06 January 2019 –
“Before & After”
O God, by the leading of a star You made known Your only-begotten Son to the Gentiles. Lead us, who know You by faith, to enjoy in heaven the fullness of Your divine presence;
What is man’s condition before and after Christ? Consider the Magi. Their lives were changed. What has happened to you? Before and after you have considered this baby. Born for us. For those touched by Christ, like the Magi, there is a before and an after.
A. Before they came to Bethlehem. “They went their way” (Vs. 9) Why are they called “wise”? They were more than men who studied the stars. History has called them wise because they made a quest for God.
Today men are wise if they seek God in Christ. The foolish ones of this world seek other things — power, prestige, possessions.
B. Before we are confronted with Christ we too can be tempted to go our own way in life following our own agendas, plans and directions. We find ourselves in a New Year. What would you determine to do this year in 2019? Is Christ a part of your future? Wise Men follow guidance. They saw a result of humble acceptance of guidance; they reached the Christ-child. Moreover, Wise Men then and now worship the King.
Transition: There was life before these Wise Men confronted Christ? – There was life after they met Him.
A. The Magi came to the child Jesus, worshiped, and gave gifts. We can see two kinds of worship. The one is a false worship based upon insincerity. Herod told the Wise Men to seek after the child, “that I too may come and worship him” (v. 8).
Out of fear for his position, Herod wanted to know where the new King was born. Today worship can be a guise for evil intentions. Or at least, we can become so easily distracted. CS Lewis remarks “all enjoyment spontaneously overflows into praise.” Yet, what is the object of our praise?
He continues, “The world rings with praise—lovers praising their mistresses, readers their favorite poet, walkers praising the countryside, players praising their favorite game—praise of weather, wines, dishes, actors, motors, horses, colleges, countries, historical personages, children, flowers, mountains, rare stamps, rare beetles, even sometimes politicians or scholars.” In this New Year, may our focus be upon Christ. As the apostle Paul would remind us, “For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.” – 1 Corinthians 2:2
B. On the other hand, there is true worship practiced by the Wise Men: “They fell down and worshiped Him.” Even these gifts, which they offer says something concerning your Savior. These gifts were meaningful, full of symbolism: Gold because He was a king. With gold they confess His royalty. Frankincense - because He was a priest offering the perfume of prayer. With incense they proclaim His deity. With myrrh, His priestly sacrifice. Myrrh - because He was a redeemer. Who died to save the world. He alone will go to the bloody cross. There - He will suffer and die for you. In exchange for your sin He offers His perfection. His beauty replaces the ugliness of your sin. His innocence replaces your guiltiness and culpability.
Mark the prophecy – “By His stripes you are healed.” –Isaiah 53:5 “He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. 24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.” – 1 Peter 2:23-24
Transition: The Wise Men’s lives were changed from before to after they had met the Christ child. How does this confrontation play out in your life today?
3. For you today.
A. When you bow down in worship before Christ, life is never the same again. No, the same challenges, failings and frustrations of the past year might still be yours today. But you have a connection with a Savior who has borne your iniquities and carried your sorrows. You need not strive with Him. His desire is to carry you – and accompany you along this life’s journey. Will you walk with Him this season?
B. Christ makes the difference in your life. These men had their lives changed. – They had encountered the Christ. – This is what made them wise. – They were humbled in the presence of Christ. And offered to Him their treasures gifts and praise.
Just what is the difference in your life? At Christmas we receive the gift of God in Jesus. Epiphany is the time for believers to give a return gift to God by presenting gifts to Christ, as the Wise Men did. It is noteworthy that the Wise Men gave their gifts as a part of their worship.
Giving something to God when we worship is a vital part of worship. It is an expression of faith and love. It is an offering of gifts to God in gratitude for the gifts we receive in faith.
Note the price of the gifts the Wise Men offered — nothing cheap: “Opening their treasures they offered Him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh” (v. 11). What can you offer to the One who has everything? You offer yourself.
On mine heart imprint Your image
Blessed Jesus, King of grace,
That life’s riches, cares, and pleasures
Never may Your work erase;
Let the clear inscription be;
Jesus, crucified for me,
Is my life, my hope’s foundation,
And my glory and salvation.
Image “The Visit of the Magi” © WELS by Schnorr von Carolsfeld, Baron Julius, 1794-1872; German painter; trained principally at Vienna and Rome; earlier work shows influence of Duerer; later joined the classicists; became associated with Cornelius, Overbeck, Schadow, and Veit; later work in style of Renaissance; distinguished especially for his "Bible in Pictures," fill of creative power.
 Lewis, Reflections on the Psalms, 94.
 On my heart insert Thy image Lutheran Service Book ©2006 Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis