The world is full of seekers. I got a really good look at some of them up close and personal recently. I was standing in a wide aisle in Wal-Mart around 5 AM this past Black Friday, literally at a standstill packed next to other seekers, all searching ferociously and frantically for the best deals. They searched for TVs and Mp3 players, computers and GPS, phones and movies and blenders and toys. Ever so often, you’d hear Excuse me, where did you get that? I’ve been looking all over the store for them? Thank you! And off they scurry to grab one before they were gone. They search for stuff for their kids, their grandkids, their spouse or grandparents, or for themselves. When they find what they’re looking for, they hold on to it for dear life. I heard of one lady who guarded the trampoline in her buggy like a pit bull, daring anybody to touch her prize.
Then a thought came into my head: if all these people got all the things they are searching for, would that make Christmas happy for them and their families? I mean, if you could make a list of everything you and your family want, and somehow you got every single item, would that guarantee a merry Christmas and happy New Year?
Maybe for awhile. But I wonder how long after the new wears off we’d be off searching for something else. Which posed another question: surely we seek more out of life than just more stuff? Surely life is more than just looking for and acquiring material things? There are enough unhappy millionaires to prove that you can be rich and still be miserable. Things are nice, and I’m thankful for what I have, but there has to be more.
Don’t we seek more from life? We seek to love and be loved, we seek meaning and purpose, we seek a higher goal than just running another lap of the rat race. We can’t always pin down precisely what it is, but most of us are looking for more, aren’t we? What are we seeking? Where should we look? What are we longing for that will satisfy the deepest secret longings of our hungry hearts?
The answer is not a what, but a Who. In the Bible there is a story about some wise men who found this One Who is the key to all we are searching for. The story of their search is found in
Matt. 2:1-12. As we join them on their journey, you just might Someone you are searching for. Let’s begin in vs. 1-8.
These Scriptures introduce us to some seekers who teach us 3 things about our own seeking:
I. SOME OF US ARE SERIOUS SEEKERS. (v. 1-8)
The teenager lost a contact lens while playing basketball in his driveway. After looking for a few minutes, he came inside and informed his mother the lens was nowhere to be found. Mom doesn’t say a word, but walks outside and in a few minutes returns with the lens in her hand. “I really looked hard for that, Mom,” the young man says. “How’d you manage to find it so fast?” “Because, she replies, “We weren’t looking for the same thing. You were looking for a small piece of plastic. I was looking for $150.” [i]
Some of us are like that teenager: our seeking isn’t very serious. Oh we may spend a little time looking thinking about answers or meaning, but we’re not very disappointed if we don’t find what we’re looking for. We keep ourselves occupied and entertained and comfortable. It takes something pretty drastic to get our attention and get us searching.
But some of us are like these visitors to Jerusalem—we are serious seekers.
They are the μάγοι from which the English word magic comes from. The Greek historian Herodotus records that they were originally part of the nation of the Medes who unsuccessfully tried to overthrow the Persian empire of the ancient world. Their loss of political power led them to become a tribe of priests who were the royal tutors of Persian kings. They were skilled in philosophy, medicine, and natural science, but also delved into the supernatural world, interpreting dreams and other prophecies. They were astrologers, watching the stars, looking for clues in their movement through the heavens. They were seekers after knowledge and wisdom, always alert to any clue of meaning or purpose, whether it was in records from the past or current events of their day.
These particular Magi were probably from Babylon, which was about 900 miles from Jerusalem. They traveled a long way, at considerable expense to find this One Who is born King of the Jews. The question is why?
They weren’t Jews. Why should they care about a ruler of a politically weak nation as Israel? Perhaps they had read at least some passages in the Hebrew OT which promise a Messiah Who would usher in peace into the world. Another reason is that both Jewish and Roman historians around this time believed a Messiah was about to show up on the scene.
But I wonder if there wasn’t have been another reason. I wonder if perhaps these men were searching for something more. They enjoyed a privileged position in the king’s court. They were well provided for and well-respected for their great wisdom. But something was still missing. As they searched the OT Scriptures, I wonder if they thought here’s something here worth seeking out. Could this be what is missing from my life?
It must have sounded strange to all their friends and family when they took off on their 900 mile journey, with only a star as their GPS. It must have come as a disappointment to arrive in Jerusalem, the capitol city, and discover not a newborn king, but an evil tyrant named Herod sitting on the throne. But it is here they will discover the next step in their journey. They are, after all, serious seekers.
