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IN CHRIST OUR HOPE IS CHANGED INTO JOY

A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS

1 JANUARY 1995

By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor

SCRIPTURAL REFERENCES:

Matthew 2:1-15
            7:7-8
            19:14
Hebrews 2:11-15

We probably all know the story of the magi who came from the east to find Him who was born King of the Jews, but have you ever wondered why they sought Jesus in the first place?

They weren't Jews.

They were from a foreign land, a land where people didn't believe in God.

Why did they seek the Son of God, the Jewish Messiah?

Why did they seek Him as their own Messiah?

Let's take another look at what we know of their coming (Matthew 2:1-15), and see if we can get some greater understanding of why they came.

1. Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying,

2. "Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east, and have come to worship Him."

How did they even know to look for the star?

Remember that the remnant of the Jews of Jerusalem was taken into captivity in the east 587 years before this time.

Could it be that those believers so encouraged the ancestors of these magi that they continued to seek for their own salvation?

And that the Holy Spirit, or an angel, told them how to find Jesus?

Most likely this is exactly what happened, for the same promise is here for us today (Matthew 7:7-8).

7. "Ask, and it shall be given to you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you.

8. "For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it shall be opened.

They asked and God answered them.

They sought and the Lord showed them a way to find Him.

They knocked and the Lord opened the door for them.

But how did the leaders in Jerusalem receive the magiís words?

3. And when Herod the king heard it, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.

Why were they troubled at hearing the Good News?

Let's look a little further for the answer.

4. And gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he began to inquire of them where the Christ was to be born.

5. And they said to him, "In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it has been written by the prophet,

6. 'And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah,

Are by no means least among the leaders of Judah;

For out of you shall come forth a Ruler,

Who will shepherd My people Israel.' "

They knew the truth just as the magi did, but their reaction was just the opposite.

They were the leaders of the land.

If they let Christ reign, they would be like everyone else; and they liked their position better than their salvation.

7. Then Herod secretly called the magi, and ascertained from them the time the star appeared.

8. And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, "Go and make careful search for the Child; and when you have found Him, report to me, that I too may come and worship Him."

Do you think we should believe Herod?

Or do you think he has an evil intent in asking these questions and making this request?

Herod is doing this with evil intent.

9. And having heard the king, they went their way; and lo, the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them, until it came and stood over where the Child was.

10. And when they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.

Their hope had been turned into joy.

They came to Bethlehem, the city of bread, seeking spiritual food, and they found Him.

11. And they came into the house and saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell down and worshiped Him; and opening their treasures they presented to Him gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh.

They gave the very best of what they possessed.

Their greatest wasn't the gold, nor was it the frankincense, nor even the myrrh.

Their greatest gift to the Christ Child was the gift of themselves, when they bowed down and worshiped Him.

But what they received was even greater: they received their salvation and had exceedingly great joy.

And that same joy is for all of us, if we, too, receive the salvation Jesus brought for us.

12. And having been warned by God in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for their own country by another way.

13. Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, "Arise and take the Child and His mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is going to search for the Child to destroy Him."

14. And he arose and took the Child and His mother by night, and departed for Egypt;

15. and was there until the death of Herod, that what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet might be fulfilled, saying, "Out of Egypt did I call My Son."

These magi sought the Lord out of the hope in their hearts and souls, that the reality of what the prophets spoke might be born in them, as He was born in Bethlehem.

Though they were older wise men, they came with the innocence of young children.

And even though they were not Jews, no one hindered them from coming.

Our preparation verse (Matthew 19:14) for this morning speaks of actual children, but it can also speak of spiritual children of all ages.

14. But Jesus said, "Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these."

They came in innocence, not fully understanding the Jewish Law and customs.

They came simply because they sought the Lord with true faith; and as a result, they received the kingdom of heaven, just as we do when we come in a similar way.

It's as we are told in Hebrews 2:11-15.

11. For both He who sanctifies and those who are sanctified are all from one Father; for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren,

12. saying,

"I will proclaim Thy name to My brethren,

In the midst of the congregation I will sing Thy praise."

13. And again,

"I will put My trust in Him."

And again,

"Behold, I and the children whom God has given Me."

All who believe and receive become children of God.

14. Since then the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil;

15. and might deliver those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives.

Since then the children share in the flesh and blood!

Does it mean that we actually eat the flesh and drink the blood of Jesus, when we partake in Holy Communion?

No! It means that we share in the same spiritual body and the same spiritual blood that paid the price of our sins.

Our sins condemn us to death.

Jesus Christ came and died in our place, that all who receive of His sacrificial gift might live.

I suppose that almost all people who are condemned to death hope that they will not die.

And I also suppose that those who are spared death are filled with joy.

That's why Jesus wanted us to remember what He did in the simple way we celebrate it today, by partaking of the bread and the grape juice.

Jesus Christ will never again be born upon this earth, so that like the magi we might travel to worship Him.

But through our remembrance that Jesus promised to come again, as the magi remembered that he would come the first time, we too should be filled with joy, for one day we will be able to worship Him face to face.

So, let us break bread together, that our hope might be changed into everlasting joy.

Amen.

Your Comments are welcome

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