First Presbyterian Church of Blackwood
21 E. Church Street
Blackwood, NJ 08012
Sermon Notes (Sunday, January 3, 2021)
Rev. Dr. Mouris A. Yousef, Pastor
“The Magi: The Dilemma of Another Way!”
Liturgical Calendar marks this Wednesday, January 6, as “Epiphany Day.” The Feast of the Epiphany falls 12 days after Christmas. It is also known as “Theophany”, “Little Christmas” or “Three Kings Day.” The word “Epiphany” comes from the Greek “epiphaneia” which means “manifestation, revelation, or making known.” So the essence of Epiphany is the manifestation of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, represented by the Magi, and the manifestation of His divinity, as it occurred at His baptism in the River Jordan.
The story of the Magi making the journey from Persia to Israel to see the newborn King is a fascinating story and there is so much we can learn from it. I truly believe that the truth that we can glean from the Magi’s encounter with Jesus is so inspiring to us today.
So what is the story of the Magi? Here is the shorter version. The Magi, people from the modern-day Iran, saw a star that indicated the birth of a new king in Israel. Wanting to honor Him with gifts, they set out on a journey following the star to find this newborn King. Feeling that the newborn king is a threat to his throne, King Herod instructed the visitors to come back to him when they find the exact location of the baby. Matthew tells us “having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.”
Like us, these Magi had their own plans for their lives, but then they met Jesus and that encounter brought them face to face with another way. Encountering Jesus required them to make a choice. Which way they should take? Should they obey the command of Herod or the warning of God in the dream? Should we follow our own way, or the way presented to us by God? It seems that this is a choice that all of us are faced with as well – both in terms of the overall direction of our lives as well as in the moment-by-moment decisions that we make every day.
Today we will see that the Magi’s dilemma – the dilemma of “another way” – is our dilemma too. From the attitudes of the Magi and the events that surrounded their journey, we see how we can handle the dilemma of another way. I think the Magi set some sort of criteria for us of what it means to follow the way of Christ. Three lessons from the story of the Magi as we handle the dilemma of another way in this New Year.
First: What Do We Seek?
“The other way”, the way of Christ, shows itself in what we seek. What was it the Magi were looking for? What was it the Magi were seeking? Matthew 2:2 states, “Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” Over time, what we truly seek becomes the object of our worship. It becomes a “god” with a little “g”.
They Magi were looking for Jesus. They wanted to worship Jesus. I believe that is what we need to be looking for in this New Year – an experience of worship, a fresh glimpse of He who was born King of the Jews. Psalm 27:8 reminds us, “Your face, Lord, I will seek.” I encourage you today to reconsider our ways of thinking and daily routines to ensure our top priority is to seek God’s face. What we seek matters.
Second: Where Do We Look?
“The other way”, the way of Christ, determines where we look. It becomes our compass. We learn from the Magi that there are wrong and right places to look for Christ. The Magi started by looking in the wrong place. They looked where their own human reasoning said they should look. The star indicated the birth of a new king in Israel. The Magi went where kings should be born. They went to the palace of Herod the Great in the capital city of Jerusalem. We, too, are tempted to look for Christ in the wrong places.
The Magi looked in the right place when they looked to God. The trip to Jerusalem was not a total loss. While they were there, they discovered where they should have looked in the first place: the Bible, the prophecies about the birth of the Messiah. The scribes in Jerusalem said that, according to the prophet Micah, the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem. With this new information, they looked again at the star and followed it to Bethlehem until it stood over the house where the child Jesus lived. Where we look is important.
Third: What Do We Give?
“The other way” manifests itself in a life of giving. The way of Christ is the way of giving more than receiving. In Acts 20:35 we read, “Remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” The Magi came to Jesus’ house bearing gifts. They gave gold, frankincense, and myrrh. The gold represents Christ’s kingship; frankincense, a sweet-smelling resin used in worship, represents his priesthood; and myrrh, an ointment used in burial, foreshadows Christ’s death and passion.
“The other way”, the way of Christ, is the way of giving. Have you ever asked yourself what can you give, what can you offer, to God’s kingdom this year? We have been given so much and God expects us to give back. God expects us to financially support this local congregation and God’s mission locally and globally. He expects us to use our time and talent to serve others in the name of Christ.
Friends, the Magi put before us today the dilemma of another way. There is a better way to live our lives. At some point in our lives we’ve got to choose between the way of the world and the way of Christ, the way of Herod and the way of Jesus. The way of Christ is characterized by three important marks: seeking Christ over and above everything else, looking for Christ in the right places, and embracing giving more than receiving. The Epiphany, the manifestation of Christ, opens before us a whole new way of living, a whole new dimension of life. May God give us grace today to choose the other way, the way of Christ. Amen.
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