Matthew 2:1-3 “After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.”
And verse 9 “and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.”
“Wisemen still seek Him,” is one of the phrases that is popular around this time of year. While I understand the implications of the phrase, it can be somewhat misleading if taken at face value. For there is more to happiness in this life than simply finding Christ. True contentment and peace come not in merely finding the Prince of Peace, but in FOLLOWING Him.
We see in Matthew 2 that the Wisemen were on a journey. Part of their seeking involved observing the star, or “paying attention to the signs,” if you will. I can’t tell you how many times we have counseled families in crisis whether it dealt with their marriage or their children, some kind of deceit or addiction and many of them will say, “Looking back, we should have seen the signs.” Maybe you’ve heard about stubborn people who dismiss and overlook health warnings . . . little aches and pains and shortness of breath are dismissed and not taken seriously until a major heart attack is the result. A lot of the pains we deal with in this life could be avoided if we would pay attention to the signs.
There are signs everywhere that God is still at work in this world and in your life personally. Every time you think about someone in need and are moved to do something about that need, it’s a sign. Every time you observe the beauty of a sunrise, sunset, snowflake or rainbow, it’s a sign. When your friends caution you about something that you need to consider, it’s a sign. When you attend a friend or family member’s funeral and start thinking about your own mortality, it’s a sign. When the antics or innocence of a child’s actions put a smile on your face, it’s a sign. When you watch the evening news and hear about the turmoil this world is in, it’s a sign. When you experience the hug of a grandparent or open a card of encouragement from a friend, it’s a sign. When you come to church and the invitation to come to the altar is given and your heart is beating out of your chest, it’s a sign.
“Buck” Kilgore, of Texas, who once kicked open the door of the House of Representatives when Speaker Reed had all doors locked to prevent the minority from leaving the floor and thus escaping a vote, was noted for his indifference to forms and rules. Speaker Reed, annoyed by members bringing lighted cigars upon the floor of the House just before opening time, had signs conspicuously posted as follows: “No smoking on the floor of the House.” One day just before convening the House his eagle eye detected Kilgore nonchalantly puffing away at a fat cigar. Calling a page, he told him to give his compliments to the gentleman from Texas and ask him if he had not seen the signs. After a while the page returned and seated himself without reporting to the Speaker, and Mr. Reed was irritated to see the gentleman from Texas continue his smoke. With a frown he summoned the page and asked: “Did you tell the gentleman from Texas what I said?” “I did,” replied the page. “What did he say?” asked Reed. “Well—er,” stammered the page, “he said to give his compliments to you and tell you he did not believe in signs.”
Maybe it’s not that we don’t see the signs. Maybe we don’t doubt God’s existence or love for us. Maybe we are aware of the ways God is working in an around us. Maybe it’s just that we don’t want to believe, and so we tune God out.
I’ll bet the Wisemen rated finding the Christ-child as their ultimate Star Following experience. When they were sitting around talking about their greatest accomplishments and their most cherished memory, that encounter was at the very top. Their greatest earthly experience was the result of carefully heeding the sign in the sky. What would have happened had the Wisemen tuned the sign out? What if they had dismissed the star that beckoned them to seek and find? They would have missed life’s ultimate that was meant for them. Don’t dismiss the signs. Don’t close your eyes and ears to all God is doing and saying. Don’t pretend not to hear Him. Pay attention to the signs God is placing in your life this Christmas season.
We see the next part of the Wisemen’s seeking involved asking questions. “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews?” (vs.2) Questioning is a very natural part of seeking. It’s basic to the finding process. Those of you with small children, don’t get weary with answering all of the “who, what’s, and why’s” your kids are asking. Questioning will lead to discovery. I remember learning about the Scientific Method in school. Preceding the research phase, the forming of a hypothesis phase, and the testing phase was step one. “Ask a question.”
There are the philosophical questions we ask like, “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” or my personal favorite, “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it fall, does it still make a noise?”
Living life to its full will require that we ask some questions. “What am I going to do with my life?” “How can I best prepare for the future?” “What contribution can I make to the world?” “What are my strengths and weaknesses?” “How can I avoid the mistakes my parents and others made?” “How should I invest my time and resources?”
Learning to ask questions is key to getting answers. Learning to ask the RIGHT questions is even more critical. As the salesman came to the front door, he turned to the little boy sitting on the steps and asked, “Is your mother home?” He said yes, and the salesman began to ring the doorbell. After several rings and no response, he turned to the boy and said, “I thought you said your mother was home,” to which the boy replied, “She is, but this isn’t my house.” Sometimes we get the wrong answers because we don’t ask the right questions. (http://www.preaching.com/sermon-illustrations/11566870/)
The Wisemen asked the right question. “Where is this one who has been born king of the Jews?” “Where is Jesus, and how can I find Him?” is the most important question a person could ever ask. That question should lead to questions like, “When I die, will I go to heaven,” and “What must I do to be saved?”
We see that by paying attention to the signs and by asking the right questions, the Seeking Wismen were able to find the Christ-child. But their story didn’t end there. I see three evidences that they sought, found and then followed the Christ-child.
We see them responding to what they found. You could find what you are seeking and decide it isn’t what you wanted after all. We’ve all done that, right? We’ve all purchased something, taken it home and decided to return it. It wasn’t all it was cracked up to be or didn’t work the way we thought it would.
You could find what you are seeking and be indifferent to it or unchanged by it. The Wisemen could have had a “So what?” attitude when they found Jesus. I think that’s where a lot of people have chosen to live these days. I think that’s where a lot of people have chosen to live when it comes to Jesus these days. They have the kind of attitude that it doesn’t matter whether you take Him or you leave Him. Their hearts aren’t open to the kinds of possibilities that exist when you take Him and embrace Him fully.
The Wisemen could have gotten disillusioned after meeting Jesus’ young, poor parents and thought, “There’s no way this baby has a chance of being King. This isn’t the kid that was prophesied about. These teenagers can’t afford to bring him up in any kind of stable environment.” (Get it? STABLE? )
But instead of being indifferent, the Wisemen became followers the minute their knees hit the floor. They bowed down in worship.
There is no followship without there first being worship. There is no discipleship without responding to God’s revelation through Christ in adoration and praise. You can’t be a follower if you aren’t a worshiper. Plain and simple. Only those who kneel and submit in worship can say they have not only found Christ, but are following Him. Worship is an outward expression that you have accepted the Christ-child for yourself.
Another evidence of their followship is that they presented Jesus with their very best gifts. Without reservation they opened their treasures and gave the baby gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Who gives expensive gifts like that to a baby? I remember our kids were at least three before they got something for Christmas that didn’t come from the Dollar Store or the Resale Shop. One Christmas, Thom and his mom felt so bad for our kids that they were secretly plotting how they could run to Wall-Greens on Christmas Eve to try to buy them some “REAL” presents. I may have skimped on my kids when they were toddlers, but the Wisemen didn’t skimp on Jesus. What does your love and worship for God compel you to offer Him? How are you presenting your very best to Jesus?
But perhaps even more compelling concerning followship is verse 12. “And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.” Re-routing hadn’t been in their plan. Re-routing would be more difficult. They couldn’t just retrace their steps and walk back through the now familiar.
Listen, those who will follow are those who will truly allow God to lead and guide their steps. They will let God re-route their lives. They will let God move them in a new direction. You can’t be a follower and still call the shots for your life. You can’t be a follower and be in control of your life. You must be willing to listen for God’s voice and go where He sends you.
It’s too easy to sort of coast through life or just go through the motions and live an aimless and purposeless existence. God has more for you than that. God wants to order your steps, which takes us back to observing signs and asking questions. We must constantly be seeking God’s will if we are going to follow it. “God, what do you want me to do today?” “God, how can I best please you in this relationship?” “God, is there anything in my life that isn’t pleasing to you or that needs to change?” “God, show me how to live like Jesus.”
We must constantly be open to the signs of God’s work in and through our lives so we don’t miss what He is up to. We must submit to Him in worship and live our lives in such a way that they look like a “thank offering” to Jesus, our King, our Messiah, who has taken our sin away, and finally we must let Him order our steps.
Maybe you have sought Him and even found Him, but the way you are currently living your life doesn’t reflect that you are following Him. That can change today. Maybe at one time you were really on fire for God. You let Him guide your steps. You sought Him for direction. You wanted to worship Him with all your heart. But for some reason, the fires have dimmed. The passion has waned.
God wants to rekindle your spiritual life today. Maybe you have questioned and examined the signs and they’ve brought you face to face with Christ, but you have put up walls in your heart, keeping you from moving from the finding category to the following category. That can change today. Come and bow in worship and commit to offering God your very best. Maybe you have reached that worshiper stage, but you haven’t given God full control over your daily life. Maybe you haven’t let Him re-route your steps. That can change today. Be seekers so that you can not only be finders, but be finders in order that you may be followers.