Christmas Angels Guide (Matthew 2:7-23)

 

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Summer 2018 was our TX road trip, traveling 4K miles through 10 states over 14 days. Thankfully we had our beast van – 12 passenger with space for parents with 5 kids and all the stuff. We made great memories, but it was a lot of time in a vehicle 🙂

This summer 2019 our youth will travel for summer camp to Ridgecrest, NC. It’s a little over 500 miles and will take us about 10 hours drive.
Can you imagine how long it would have taken “the wise men” and their entourage in the first century to travel “from the east”—which could have been what is today Jordan, Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia, or even as far east as Afghanistan. From Baghdad to Bethlehem is 547 miles of extremely inhospitable terrain. But even if it wasn’t that far—if it was only 200 miles or twenty miles—why would anyone wish to walk so far just to witness the birth of a child? What makes wise men travel (maybe leaving behind families and familiarity) for likely a year or longer? What would be at stake if they missed it?

 

Today we hope to understand the message of the magi and how Christmas angels guide us to have meaning in life.

 

Jan de Bray – “Adoration of the Magi” (1658). Mary holding the infant Jesus is central Jan de Bray - Adoration of the Magi 1658with the lighted colors. The magi approach Jesus with humility, kneeling in wonder. The closest magi has his gold turban off, laying on the floor as to suggest nothing else matters in this moment. He and they are presenting their gifts of worship: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. In the background is the magi entourage. Not to be missed standing in the background workshop of this painting is Joseph, who’s steady and comforting hand is upon Mary.

 

 

EXAMINE           Matthew 2:7-23         Christmas Angels Guide

God guides us to Jesus.

  • Magi were wealthy seekers. They came from means, and quite possibly a royal caste (cf. Daniel 2:2).[1] They were students of the stars and experts in astrology, dream interpretation, and likely other secret arts.[2] Being “from the east” (Latin “oriens” but not necessarily English “orient”) is general, but likely means Babylon. Even further interesting is the fact that Babylon previously enslaved Israel, but now these Gentiles are submitting to service of a new king of Israel, which gives new meaning to “O come, O come, Emmanuel, And ransom captive Israel, That mourns in lonely exile here, until the Son of God appear. Rejoice! Emmanuel Shall come to Thee, O Israel.”
    • “What should we the church do in the emerging age of fear and reactionary politics? We should sing old hymns and wrestle with their subversive political implications.”[3] The nature of Advent is the unique awareness between two comings of Christ and learning how to act in darkness while light is to come. We grieve and cry out to God, but we must not be found passive in our service for the coming king (cf. Mark 13:34-36). Advent calls us to action to work for the cause of justice and not put our hope in earthly kingdoms, for there is no time to waste.

 

  • Magi from East see astronomical feature with unique star, so they follow it to Jerusalem. They approach the current king Herod; not abnormal. Yet, they believe the star is revealing a new king of Israel just born. Herod was only king of Israel by force, not voluntary festivity of other royals. He does not take this news kindly but doesn’t publicly let on his paranoia or sought persecution of this proposed king. He employs the magi to return report of the newborn kings location so he can kill him. However, the magi are warned in a dream not to return to Herod.

 

  • When the Magi reach the newborn, they were overjoyed beyond measure. They opened their treasures and presented gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

 

 

Like the wise men, you may not identify your life pursuit as seeking God/Jesus but instead as seeking security, satisfaction, and significance.

We try to find these through

  • Knowledge/Education: we can never fully understand science, history, philosophy, or theology. We are finite trying to discern the infinite.
    • Guy asked me this week, what if the answer of “God” limits our understanding of the problems in life with so much more to learn? My response was, what if God is actually the only means to having access to so much more and finding the answers? God is infinite but becomes intimate accessing the eternal through the incarnation.

 

  • Wealth/Work: we can never earn or produce access to God with human achievement. Besides, wealth and work, while worthwhile are fading. When stock market crash or money leaves people are undone…. Famous people show us wealth still us unsatisfying… and death is the reality we can’t take money with us.
  • Religion: the religious ladder will never go high enough, and quite frankly most of us fall climbing through the hoops and motions.

