“AN INVITATION FROM GOD!”
TEXT: Matt. 2:1-12
INTRO: The story of God coming to Earth as a baby reveals the great heart of God to invite us as humans to know Him and experience His love. God became one of us so that we can know Him and His life.
God sent His son Jesus into this world to save us. Jesus is God’s invitation for us to know freedom from sin, a joy that is unspeakable, a peace that passes understanding, and a life that is full. Christ destroyed Satan’s plans to hold the human race hostage.
PROP. SENT: The Bible teaches us that the birth of Christ was God’s invitation for us to know Him and experience His forgiveness and abundant life. All those who come to worship Christ will find the greatest joy!
A. Seekers 2:1-2
1. Matthew’s Gospel was written to a Jewish audience, hence all the references and quotes from the Old Testament as fulfilled prophecy.
a. This makes the story of the Magi even more amazing since they were Gentile astronomers!
b. Matthew writing to Jews wanted them to know that God’s invitation was not just for the Jewish people, it was for all people.
2. Ironically, Luke who wrote his gospel to a Gentile audience (hence few references to Old Testament passages which the Gentiles weren’t familiar with anyway) tells the story of the Jewish shepherds who came to Jesus … to let them know the same thing, God’s invitation was not just for Gentiles but for the Jewish people too!
3. The Magi and Shepherds represented the entire spectrum of possible human existence.
(3. Despised by society
(2. Highly educated
(3. Esteemed highly in their society
4. The stories in the Bible concerning that first Christmas were all about “SEEKERS”
a. God seeking man.
b. Mankind seeking God.
5. It is tragic that today this message somehow gets lost in the celebration, if we are not careful even the church can miss the proper emphasis!
ILLUS: The church bulletin declared, "The choir will sing `I heard the BILLS on Christmas Day.'"
6. God sent the wise men an invitation to come and find the greatest hope of humanity, the Christ child!
a. God sends the invitation in a language that Gentile astronomers understood – an astronomical event.
b. The star in the heavens pointing to Christ was the kind of language they would have understood, BUT …
c. They did NOT worship the star, they were “OVERJOYED” when they saw the star, but the knelt and “WORSHIPPED” the Christ when they found him.
(1. This put them outside the category of astrologers, astrologers worshipped the heavens, astronomers studied them.
(2. They only worshipped the SON of God, not the SUN or STARS.
d. God did a similar thing with the Shepherds, He sent their invitation in language they understood … the Jews believed in angels, and these shepherds were sent to see and worship the “lamb slain before the foundation of the Earth” … they found the ultimate lamb and the ultimate shepherd in Christ!
7. The ultimate language that all men of all time can understand is our own humanity, and so God’s invitation to come to Him comes in the form we can best relate to, God came as a human baby, He experienced fully our life so we can fully experience His!
a. God’s invitation still stands today
b. Have you responded to His invitation yet?
B. Self-absorbed! 2:3-8
1. King Herod and the Jewish scribes however represented those whose lives were so filled with themselves that they viewed Christ’s birth as an intrusion into their comfortable lives.
a. It is ironic that the Magi came “FROM FAR AWAY” to see Jesus and yet the “King of the Jews” Herod (he held this title officially – given him by Rome in 40 BC.) and the Scribes (who knew from Scripture exactly where the Christ was to be born) who were in Jerusalem and only 5 miles away never came to see Jesus!
b. While the Magi gave up everything to come and find Christ the local Jewish experts in the Scripture and the King of the Jews himself would not go to Christ except to eliminate Him!
2. Herod and the Jewish scribes only desired to find Jesus to do away with Him.
3. The self-absorbed world we live in would just as soon do away with Christ in Christmas too, He is deemed too “spiritual” to mess up the holiday for our society!
Public schools now cannot refer to the celebration they hold as Christmas
celebrations, they must be called such things as “
b. Society today tries hard to invent substitutes for Christ in Christmas as if to eliminate all memory of Christ in Christmas!
ILLUS: It's a tough job trying to make Christmas nonreligious. To eliminate Christ from Christmas you would have to destroy all the evidence -- including the Michelangelos, the Rembrants, Rubens, and da Vincis, the works of Beethoven, Hayden, Bach, Mozart, and Handel. To search for the millions of Bibles, translated into many languages and distributed around the world, would take quite a force. The job would be too big for the FBI the KGB and Scotland Yard combined. -- Ruth Hackman in God in the Midst of Every Day. Christianity Today, Vol. 30, no. 18.
4. In spite of the loud invitation from the world to forget Christ we need to hear God’s invitation to come and worship Him!
5. Herod and the scribes were fools, the Magi were WISE MEN! Wise men/women still seek Him!
A. Servants 2:9-10
1. Herod and the others in Jerusalem were disturbed by news of Christ’s birth, they did not want to change their lives. How different the Magi who were overjoyed by news of Christ’s birth!
a. Herod and the scribes served no one but self.
b. A coming “KING” meant becoming “servants.”
