December 5, 2010

David Sorn

The magi's incredible faith takes them on a journey across the desert to see Jesus.


December 5, 2010

David Sorn

The magi's incredible faith takes them on a journey across the desert to see Jesus.



Morning. David Sorn. Lead Pastor here at Renovation Church.

We are starting a new series this morning: A Christmas series called, “Believe Again.”

One aspect of history that always fascinates me is the fact that TRUE history often gets blurry with legend over time.

St. Patrick. What did he do? He chased the snakes out of Ireland and gave us the gift of GREEN Beer!

But in real life, he was an intense Christian missionary, and St. Patrick’s day is actually the day of his death. Meant to honor his intense life for God.

And the Christmas story is no different. The facts have become confusing to people over time.

And I’m not necessarily just talking about the commercialization of Christmas

I’m talking about your basic characters from the Bible story.

In fact, let’s throw up a typical picture of the manger scene

(Just Mary and Joseph)

(show another picture with every one and the animals)

(and soon enough, the manager picture might look like this: (include Santa)

So, there really is a lot of confusion about the Christmas story…and I don’t think it’s all evil

Every year, Christians get all uptight and start throwing daggers because everyone else is ruining Christmas.

Goodness, because of “commercialization,” secular stations start playing songs about Jesus and the holiness of God in the middle of November.

What more could we ask for??

Christmas in this country is great.

And people love Christmas a lot. So we tell all sorts of stories about the nativity scene, and we write songs about it, and we sell figurines of it, and we make animated specials about it!

Which is great. I’m glad people are trying to make a difference doing that.

But what happens when you do that, is the story gets confused.

It’s a little bit like the telephone game.

So today, we’re not only going to look at what it means to have faith, but we’re going to look at part of the original Christmas story in the Bible as well.


Today, we are going to look at the part of the Christmas story involving the Magi, or as most people call them, the Wise Men.

Let’s take a look. Today’s passage is in Matthew.

(Matthew 2:1-2) – NIV

1 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem 2 and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.”

Ok, let’s stop for a moment. One quick note on that last sentence. It doesn’t read as well in our translation, but it is trying to say this:

They came from the East, and when they say, “we saw his star in the east,” they are just saying, “Hey, we’re in Jerusalem now, and when we were back in the East, we saw his star.”

So who are these Magi people?

I mean, today, we call them Wise Men. But who are they, really?

Well, to be honest, we don’t know tons about them, but here’s what we do know:

The term Magi originally referred to a priestly group in ancient Persia…most likely Babylon.

If you don’t know where ancient Babylon was, if it were still around today, it would be in modern day Iraq

They were not only priests (pagan priests by the way), but they were wise scientists who also studied astrology, wisdom, history, and all sorts of religion.

They were probably religious and scientific advisers to the court of the King.

By the way, we also don’t know how many of them there are.

No where in our passage today is it going to say that there are 3 of them.

That’s long been the speculation in the West (and that’s because there were three gifts given to Jesus), so they guess 3 wisemen.

However, tradition in the Eastern Orthodox church has always been that there were 12 wisemen.

But, we don’t really know. What you most logically could assume though is that they probably had an entourage with them.

Three really important people carrying gold don’t just cross the desert all by themselves in those days. No way. They probably traveled with a large group of attendants and guards.

So, not really your typical Christmas picture of the wisemen.

The passage continues……

(Matthew 2:3-12) – NIV

3 When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. 5 “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:

6 “‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.’”

7 Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. 8 He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”

9 After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. 12And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

So, they follow this star that leads them to Jesus.

Let me first make an embarrassing admission.

When I was a kid, I obviously had heard the Christmas story about the wisemen and the star, and one Christmas when I was little I was riding in the back seat of our families ford Taurus, and I kept looking out the window and up in the sky, and my mom asked me, “David, what on earth are you looking for?” To which I replied, “The Christmas star! Doesn’t it come out every Christmas?”

So what WAS that star they followed? There really are a lot of hypotheses on it.

Some think it was an unusual conjunction of planets happened around the time of Jesus’ birth (involving Saturn…which represented the Jews) in the constellation Pisces {PIE-sees} (represented Palestine)

Korean and Chinese astronomers recorded a supernova also right around the of Jesus’ birth

I think more likely it was just a star that God created (maybe just) for the magi to see.

How else does the star literally move over Jesus’ house??

I mean, listen, I can’t even find the North Star and follow it to head north, let alone find a star in the sky and follow it to someone’s house.

We kind of live in this discovery channel age where everything has to have a scientific explanation

And that’s not all bad, I’m a really rational guy, and I love things like logic, stats, and history…

But, it’s okay for God to do a miracle.

Or, let me put it this way, if you can believe that a baby is actually God that came to earth in the form of an infant, I’m not sure it’s that much more of a stretch to believe that he could create a temporary light for someone to follow.

So, the Magi show up and visit Jesus as a toddler. WHOA! Wait a second, did you hear what I just said?!? They visited him as a toddler.

But…I thought they were there with him at his birth…with all the sheep, and the camels, and…santa???

Actually, the magi don’t visit Jesus to a little while later… But it’s a super common misconception that they are there at his birth. Here’s how we know it’s a little while later:

Scholars are divided on whether Mary & Joseph & Jesus actually lived in Bethlehem for a few years (not in the Inn), or if they went and lived in Nazareth for a few years…but we do know that the Magi don’t come to the manger scene

For one, Verse 10 of our passage says that Magi came to Mary & Joseph’s HOUSE (not inn) whether that’s in Bethlehem of Nazareth.