How many of us are serious seekers? How many of us are looking for something more? Probably not all of us. Our culture likes to keep us numb and satisfied with fun and games, food and laughter. We live in a noisy age, where you have to keep the TV or stereo on because we’re afraid of silence. Stay entertained, stay busy, because if you silence all the distractions, you may notice that deep inside, you long for something more, something they can’t sell you at the store, something the government cannot provide, something that you need to seriously seek and search for.
I want to invite you to go against the flow and be like these wise men—to become a serious seeker. Ask the hard questions, push aside all the hype and empty promises, and ask yourself how can I find what I’m really searching for in life?
Phillip Swann writes: …we may call this 'something more' happiness, peace, contentment or even success. It is the hunt for these things that drives us forward in life. We may spend months looking forward to a holiday we have booked, or the week looking forward to a ‘good night out’…But good times don't last — we always want more.
You will never discover what that something more is until you become a serious seeker. But if you follow in the footsteps of the Magi, you will discover that
II. SERIOUS SEEKERS FIND CHRIST. (v. 9-11)
A telemarketer calls a home one day, and a small voice whispers, “Hello?”
“Hello! What’s your name?” Still whispering, the voice says, “Jimmy.”
“How old are you, Jimmy?” “I’m four.”
“Good, is your mother home?” “Yes, but she’s busy.”
“Okay, is your father home?” “He’s busy too.”
“I see. who else is there?” “The police.”
“The police? May I speak with one of them?”
“They’re busy.” “Any other grown-ups there?”
“The firemen.” “May I speak with a fireman, please?”
“They’re all busy.” “Jimmy, all those people in your house, and I can’t talk with any of them? What are they doing?”
A small snicker. “Looking for me.” [ii]
These serious seekers have taken a dangerous, long expensive journey to find a Child Who will somehow make their search worthwhile.
As they leave the magnificent palace of King Herod, they enter the rough, Judean countryside to Bethlehem. There isn’t much here that looks very royal or regal: just rough huts and houses populated by shepherds and other poor people all wondering what brings these rich foreigners into town.
As darkness descends, one of the Magi points to the sky, where the star appears again to guide them, and they are overjoyed. They are closer to the King they’ve been searching for!
It must have been quite a scene: a knock at the door of the house, Joseph and Mary wondering who could that be? Joseph walks over to the door, and there stand the Magi, eyes dancing with anticipation, explaining their mission to the confused carpenter and his wife. Joseph invites them in and then they see Him---the King they have been seeking.
Contrary to tradition, this visit didn’t come the night Jesus was born. We know this first of all because the family is not in a stable, but a house. We also know this because the word of Child here is not the word used for a baby, but for a toddler.
Yet you have to wonder if they might been a little disappointed to come 900 miles and find only a poor carpenter, his wife, and her Son, Who looks and acts like any other little boy. Some may have wondered, this is it? This is the great King Who will save the world?
Apparently, these Wise Men entertain no such thoughts. They are too busy worshipping the Child. They fall down, not to their knees, but on their faces in the dirt before Him. They offer Him the reverence due to a great King, a reverence due ultimately to God.
Then it’s time to open the presents for the Baby: gold, frankincense, and myrrh—expensive treasures fit for a great King. They offer this Child more wealth than the entire village of Bethlehem! Why? He is the One they have been searching for!
We can only speculate about how much the Magi understood about Who Jesus is, or what He came to earth to do. But one thing we know for certain: they are not disappointed when their search led them to Jesus.
The Magi believed that of all the treasures in Bethlehem that day—of all the beautiful treasures the they brought into that house—the most precious treasure is this little Boy, running around and laughing at his mother and Joseph’s feet. He is worth worshipping. He is what they are seeking.
Is He the treasure you are seeking?
Maybe you’re not sure. You don’t have anything against Jesus, but frankly, you can think of a lot of other things you could seek that might be more precious. You’ve got a lot of questions and needs that don’t seem religious. Is Jesus really worth seeking?
That depends on what you are seriously seeking.
If you are seeking to get everything you want, if your search is for instant gratification, if your heart is set on comfort and joy and not much else, then you probably won’t be satisfied with Jesus. In fact, I wonder if a lot of Christians aren’t satisfied with Jesus because He hasn’t done everything they asked. The truth is you won’t be satisfied with Jesus unless you do what these seekers did when they found Him—they worshipped Him as their King.
