Immanuel Lutheran Church

Sermon

Epiphany Sunday

"On the Road with the Magi"

Matthew 2:1-12

January 4, 2015

Have you ever taken a spur of the moment road trip. It's when you get a sudden desire to take off and see the country. So, you pick a direction and head off without any sort of detailed plan in mind. It's an adventure. You never know who you'll meet or see along the way. This was the case with the Magi. They took a rather spontaneous road trip.

When they saw the messianic star, they gathered their gifts and provisions and set out in a westerly direction. They probably knew they were heading toward Palestine. Now, this was no easy or ordinary road trip. The journey would take several months to complete. Although they traveled the caravan routes, they still faced danger from robbers and thieves. Nevertheless, it was a grand adventure.

Once they reached Palestine, their adventure was hardly over. In some respects it was just beginning. As they neared Jerusalem, they lost sight of the star. Since Jerusalem was the capital of the Jewish nation, they probably thought it was only logical that a royal child would be born in the royal palace of the royal city. So, in their simple naivete, they marched right up to Herod's palace and asked to see the royal child.

Here's where we pick up the story. Read text: Matthew 2:1-12. 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.

This was like chickens walking into the Fox's den. Herod was both cunning and paranoid. He'd already murdered two of his sons, his favorite wife and assorted in-laws in jealous rage. Although he claimed to be as curious as the Magi about the child and his wish to honor him, Herod really only wanted to get rid of the threat and competition this child posed.

After consulting the scribes, Herod told the Magi the prophecies pointed to Bethlehem. The Magi left the city, beheld the star and sought out the child. When they found Him, they offered their precious gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. We are not told if they were surprised to find the Promised One in such humble surroundings. Faith allowed them to look beyond superficial appearances and see in the Christ Child, the fulfillment of all the promises and prophecies of the Jewish people.

After they worshipped Him, we are told the Magi were warned in a dream to leave the country immediately by another way. Who knows, maybe they sensed Herod was a nut case. Perhaps, they may have picked up the local gossip about his reputation. In any case, they left in a hurry to get out of his jurisdiction.

This is a nice story, but you may ask, "What's this got to do with me?" This road trip of the Magi is a story of a journey of faith. By faith they realized the heavenly sign was the one telling them of the birth of the Jewish Messiah. Faith set them off on their road trip. Faith helped them believe that the Child they found in the humble house in Bethlehem was, indeed, the Promised One. In faith, they returned to their home rejoicing.

Like the Magi, we make our road trip of faith through this life. Like the Magi, we don't know who or what we'll encounter along the way. Like the Magi we will meet all kinds of people. Most of them will be ordinary folks like us. Some will be helpful. Some will be, well, unusual. Others, like Herod, will be downright evil.

Our road trip of faith may lead us to unexpected places. Before the appearance of the star do you suppose the Magi ever thought they'd make a road trip to Palestine in search of the newborn king? In our road trip of faith, we will certainly encounter circumstances we never anticipated. Like the Magi, our journey of faith will lead us into and through danger and perils we'd never expected.

We take the road trip of life knowing only that the end of our journey will bring us to heaven where we will behold Christ in all His glory. In the mean time, we press onward in faith through perils unknown. The good news is that we are making this trip together. The Lord has given us to each other as companions through this journey.

While the Magi had the star as their beacon, ours is the cross. We worship Jesus Christ not for only His birth but for His life, death and resurrection for us and for our salvation. We praise God for His abiding love. We thank Him for His good gifts. We have the joy of receiving the Lord's Supper today as He comes to bring us grace, forgiveness and all the gifts we need to continue our pilgrimage toward heaven.

Like the Magi, we're on a spiritual road trip. By God's grace this will be a life-long adventure. We'll learn and grow in faith as we encounter all kinds of circumstances, people and perils. We go on our way, knowing always that the Lord is guiding us and His love supports us as we make our way from here to heaven.

Enjoy the road trip. Go in peace. Amen.


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