Adoration of the Magi

Sermon Script: Micah 5:2-5

This morning I’d like to begin with a Christmas story about a promise. I have a half sister, Debbie. Debbie is 10½ year old than I am. She lived with her mother in Knoxville, Tennessee, and we lived in Huntsville, Alabama. I thought A LOT of my sister, and I missed her very much. One Christmas she was supposed to come and stay with us. We had gifts for her and everything. I had been looking forward to it for weeks. I must have been about six or seven because I remember I got a StarWars B-wing bomber for Christmas that year, and that toy didn’t come out until “Return of the Jedi.” What I remember most about that Christmas is my sister did not come. I don’t remember why. I just remember the promise of her visit was broken. And I remember it hurt. The reason I bring it up is because this morning we are going to talk about promises; the fear of broken promises and the joy of promises kept.

The prophet Micah is giving this prophecy just after the Assyrians have completely defeated the northern ten tribes of Israel. The northern ten tribes believed God would do what God had promised and bless those who bless them and curse those who curse them (Genesis 12:2). The trouble was Israel had not kept her promises. Israel had chased after foreign gods and committed all kinds of wrong doing in God’s sight. And so after several hundred years of warnings God finally allowed Israel’s enemies, the Assyrians to march on Israel. Israel was broken. Their cities were burned and destroyed. Their towns and villages were over run, and their farms and crops were ruined. The children of Israel were heart broken. Judah alone remained as the Assyrian army marched home; content to leave Judah for another time as the fiery remnant of Israel smouldered. Into this devastation God sends the prophet Micah.

“But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah,
who are too little to be among the
clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
one who is to be ruler in Israel,
whose origin is from of old,
from ancient of days.” Micah 5:2 ESV

Through Micah God sends a prophecy that would not be fulfilled in Micah’s life time, but a prophecy which would absolutely be fulfilled – a promise from God. Church, take a moment, just a moment to consider how many of God’s promises have been fulfilled in your lives (pause) God fulfills God’s promises. Amen? Amen! God fulfills God’s promises! Amen?! Amen!!

It was just over a hundred years later; at a time when the Babylonians had conquered the Assyrians, and now the southern tribe of Judah. The Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar took the best and brightest of Israel back to Babylon to be of service. The prophet Daniel was one of those taken to Babylon, and he carried with him in his heart God’s promise delivered through the prophet Micah about a coming king. I believe Daniel held on to that promise, and holding on to that promise gave Daniel hope.

From the book of Daniel we have the story of Daniel interpreting dreams because of God’s grace upon Daniel’s life (Daniel 2:31-45). The result of Daniel successfully interpreting Nebuchadnezzar’s dreams is Daniel became ruler over the province of Babylon and chief prefect over all of the wise men of Babylon (Daniel 2:48). The origin of the wise men or magi of Babylon is uncertain, but we do know they worshipped one god, and were very skilled at astronomy and astrology. For over a hundred years the magi had been regarded as “wise men” and the kings of Babylon and Assyria had trusted them as advisors. However, when Nebuchadnezzar’s dreams could not be interpreted by the magi it was God through Daniel who was able to interpret the dreams. Now Daniel is given the title of leader of these magi. It should come as no surprise the magi in the region of Babylon – who were likely descendents of those Daniel lead were looking for a king of the Jews to be born who would be a leader to the ends of the earth. I think the magi also believed in God’s promise as told perhaps through Daniel. I think it is likely they added the promise to what they already believed about the stars being able to fortell the future. When the magi saw that star they were ready – they were ready to begin their journey to look for the king of the Jews.

As we look back on these stories I hope we can all see the ways a promise can bring hope, and the ways a broken promise can cause pain. When we get right down to it I think there are promises we all cling to. Maybe it’s the promise of a discount when we receive coupons in the mail. Maybe it’s the frustration and disappointment of someone breaking their promise. Maybe it’s the promise of Santa Clause and presents under the tree. Maybe it’s the promise of Christmas. You might say Christmas is an ancient promise fulfilled.

Daniel spoke about one appearing before the Ancient of Days (Daniel 7). This morning’s verse talks about one who is from ancient of days. He will shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord, and in the majesty of the name of God. Those under the shepherd’s care will live secure because the shepherd will look after them to the ends of the earth and he shall be their peace. There are scholars who argue this verse speaks to a future king of Israel – an earthly king of the line of David. However, I believe this verse speaks to King Jesus. Who alone, but God can provide security to all God’s people to the ends of the earth? Who alone can shepherd God’s flock? God is the one who teaches the sheep whom to obey because those who are a part of God’s flock listen for God’s voice. They are obedient in that they listen for God’s voice and obey God’s voice. You might say the sheep of God’s flock keep their promises to be obedient to God by first listening in their hearts for what God has to say. God’s flock is not satisfied with paying lip service to God. God’s flock is determined to be crucified with Christ.

In the light of Assyrian exile the idea of being a part of the flock of this new ruler of Israel very likely means being obedient to God first and foremost. Obedience to God leads to true and lasting peace. Being obedient to God does not mean we will not have differences of opinion, or that we will always get along. However, obedience to God does mean we will strive to go deeper in our relationship with God. We will seek people whom we can trust to hold us accountable in love as opposed to putting us down to make themselves feel better. We will actively look for ways to remove the barriers between us and God. In many ways we are like dirty dirty windows. We are covered in a false self of grime and dirt put on by a life time of hiding our imperfections. Hear the good news. God is sending one who is from ancient of days. He will show us how to live our lives so as to no longer throw dirt on ourselves. He will protect us from being destroyed by the world. And perhaps best of all he will have glass cleaner in the form of grace. God’s grace washes away the grime and the mess so that we can receive our new shepherd and listen to his voice with glad hearts. Sisters and brothers the new Shepherd will be here soon.

Christmas is almost upon us. With Christmas comes the hope for the rise of the new shepherd. We are no longer being left to our own devices. We are no longer a people in exile from the grace of God. God has come in the form of Emmanuel; God with us. The season of Christmas is almost upon us. The promise fulfilled. Let us take hope, and love, and light in the fulfillment of God’s promise in our lives.

In the name of Jesus Christ – Amen.

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