Without Directions (Matthew 2:1-12)
Have you ever traveled somewhere unknown without following the directions? We take for granted that a pilot knows where to fly, a captain knows where to sail an engineer knows which direction to take on the train tracks. They have studied for years to follow such directions, but what about you? Do you always follow the directions that have been tried and true? I remember many times in my life when I suffered for not following directions. Others suffered too; that is to say those who were following me.
Over 2,000 years ago three (or more) magi (mystic Astrologers) from the East charted their directions carefully by studying ancient scriptures, star charts and land maps. These “wise men”, as they are traditionally called, followed their directions so carefully that after months of travel came directly “to the house” where “the child” Jesus was. After their visit they continued to carefully follow additional directions that God gave them in a dream as they took another route home to avoid King Herod.
EPHIPHANY (The Word)
The word epiphany defined is a sudden realization: a sudden intuitive leap of understanding, especially through an ordinary but striking occurrence, or as in the case of the wise men, the appearance of God: the manifestation of a divine being.
EPIPHANY (The Celebration)
Epiphany is the celebration of God revealing His “directions” to man. It is celebrated on the Sunday closest to January 6 each year in the church. The official Christmas season, popularly known as either Christmastide or the Twelve Days of Christmas, extends from the anniversary of Christ’s birth on December 25 to the feast of Epiphany on January 6. Epiphany has been known to have been observed earlier than AD 194, is older than the celebration of Christmas itself. Epiphany serves as a great reminder, in each new year, that God desires to direct our lives supernaturally. If we choose to listen.
BUMPS AND DETOURS IN THE ROAD
The journey (beautifully illustrated in the movie The Nativity) of the wise men was not a quick or an easy one. Our daily journey in following Christ is not without bumps and detours either. To get to any worthwhile destination takes perseverance and determination. No wonder the word disciple stems from the root word discipline. Are we disciplined as we follow Christ in life?
The wise men had King Herod as their detour to visit the Christ child. Who is your detour as you seek Jesus. Perhaps you too need to find “another route” to avoid the temptations that would pull you away from following Christ in this new year.
BE STRONG AND COURAGEOUS: Joshua 1:7-9, 5:113-6:6, 12-16, 20
The Bible is full of epiphanies. God has always offered His directions to people who would heed them. Joshua was one such man. He was the general of an army dwarfed by the task of leading God’s people into the promised land. His success was not guaranteed unconditionally. His success, like our success in life, was held together by carefully following God’s directions. (see also James 1:22-25, 2:18-20) God was clear to Joshua; he would be prosperous and successful as he followed God’s Word.
Soon Joshua was tested in regards to this truth. He found himself up against the huge and sinful fortified city of Jericho, and then came an epiphany. An angel told him that god had delivered the city into his hands if he would only be strong and courageous and do all that the Lord commanded. There was no doubt jeers and mocking as Joshua led his army in 13 endless circles around the walled city of Jericho, but on that final round the people who were silent gave a shout at his command and the walls came tumbling down just as the Lord promised. (Note: actually, the walls blew outward. Archeologist discovered that the walls of Jericho were not crushed inward from an outside attack. They fell outward as if the attack came from within its own walls.)
KINGS WILL BOW Philippians 2:9-11, Matthew 6:33, 7;7-8
In today’s story we learned about 4 kings. Traditionally three bowed before Christ and brought gifts and one attempted to rise above Him and destroy Him. Little did Herod know that, even in his resistance of Christ, he was fulfilling prophecy that proved His Lordship. (Matthew 2:13-18) The three kings brought gifts to Jesus: Gold to signify His kingship, Frankincense to signify His priesthood, and Myrrh to signify Him as Savior and Lord. Their greatest gift was their individual worship.
No matter what our choice may be in this new year, God’s Word assures us that every knee will one day bow to Him and confess that he is Lord. Will you persevere like the three wise men and be determined like Joshua to follow God’s directions carefully; or will you, like Herod, attempt to be king of your own destiny? Seeking God first will insure the best for you and those who follow your lead. My advice: “Be strong and courageous and be careful to obey.” Wise men (and women) still seek Him.