Discover the Wonder of Christmas - The wonder of a star!
Her name is Lori Jones, but most people call her Lolo Jones. Lolo is an American track and field athlete who specializes in the 60 and 100 meter hurdles when she was a student athlete at LSU and now for the US Olympic Team. During the winter months Jones also competes as a brakeman for the U.S. National Bobsled Team.[i] Well, she has taken her bobsled skills to a whole new level making the US Olympic Bobsled Team. She also survived her first crash this past week in Winterberg, Germany! The average speed of a bobsled is between 60 and 90 miles per hour. After the crash she joked with track officials asking them to bring her a mirror. She wanted to see her face. She said, "Forget my legs and arms. I'm still single!” It was serious though because later on she tweeted, “God is real. I saw him today and he said come back later.”[ii]
She’s not the only one who’s seen God. Open up your Bibles today to Matthew chapter 2! Do you need a Bible? Today we begin a Christmas series called “Discover the Wonder of Christmas!” Make sure you pick up a few invite cards and ask your friends to come with you to one of our Christmas Eve Services. Before we read I would like us to pray! “Almighty God, help us to understand we are not reading just any book. This is your book of books. These are your words. God, may we not take them lightly. May we realize that you have spoken and you are speaking to us right now! May we have ears to hear what you are saying. God, do a miracle among us – may marriages be healed, may angry hearts be calmed, may hopeless people become hope-filled – all because we read and obeyed your word. In Jesus name, we pray. Amen!”
The story of Jesus’ birth is found in both Matthew and Luke. Luke helps us see Jesus through the eyes of Mary while Matthew helps us see Jesus through the eyes of Joseph. In Matthew 1 Mary is about to give birth to Jesus. In Matthew 2 Mary has already given birth to Jesus. Jesus is probably anywhere between 6 months and 2 years of age! How do we know? The Bible tells us. Look at Matthew 2:1. After Jesus was born…” Now find verse 11. Mary & Joseph have moved. No longer living in a guest house or the front entrance to someone’s cave where the animals were kept but now living in their own place. Why stay in Bethlehem? Well, it’s calmer than Nazareth. Mary’s relatives believe she is an adulteress and Joseph’s family thinks he’s stupid. If your Christmas is full of drama – you can relate with Mary & Joseph. Staying in Bethlehem is better for now!
However, the most convincing verse is verse 16. Herod is so much like the Grinch! “You’re a mean one, Mr. Herod! You really are a heel! You’re as cuddly as a cactus, you’re as charming as an eel, Mr. Herod. You’re a bad banana with a greasy black peel!”[iii] Herod was a bad banana. He was described as GREAT. But great people do not kill babies or toddlers. But paranoid people do! Jesus is a threat to his throne whether he’s a toddler or not. Go back to Matthew 2:1! (Read 1-2)
My Mom lives in Akron, Ohio. She still lives in the house I grew up in on Terrell Drive. I remember when I was maybe 9 or 10; I’d go out at night into our backyard and look up into the sky. I think stars are fascinating. This is a Star Cluster. Makes me think of what God said to Abraham. Your descendants will be as numerous as the sand on the seashore and the stars in the sky. I am amazed by the stars and I’m not the only one. Now help me here, just what is a star? Pumba seems to know. (Video here)
Timon always thinks he’s the smart one, but it’s Pumba that has the brains, the brawn and the gas! Stars are not lodged fireflies. Pumba is right. A star is a mass of gas in space. www.Britannica.com states “This gaseous mass generates energy by thermonuclear reactions. When it comes to mass, size, and brightness, the Sun is a typical star. Most people compare other stars with the sun! Did you know the approximate radius of the sun is some 430,000 miles which means it’s around 330,000 times the mass of the earth! [iv] Now some stars have names. This is Sirius. Sirius is the brightest star. It’s 8.6 light years from the earth and it’s hotter than the sun. Other stars include Canopus, Arcturus, Alpha Centauri, Vega and Betelguese. Betelguese is 500 light years away from the earth.[v] Did you know that Jesus had a star? Go back to Matthew 2:2.
