Sunday, January 5, 2014

Be a Star; Matthew 2

When you ask kids what they want to be when they grow, you often hear little girls say things like “princess” or “dancer”. Boys might say “football player” or “baseball player” or some other professional sports player. Some will say they want to be a rock star or an actress. Others want to be singers. They want to be stars. Many don’t outgrow it. We see this with the proliferation of reality shows—“American Idol”, “America’s Got Talent”, “Top Chef”, “So You Think You Can Dance”, “America’s Top Model”. We like the limelight, and we want our 15 minutes of fame. There’s certainly nothing wrong with being a performer or professional athlete. God gave us talents and gifts, and we can use them to glorify Him in a variety of arenas. But who really wants to be a star in today’s world? Who wants to be hounded by paparazzi all the time? Who wants one’s whole life on display from the mundane to worst mistakes made public to everyone? Stars have become the people we emulate, but often with very unhealthy consequences. Dysfunctional family life has become glamorized. Unhealthy body imagery as well as unhealthy sexual behaviors have become mainstream and portrayed as “normal”. It’s become an anomaly to see healthy, well-grounded stars, but I’m so glad that there are still a few out there, and that they are doing what they do! The crazy, extravagant stars sometimes seem to shine brighter, but they also burn out faster. Too often they become supernovas of self-destruction. In our Scripture reading today we have a different kind of star. We have an astrological phenomenon that pointed to the Messiah. There are lots of different explanations for the star. One phenomenon which makes the most sense to me is the triple conjunction of Jupiter with Regulus which began on Rosh Hashanah in 3 BC within the constellation of Leo. Whatever it was, there are some interesting things about this star. First, it announced that a Jewish King was born. This star was seen by learned Gentile men, who not only correctly interpreted the meaning, but followed the star so that they could worship this king! Men from another country far from Israel, men who had learned about the signs from their ancestors, who learned from men like Daniel about the Messiah didn’t ignore the meaning of the stars, but kept faithful watch. Second, the star also endured over time. The magi journeyed a long time over a great distance. These men were persistent. We know that Jesus was over a month old because this takes place after Mary’s purification and the presentation of Jesus in the Temple, but not older than two years old, because of Herod’s proclamation to kill the baby boys in Bethlehem two years old and under after his careful inquiry as to the exact time the star appeared. He is called a child and not a new born nor an infant, which in Greek is up to 18 months. So Jesus is between 18 months and 2 years old. All this time the star kept moving through constellations across the sky, telling more of the story of who this King really was. The Jewish scribes and priests, who should’ve been looking for the sign, weren’t paying attention. They didn’t choose to go with the wise men to worship the king even though they knew from their study of Scripture that the king would be born in Bethlehem, just a few miles down the road from Jerusalem. They wouldn’t have had to go very far at all. They should have been able to find Jesus easily. But they weren’t paying attention to the heavenly signs in the stars, and they weren’t really interested in the Savior. They weren’t paying attention when the parents of the King brought their baby into Jerusalem to offer purification for Mary and to dedicate their baby to the Lord. In contrast Simeon and Anna, whose stories Sonny read for you last week, immediately recognized the King. They knew the Scriptures. They were paying attention, and they recognized when this King entered the Temple. They worshipped Him and prophesied over Him. They couldn’t necessarily interpret the stars, but they were looking for and expecting the Messiah, and they were in tune with the Holy Spirit. Do you look for signs of the King and the Kingdom as you go about your life? Do you look for Jesus to show up? Are you paying attention to the signs God is giving you? Are you indifferent to God’s work in the world? Or is your life in tune with the Holy Spirit? Herod was interested in the star, but only so he could destroy the One to whom the star was pointing. He knew exactly what the star meant, and took is seriously, but he did so with entirely selfish motives. Herod was foolish. He died not too long after his proclamation, (Mary & Joseph probably didn’t spend more than a couple of years in Egypt, if even that), and Herod had already killed several would-be successors to his throne including two sons. What threat could this baby be to his reign? And yet he was troubled, as was the city of Jerusalem with him. They should have been celebrating Messiah, but instead they were fearful and anxious. Are you troubled when God does something that you aren’t expecting? How often do you try to turn the good gifts of God into selfish gain? Do signs from God make you look inward or upward? Do you celebrate God’s answers to prayers and seek to build up His kingdom? From these people we learn that the star couldn’t make people follow it. The star couldn’t make people worship Jesus. The star simply did its preordained job. It pointed to Jesus. The star told the story of Jesus’s birth to the best of its ability and enabled willing followers to have an encounter with the living King. Finally, the star stood over the place where Jesus was. The star in its movements had been telling about Jesus, pointing to Jesus. Now it stopped only when it came to where Jesus was. With all of the stars out there not worth emulating, here is one that is! Be a star! Point others to Jesus. Keep that steady glow of God’s fire in your heart and radiate it outward through your life. We can’t make people follow Jesus, but we can provide guidance for people who are looking for Jesus . We can lead willing people to have encounter with the King. We can tell the story of Jesus to the best of our ability and help them along with us as we seek Jesus together. Some will pay attention and some will not. Some will know more than others. Some will make the journey more quickly, and others will have to overcome greater obstacles. It is the Holy Spirit that draws people to follow Jesus, but we can keep pointing to Him and keep shining for Him, faithfully enduring until we are called to stop when we reach our home with Christ.

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