2. The Magi however had no problem with becoming servants though they held great power and wealth as highly respected men in their own country.
3. They left an earthly king (Herod) to find a heavenly one (Christ).
a. The idea of finding God ruling on Earth as well as heaven gave great joy to the Magi!
b. They left everything behind to find this King and offer their worship and service.
c. Do we?
4. Have we forgotten in the celebration of Christmas that Christ came as a King?
a. This means much more than just acknowledging His reality, it also means submitting to His authority!
b. It is not enough to simply celebrate Christ’s arrival as God’s son; we must also submit ourselves to His authority as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords!
5. The world finds such attitudes about serving God as archaic; they would rather celebrate Christmas as a holiday instead of submitting to God in holiness.
During the Christmas
season our large picture window displayed a lighted nativity scene. One day I
overheard two small boys discussing it. One tot observed pensively, "I don't
think these guys believe in Santa Claus." "No, I guess not," the other conceded,
then added generously, "but they're nice people anyway."
-- Fran McMahon,
6. The Magi were overjoyed when the star returned to show them the way to the King of Kings so they could go and worship Him!
a. Do we get excited when someone shows us the way to know God?
b. Do we get excited when we are in the presence of God?
c. Do we get excited at the prospects of worshipping and serving God?
B. Savior -12
1. The Magi’s gifts symbolized their heart toward Christ:
a. gift of gold was usually preserved for kings, thus they not only gave their best but recognized Christ’s ultimate authority over all men.
b. gift of
frankincense was the stuff used in the
c. gift of myrrh was used in two ways, to anoint the dead bodies for burial and also kings wore it on their clothing as a scent. They prophetically recognized Jesus’ purpose in coming, to die for all mankind’s sins. Myrrh had the power to cover the stench of death … hence Christ’s power to cover the power of death!
2. These gifts however pall in comparison to the first gift they give Christ when they arrived … the first thing they give is WORSHIP! “On coming to the house, they saw the child with His mother Mary, and they BOWED DOWN AND WORSHIPPED HIM, then they opened their treasures …” 2:11a
a. Worship was the first and best gift they gave.
b. Only when we worship first does the material gifts we give have meaning.
3. They came not just as Gentiles to find a Jewish king, they came as men seeking a savior! This is the real meaning of Christmas!
4. The world needs to understand the power of the incarnation of Christ (“in the flesh” is the meaning of the word “incarnation”)
5. The cradle must be understood in the shadow of the cross, God has sent an invitation to us, to come into the light, to come into the life of God through Jesus Christ.
6. Have you accepted your invitation yet from God?
a. If not, why not?
ILLUS: Billions of people were scattered on a great plain before God's throne. Some of the groups near the front talked heatedly--not with cringing shame, but with belligerence. "How can God judge us?" said one. "What does He know about suffering?" snapped a brunette. She jerked back a sleeve to reveal a tattooed number from a Nazi concentration camp. "We endured terror, beatings, torture, death!" In another group a black man lowered his collar. "What about this?" he demanded, showing an ugly rope burn. "Lynched for no crime but being black! We have suffocated in slave ships, been wrenched from loved ones, toiled till death gave release." Far out across the plain were hundreds of such groups. Each had a complaint against God for the evil and suffering He permitted in His world. How lucky God was to live in heaven where there was no weeping, no fear, no hunger, no hatred! Indeed, what did God know about what man had been forced to endure in this world? "After all, God leads a pretty sheltered life," they said.
So each group
sent out a leader, chosen because he had suffered the most. There was a Jew, a
black, an untouchable from
But because He was God, they set certain safeguards to be sure He could not use His divine powers to help Himself: Let Him be born a Jew. Let the legitimacy of His birth be doubted, so that none would know who is really His father. Let Him champion a cause so just, but so radical, that it brings down upon Him the hate, condemnation, and efforts of every major traditional and established religious authority to eliminate Him. Let Him try to describe what no man has ever seen, tasted, heard, or smelled--let Him try to communicate God to men. Let Him be betrayed by His dearest friends. Let Him be indicted on false charges, tried before a prejudiced jury, and convicted by a cowardly judge. Let Him see what it is to be terribly alone and completely abandoned by every living thing. Let Him be tortured and let Him die! Let Him die the most humiliating death--with common thieves.
As each leader announced his portion of the sentence, loud murmurs of approval went up from the great throngs of people. But when the last had finished pronouncing sentence, there was a long silence. No one uttered another word. No one moved. For suddenly all knew -- God had already served His sentence. --James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988), p. 302.
b. God has made clear His love and intentions toward sinful man; He embraced our humanity fully so that we might experience His eternal life fully.
7. Why not experience a real Christmas this year, take Christ’s invitation to find Him and know real life, it is the one gift you can give God that He doesn’t possess unless given to Him, your soul!
CONCLUSION: It is ironic that only those who were far away came to worship Christ, those who lived nearby and knew where God’s son was to be born never came. Christ’s birth was an invitation from God to come and worship, have you responded to that invitation yet?