You may not have been around, but for the last three weeks we’ve been looking at the very familiar star of Christmas found in Matthew’s gospel, chapter 2…
Matthew 2:1–2 (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.”
To be honest, the wise men or magi weren’t present at that first Christmas — it was probably about two years later when they dropped off gold, frankincense, and myrrh — but the star that led them to Jesus appeared at his birth. So we’ll let them hang around the nativity scene. They would have been there if they could!
Many get caught up in what that star was. Was it a supernova? Was it a comet? Was it a UFO? Was it some supernatural phenomenon unexplainable by science? Maybe. But if we aren’t careful we’ll get so caught up in those things we miss what the star tries to show us. We’ll miss the message. You see…
The star simply showed the wise men the way to Jesus. And that’s of cosmic, this-changes-everything importance because Jesus shows us the way to God.
Why do we need to be shown the way to God? Because, as we discovered the first week in this series, we live in darkness.
Popular Science some time ago published an article about what would happen if the sun suddenly went out. The temperature would plummet to 0 degrees by end of the day, then 100 degrees below 0 by end of the year, finally settling at 400 degrees below 0.
Photosynthesis would stop immediately. Without that, plants couldn’t make oxygen. And without oxygen we’d all suffocate. But even if we could survive the cold and make oxygen somehow, without Vitamin A and D from the sun, most of us would have our bones start crumbling and become very, very fragile.
If that happened the world would go dark and we’d all die (What kind of Christmas sermon is this?!). That isn’t going to happen anytime soon, but in a way it did happen a very long time ago, not physically but spiritually.
God made the earth and all there is and it was good. He made a man and a woman to populate the earth and they were good. But they broke the one rule God made. And their disobedience plunged us all into a spiritual darkness that lasts to this day.
If you don’t believe that, just read the news. Suicides, murders, sex trafficking, opioid epidemic just to name a few.
You see, the darkness isn’t just around us, it’s in us.
Jeremiah 17:9 (ESV) — 9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?
Psalm 53:2–3 (ESV) — 2 God looks down from heaven on the children of man to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. 3 They have all fallen away; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one.
This darkness separates us from God and leads to death…
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.
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—
Are you sure this is your Christmas sermon?
This is why we need to be shown the way to God. Our world and our hearts are dark with sin; that may sound old fashioned or out of date, but it’s true (if you’re honest about it). It’s a darkness so deep, so deadly, things seem hopeless. And they would be if God hadn’t done something about it…
Isaiah 9:2, 6-7 (ESV) — 2 The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone.
This was written hundreds of years before the first Christmas!
6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.
The star of Christmas shows us that Jesus is the light of hope in this dark world! Jesus said of himself…
John 8:12 (ESV) — 12 Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
Did you know one of the names of Jesus is the MORNING STAR?
Why would God do such an incredible thing? Why would he, even though the darkness is all our fault, send his own Son to show us the way out of darkness and into his light? The answer to that is in a familiar verse…
John 3:16 (ESV) — 16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
Even though we were utterly unlovable with our dark hearts and rebellious ways, God loved us anyway!
1 John 4:9–10 (The Message) — 9 This is how God showed his love for us: God sent his only Son into the world so we might live through him. 10 This is the kind of love we are talking about—not that we once upon a time loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to clear away our sins and the damage they’ve done to our relationship with God.
What makes you or me lovable and valuable and worthy isn’t who or what we are (contrary to the thinking of today); it’s who loves us. Love yourself because God loves you and no other reason. When the Creator of heaven and earth, the One who by his will holds the universe together, says you are worthy and valuable (so much so he’d give his son for you), that’s way better than if you try to convince yourself how worthy you are!
The Christmas star leads us to the hope we have in Jesus and to the love God had for us in sending him to us that first Christmas. But there’s more. Let’s look back at our wise men…
Matthew 2:9b–10 (ESV) — 9 …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.
When they saw that the star had led them to Jesus they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. That word great in the Greek is megas which means large. We get our prefix mega from it.
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 us mega joy. Just ask the angel that appeared to the shepherds that first Christmas, the same night most likely the star appeared to the wise men…
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 (mega) 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.
That day a savior was born. A savior is someone who rescues a person or people from great danger. What great danger 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.”
The darkness is far worse than we know. Our plight is more desperate than we could ever understand.
Paul lays it all out…
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.
He’s not talking about physical death. He’s referring to a much worse kind of death…
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.
Pastor, are you SURE this is your Christmas sermon?
The darkness around and in us leads to the second death, eternal separation from God. There is no greater danger than that.
When you are rescued from a life threatening experience, joy is what you feel! The greater the danger, the more mega the joy. And the only way we can understand why Jesus’ birth brings us mega joy is to understand the seriousness ands severity of what he saves us from.
The Christmas star leads us to the hope we have in Jesus. It leads us to the love God had for us in sending him to us that first Christmas. It leads us to the mega joy we can experience knowing what Jesus saved us from. And all this ushers us in to the last thing the star wants to reveal. Let’s go back and look at the shepherds’ encounter with angels…
Luke 2:13–14 (ESV) — 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
Peace. That’s something we all long far isn’t it? Especially in the troubling times we live. We all want to be able to sit back, kick up our feet and say, “All is good. I’m at peace.” But it isn’t going to happen. The reason this world can never truly know peace is because of the darkness, the sin around us and in us. Man will always end up messing things up.
The sin that keeps us in deep darkness, that makes us utterly unloveable, that condemns us to eternal separation from God, is the same sin that causes us to be at war with God (whether we know it or not) and thus unable to ever know true peace.
The peace the angel spoke of is the kind of peace we all need but could never know apart from Jesus. Paul wrote…
Romans 5:1 (ESV) — 1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
And Jesus said…
John 14:27 (ESV) — 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.
If things are right with you and God, it doesn’t matter what’s going on in the world.
Conclusion: The Christmas star leads us to the hope we have in Jesus. It leads us to the love God had for us in sending him to us that first Christmas. It leads us to the mega joy we can experience understanding what Jesus saved us from. And it leads us to something we all want and can only have in Jesus, true peace.
Christmas is just as much about the cross as it is the manger, maybe even more.
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