The “We” here are the Magi. The Magi saw something. It may have been a star. It may have been the glory of God. It may have been the lining of the planets – Jupiter and Saturn[vi] It certainly was an astral phenomenon. I’m not the only stargazer here. Magi were gentile scholars. Wise men from Persia.[vii] They studied math, medicine and science, but especially astronomy and astrology.[viii] They were fascinated by the night sky and Jewish prophecy. They know something is up. They have come to pay homage to a king! There’s a problem though – Herod thought he was that king! Go to verse 3 in Matthew 2. (Read 3-8, (liar, liar pants on fire) (Read 9-10)
Stars are amazing. A shooting star is like, “Did you see that?” That was so crazy cool. But what overjoyed the Magi? It wasn’t the star. It was what was below the star. Read deep verse 11. Mary may have been cradling Jesus like this. Or she may have knelt down next to Jesus with her arm around his shoulders. What overjoyed the Magi was not the star but the child king sitting inside the house. This Christmas I’m praying that you also will be overjoyed! That is, you will experience a deep abiding gladness of heart that no circumstance can take away! And here’s why! A star is a mass of gas in space. But a star is also a point of light at night! The darker the night, the brighter the star.
Do you remember when I told you I used to go out in my backyard in Akron, Ohio and I’d stare at the stars? But here’s what I didn’t tell you. I would look up into the sky and ask two questions. I still ask these questions. Question #1: Who are you? God, just who are you? And then I’d ask Question #2: Who am I? Over the years I’ve come to believe this. Turn to Genesis 1:1. Drop down to verse 14. Read 14-16. God made Sirius, Arcturus, Alpha Centauri, Vega and Betelguese! He also made Jesus’ star! But that’s not all he made. Find verse 27! Now why does that matter? It’s the answer to Question #1. Who is God? He’s the Creator, the maker of everything including the stars. Again, why does that matter. It’s the answer to Question #2. Who am I? I am his creation. David said it this way in Psalm 8:3-5-(Screen) Now I see why David broke into song, O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! What makes him majestic is that he created the stars. What makes him majestic is that He made US and He’s mindful of US!
Would you point to yourself right now and ask who am I? Say I am God’s creation. I was not made to just take up space. I am not a mistake. I have a purpose in being here. Jesus had a star, but Jesus is a star. Jesus said in Revelation 22:16: I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star." Did you know that we are to shine like stars in this world? Have you seen that iPhone 5 commercial? “Call me Rock god!” My son Sam said, “Siri, what’s my name? And Siri answered, “Your name is Sam, but since we are friends I call you Smooth Like Butter!” What should I have Siri call me? Pastor G, Rock Star, Hollywood Star, OR Jesus Star? Listen to the words of Paul in Philippians 2:14. (Read 14-15)
A star is a point of light! We are points of light. What is the point of Christmas? Do you remember Linus saying, Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. And what did the Magi bring to the Christ child in Matthew 2:11? They brought him gifts. Christmas is about a gift. God became a man. Jesus took on flesh and lived among us.
On your chair is a star. Jesus is God’s gift to us, but what gift will I bring to him? We are his stars. We are to shine brightly for him. I’m giving you an assignment. What gift will you bring to Jesus? What good will you do for Jesus? I will give you two weeks. On December 22 & 23 I want you to bring this star back and hang it on one of our Christmas Trees. But first write on the star what gift you brought for Jesus. Your gift could be tangible – something you give. I gave time by brining you up to my sister. I collected change and gave it to someone in need. I hugged someone who needed a hug. I cleared the snow off my neighbor’s porch. If you are a good baker – bake some cookies for someone who needs them. Or maybe it’s something you give up! I will give up my complaining spirit. My bad attitude. I will stop whining. There’s a customer service agent in the Detroit Metro Airport. “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” During my shift as a customer-service agent at Detroit Metro Airport, I was approached by a weeping woman who was so upset that I thought maybe she'd missed a connection or lost a child. "I left my book on the plane!" she said frantically. "Okay," I said. "Just tell me the title of the book." "It's called 'Don't Sweat the Small Stuff.[ix] Maybe it’s deeper. I’m going to give up alcohol. My bad temper. My past hurts! My bitterness. My unwillingness to forgive!
Do you remember Lolo Jones? She said, “God is real. I saw him today.” The Magi saw Jesus. When they saw Jesus they saw God. None of us have actually seen Jesus but when we shine as a Jesus’ star - people often wonder, “Man, maybe God is real!”
[vi] Mark E. Moore, The Chronological Life of Christ, 58
[vii] The MacArthur Bible Commentary, 1121
[viii] Mark E. Moore, The Chronological Life of Christ, 57