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Sunday, December 12, 2010

Christmas Cantata

This morning we are preparing for our annual Christmas cantata. It is titled The Lost Star. This is what the Lord has put on my heart for the devotional at the end of the story:

Many assume that there were three wise men present at the birth of Christ. They assume three because of the enumerated gifts of gold (fit for a king), frankincense (ascending incense for deity), and myrrh (forecasting His suffering and death). They assume the birth of Christ because of nativity scenes and a misunderstanding of when the wise men actually arrived. Joseph had moved Mary and the baby from the temporary shelter of the Inn. The wise men arrived in Bethlehem much later.

These men were Gentiles that feared God and sought for the true King of the Jews. They followed a star that had appeared, vanished, and reappeared. It was a lost star in more ways than one - a lost star different from all other stars. It was actually a supernatural manifestation of light sent from God to guide wise Gentile worshippers. It is a lost star in the sense that astronomers cannot identify it. It started them on their journey and it guided them to Jesus. The bible states that…

When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. 11 And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. - Matthew 2.10-12

When Gentile wise men found the star that was lost to Herod and the Jews resting over the house, they experienced exponential joy. How is it that these men entered a home of a humble carpenter and fell down and worshiped a baby with great joy? The only answer to that question is found in the fact that "God enabled their hearts to behold what their eyes could not see" (R. C. H. Lenski). The Bible states that they worshiped Him; they did not worship Mary, but Him.

The wise men exemplify an unchanging approach to God. While they all responded to the birth of Christ, we remember that not everyone who responds to His birth enters Heaven. There is that which God reveals in a limited way in the form of a lost star to lost wise men; but then, in our fictional account during the cantata, there is a special revelation of what this baby came to do. We must have a faith foundation before we are able to truly worship Jesus Christ with joy.

1. The wise men brought gifts to the Son of God. God's free gift to the wise men and to us this morning is the salvation that would be purchased some 30 years later on the cross with His Son's precious blood. "For by grace (gift) you have been saved through faith (dependence; reliance; not a work), and that (saving work is) not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast" (Eph 2.8-9). We cannot earn our way to God or eternal life. It is all of grace - we don't deserve it!

2. The wise men simply responded to what God revealed. Their wisdom didn't change who they were. They needed a Savior because they were sinners. None of us have wisdom in and of ourselves. None of us are righteous. All of us have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Even our righteous deeds are no better than filthy rags creating a stench in the nostrils of God. We simply cannot save ourselves.

3. The beauty of the approach of these wise men is found in the fact that they were Gentiles. It emphasizes the mercy and love of God for all mankind. But God cannot be just and righteous and somehow neglect to address our sin problem.

4. The wise men gazed upon a young child - little more than a baby. But they were really beholding the infinite God who created them. The Son of God had come to die on the cross and rise from the dead to pay the penalty for our sins and to purchase a place in heaven for us. God will make us right through the Person and work of His Son, Jesus Christ. There is no other way of salvation.

5. The wise men believed God. While in the East, they saw the star God provided and began their journey of faith. The more God revealed, the more they responded. There is no doubt that an episode like the one depicted in our cantata could have happened. But we have the complete revelation of God's redemptive plan - therefore, we are without excuse. We must receive His Son by placing our faith in Him alone for our eternal life. Faith is turning and trusting.