 

  • INSTEAD, God finds us by descending.
    • God sends a star or circumstance to reveal who He is and what He is doing.
    • Magi found
      • Satisfaction: “rejoiced exceedingly”… this was abundant life and overflowing fulfillment; deliriously happy[4].à Where is your greatest rejoicing from 2018? What’s your goal for 2019?
        Too often it is in lesser worth (Sports Team, Family Experience – no matter how meaningful still can be misplaced idol).
      • Significance:
        • “fell to knees” in submission but did so willingly
        • worshiped a king
          à How do you define success?
          Self: Image (please people or God) / Parent (good vs grace) /
          Church success: Crowd fans or Christ followers – the latter!
      • Security
        • “opened their treasures” (what are your’s?); they were unafraid to give of self and security bc they trusted whatever given they would still have God’s provision.
        • Isn’t that why we don’t give – bc we need to feel secure, so we hold on. But in holding we are not gaining bc we are exchanging hope in an idol rather than One who can truly provide and bless. We fail to understand our Source.
          à What is your biggest investment – not necessarily in amount but in heart priority?
          Me: Money aim to be debt free & retirement secure… End year strong generosity (LMCO) and renew commitment to support M’s.

God guides us to the Scriptures.

The magi found the Christ not just by the star but also through OT Scriptures (cf. Mt 2:3-9). The OT prophecies were a shepherd leader or Messiah would come from Bethlehem (cf. Micah 5:2). Herod summoned the religious leaders and they pointed this out. Herod believed the Scriptures and sent the Magi to Bethlehem.

  • On earth, when gov. & religion are mixed you can expect manipulation.
  • Our search for God cannot be isolated from the Scriptures.
    • Jer 17:9 “The heart is more deceitful than anything else, and incurable, who can understand it?” / Rom 3
    • John 5:39-40 “You read the Scriptures because you think you have eternal life in them, yet they testify about Me. And you are not willing to come to Me so that you may have life.”

 

  • Do you own a Bible? Take this as your invitation to explore and engage in next faith steps.
  • 2019 @SPBC
    • Bible Groups & Worship Gatherings with a church committed to The Book
    • Jan-April FB share a catechism with 14 questions & answers with Scripture
    • April – Aug Reading Plan Essential 50/100
    • 2Gather Groups / Zume

 

God guides us to persevere.

This is the moment where the Christmas story becomes less family friendly. The surprises and celebration of Christmas night grew into a nightmare. King Herod made diligent (ἀκριβϛ, “with exactness, carefully”) search for the Christ-child and ordered all the male children two years and younger in the region of Bethlehem to be slaughtered. Bethlehem was a rural region and scholars note there may have been approximately 20 children die that fateful day.

Any death is a tragedy but the murder of children, many children, seems more than tragic; it’s evil. Taking life in such a careless and casual manner is wrong, it’s sinful and against God’s desire.

Our world today values children often as a commodity. Companies market to households to sell a line of natal items: clothing, vitamins and medicine, foods, furniture, toys, etc. Advertising and consumerism continues throughout the life of that child. And the impact doesn’t stop with household necessities but expands into areas of education, economics, politics, and religion. Marketing experts in every domain crave the insight and opportunity for the youth generation. However, few view children beyond a commodity to simply a valued individual in the image of God.

Pediatrics professor Paul Offit sought to write a book denouncing the impact of Christianity on healthcare[5]. While he expected to echo the atheistic mindset, his research led him to precisely the opposite conclusion. He writes, “Independent of whether you believe in the existence of God . . . you have to be impressed with the man described as Jesus of Nazareth. At the time of Jesus’s life, around 4 B.C. to 30 A.D., child abuse, as noted by one historian, was “the crying vice of the Roman Empire.” Infanticide was common. Abandonment was common. . . . [C]hildren were property, no different than slaves. But Jesus stood up for children, cared about them, when those around him typically didn’t.”

Jesus’s birth prompted the murder of babies in Bethlehem, but His life, death, and resurrection has prompted the protection of millions more – especially those of disability and yes, the unborn. Jesus, and therefore Christmas reminds us that every person is cherished and valued. Your life matters to God… and to us here today.

  • Suicide prevention – speak up
  • Pro-life – study the issue and see the images
  • Ethnics – see diversity from the Creator

Further, an angel appeared to warn Joseph and Mary not to stay in Bethlehem, but to flee to Egypt.

= Joseph’s dreams… likely had trouble sleeping in the early years of parenthood.

 

This fulfilled prophecies:

  • Mat 2: 15 “Out of Egypt I called my Son.” (cf. Hosea 11:1)
    As Israel were slaves in Egypt and received its freedom, so too with Jew & Gentile through Jesus.
  • Mat 2:18 “A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.” (cf. Jer 31:15)
    The tears of Jewish families would be full but they would not have the final word. As Jeremiah says in the very next verse, “Keep your voice from weeping and your eyes from tears, for there is a reward… declares the Lord, and they shall come back from the land of the enemy. There is hope for your future declares the Lord” (Jer 31:16-17). Later the prophet declares a new covenant by the Lord to instill forgiveness and redemption.
  • Mat 2:23 “He will be called a Nazarene” (cf. no specific prophecy but perhaps Isa 11:1 of branch or even Isa 53 referencing non-impressive, despised and contemptible aspect of the Messiah, cf also Acts 24:5).
    Jesus will be the branch that bridges the promises from Jew to Gentile (cf. Mat 4:15).

 

Some lessons on God’s guidance…

  • God speaks in dreams…
    • Gen 20:3-6; 28:12-15; 37:5-10 / 1Kings 3:5-15 / Mt 1:18-25; 2:12-22 / Acts 2:17; 10:9-16; 16:9
  • Joseph was obedient to God with each command (cf. birth Mat 1:20-25; Egypt 2:13-14; Israel 2:20-21; Nazareth 2:22-23). Obey what God speaks. God’s will is discerned through obedience.
  • Also, the Magi follow the star without knowing the end destination (2:2) and then departed another way after divine dream to avoid Herod (2:12). 
  • Do we first tell God, show me how, then I’ll commit to obey; or do we say, I’ll commit to obey and trust that You will show me how based on when I need to know…?? Do what you know God desires then God will show you the rest.

 

  • Following Jesus will cost… doesn’t always solve problems.
    • Magi were spared from Herod… but they traveled further.
    • Mary & Joseph with Jesus were spared from Herod… but they became refugee’s to Egypt
    • Children in Bethlehem were victims of circumstance… but they are victors in resurrection.
      • ***Evil shall not win.

 

APPLY/THINK

Where do you see yourself in this passage?

  • Hostility of Herod: Rejecting Jesus on throne of your heart.
  • Irrelevance of Religious Leaders: Unmoved by the birth but moved when Jesus threatened loss of position and power. Viewing Christianity as irrelevant or indifferent ultimately leads to rejection.
    • H. Mounce, Matthew “All this time the religious leaders of Jerusalem know from their own Scriptures where the Messiah is to be born. But not even the visit of foreign dignitaries piques their curiosity enough to travel six miles to Bethlehem to find out if there is any truth in the report” (p. 11).
    • C.S. Lewis “Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important.”

 

  • Affirmation of the Magi: They viewed their identity and valued Jesus with their worship.

 

 

[1] Greg Lanier, “We Three Kings Of Orient Aren’t” https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/three-kings-orient-arent/

[2] Leon Morris, Pillar NT Commentary, Matthew 2.

[3] Matthew Kaemingk, Christian Hospitality And Muslim Immigration In An Age Of Fear. Quoted in https://christandpopculture.com/advent-is-actually-quite-political/

[4] Leon Morris, Pillar NT Commentary, Matthew 2:10.

[5] Thoughts from https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/the-child-who-won-the-war-against-children

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