If you are willing to come to Him humbly, and admit He is Lord, then you will find a treasure beyond compare. You will find a Savior, Who died to forgive you for all your sins, Who gives you the power to break free from your sin, Who will one day bring you with Him to heaven where there is no sin. You find a Friend Who will never leave you, Who will make sure you survive any and all storms, Who will always love you. In the words of an old Gospel song, He is “bread for the hungry, water for the thirsty, a friend to the friendless, and hope to the hopeless.” If this is what you’re seeking, then you will find Jesus Christ everything you ever wanted and more.
That is what Christmas means--to find in a place where you would least expect to find anything you want, everything you could ever want. - Michael Card [iii]
If you are a serious seeker you will find Christ as surely as the Magi found Him, and just like them you will also discover
III. SERIOUS SEEKERS WHO FIND CHRIST ARE TRANSFORMED. (v. 12)
The day comes when it is time for the Magi to go back to their homeland, but before they go something very significant happens. God warns them in a dream not to return to Jerusalem, but to go another way. I think this is a very important verse because it shows us a couple of changes in the lives of these Wise Men.
First of all, do you notice how God’s revelation becomes more personal to them? They travel to Israel because they see a star, maybe read some scrolls. But now God speaks to them personally in a dream.
Secondly, they obey the voice of the Lord. That is remarkable because their return journey will be much more difficult and hazardous than the first. It will not only involve more mileage, but more expense, as well as avoiding any of Herod’s men. Yet they are willing to obey the voice of God.
I suggest to you that these men went home a different way in more than one sense. Their seeking has changed the way they see the world, how they see God, how they see themselves. Their experience with this child will make it very hard to be at home with an idol-worshipping superstitious culture.
The poet T. S. Eliot expresses it this way in his poem Journey of the Magi:
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
The Magi teach us there is something about seeking and finding Christ that changes your life. Scan the pages of the Gospels and you will find this happens over and over again. Many times a person’s life is changed positively, such as the apostles; sometimes a life is changed negatively, such as the rich young ruler.
The same thing is true in your life and mine: finding Jesus transforms our lives.
I don’t mean you can’t abandon Christ and go back to living in sin. Too many people do that, people who decide that after trying Jesus, they liked life like it was before. But have you noticed how miserable those folks are? Oh they still smile, and laugh, and keep up appearances—almost. But if you pay close attention, you notice a bitterness, a coldness of heart that is almost frightening.
On the other hand, wants to Jesus transform our lives in a positive way. People who once had no hope now look forward to the future. Those saddled with the heavy yoke of guilt and slavery to sinful addictions are set free. Relationships are restored, and peace replaces the pain and pandemonium that once reigned.
2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.
A story is told about a poor illiterate man converted through the Salvation Army. One day he comes home and his wife asks, "What's wrong?" He said, "I've just noticed that all the people in the Salvation Army wear red sweaters, and I don't have a red sweater."
She said, "I'll knit one." So she knitted him a red sweater. The next Sunday he still wasn't happy. His wife said, "What's wrong this time?" He said, "I noticed their red sweaters have yellow writing."
Neither one of them could read, so she had no idea the yellow writing on the red sweater said BLOOD AND FIRE. But she told him, "Don't worry about it. I'll embroider some writing on for you." So she embroidered the words from a nearby store onto his red sweater.
When he came back the next Sunday, she said, "Did they like your sweater?" "They loved it. Some of them said they liked my sweater better than theirs." What neither of them knew was the sign on the store window she had copied read, THIS BUSINESS UNDER NEW MANAGEMENT.
This is what happens when you seek and find Jesus—He transforms your life, putting you under new management—His management.
He who has no Christmas in his heart will never find Christmas under a tree.
Maybe this Christmas you are looking for more than just presents under a tree. I wonder how many serious seekers we have here this morning. You are invited by God to find the same One the Magi looked for, the One Who can change your life forever.
[i]Ohio Motorist (AAA)10,000 sermon illustrations. 2000 (electronic ed.). Dallas: Biblical Studies Press.
[ii]The Jokesmith, quoted in Bits & Pieces, April 1, 1993, pp. 3-410,000
[iii] The Promise, Christianity Today, Vol. 37, no. 15.