Also, verse 1 says, “After Jesus was born in Bethlehem,” Magi came.

Or, look ahead to verse 16

(Matthew 2:16) – NIV

16 When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi.

So, based on the time the Magi told him the savior was born (according to when they saw the star), it had been potentially up to 2 years.

Or a little less, Herod might have rounded up to be safe.

So Jesus is probably 1 or 2 when the Magi come.

By the way, interesting Biblical note: The other time in the Bible when babies are killed in mass: a very similar situation.

And evil king (Pharaoh) is killing off all the Babies in Israel.

But again, God reigns supreme and the baby Moses is born, who like Jesus, will eventually deliver his people from evil


The thing that really strikes me about this passage though is the faith of the Magi. It’s incredible faith if you think about it.

We can probably assume that they had heard that a King of the Jews would be born someday. Or that a deliver would arise out of Israel.

Many of the Jews were still living in the East since the time of the exile hundreds of years earlier.

The Magi, being religious experts, were no doubt familiar with their prophecies.

In fact, the belief of a Savior coming from Judea had circulated in the known world and some speculate it was talked about quite often before Jesus was even born. Even by the foreign lands. Thus explaining Herod’s trust in the Magi.

But still, it’s still faith.

They see a star. And maybe they even think that star means something, but to follow it, that’s taking it to a different level.

I see lots of stars, and even if I ever had a passing thought about following one, I’m not sure I would.

Even if you though you heard God saying in my heart, follow that star, would you?

Think about that. Would you follow it? Would you have faith like that?

A lot of us would write that off as too crazy.

But you know, faith is sometimes crazy.

Sometimes God is calling you to do things you can’t even comprehend. And lots of times it doesn’t seem rational.

But if everything was rational, there would be no need for faith.

And keep this in mind: Faith is not the absence of reason, but it’s reason that’s willing to see beyond just ourselves.

So the Magi pack up and start traveling. Most estimate they traveled close to 900 miles, which would be like riding a camel from Blaine to Pittsburgh.

And they follow a star.

So, let me ask you this morning. What’s your star?

Where is God maybe showing you some signs in your life?

And maybe it even seems a little crazy…what is that in your life?

Or, can you maybe not see him leading you anywhere?

Sometimes we get so focused in the daily grind of our own lives, it’s like we have our eyes glued to the floor.

Like a teenager who can’t even walk straight because they can’t keep their eyes of their phone.

And when your eyes are glued on just your own life, it’s pretty hard to see the star that’s guiding you.


You know, despite looking at this story in detail, I still have a hard time trying to figure out why the Magi actually went.

The faith they went on is remarkable.

And you have to figure that multiple times throughout the journey that they doubted it.

“Really…are we really following a star? Let’s just go back.”

Not that different from our own faith really.

Faith is sometimes tricky and elusive.

When you’re following God somewhere you haven’t been before, it’s all too easy to talk yourself out of it.

And faith is also something that we unfortunately let fade all too easily as we get older.

It’s why we’re calling this series, “Believe Again.” You could see it in our video today, and you can see it in children everywhere. It’s so much easier to believe things as a child.

Faith just comes sort of easy for kids.

When I was a kid, I believed in A LOT of things.

For goodness sake, I believed the Christmas star came out every year

But it’s as if as we get older, the star dims for us. It’s that much harder to follow.

As kids, we would just chase after any adventure on a whim, but now, as adults, we feel we need to weigh out all the options and balance the pros and cons of every situation.

I started as a kid who believed in all sorts of things, but even by my teenage years, I had turned into a skeptic.

I’m a highly skeptical person.

Even yesterday, I was getting my car fixed, and when they started telling me what I needed fixed…I immediately go to my skepticism..

“You’re lying. This can’t be true. I don’t need new tires in the winter.”

And it’s not that reason is bad and faith is good. Or as others say reason is king and faith is for children.

No, they’re both good.

You may not know this about me but my skepticism had grown quite heavy by the time I was a teenager…and I was incredibly bothered by one group of people in general: Christians.

I didn’t grow up in a Christian home, and I wasn’t interested in people who passionately based their lives on something they couldn’t even see

But when I was 18 years old…God started moving in my life. And you know what? It was a process. A journey.

From the time I tip-toed into my house at 2am one night…and had this crazy idea that I should think about reading a Bible and seeing what it was about…to the time I gave my life to Jesus Christ…was 6 months.

And it was 6 months of God starting to get my attention

It was like…seeing signs… “Go this way…” “Just so you know…I’m real.”

It was like seeing a star…and going…do I follow that?!?


And eventually you’ve just gotta make a decision.

Imagine with me that you are a child again. Imagine with me that one night, your house catches fire. You panic. Can’t get out. Step out on the roof.

You go out. Can’t see anything. Flames. Smoke everywhere. It’s dark. But you hear your father’s voice yelling. “Jump, I’ll catch you.”

You protest, “I can’t see you!!”

He yells back, “But I can see you, and that’s all that matters!”

That’s faith. It’s never clear as day. But eventually there’s enough there, that we have to jump.

Whether it’s your Father’s voice, putting pieces together about God, or if it’s a star.

And my encouragement to you this morning is to believe in Faith again.

Jesus Christ is real. He was born 2,000 years ago, and died on a cross for you and me.

And maybe you know that already, and you’re following Him, but you just need to take a leap of faith again.

In your marriage, with work, with a friend.

Trust Him. He WILL catch you.

Or maybe you’re where I was 10 years ago. Really thinking about Him for the first time. Or for the first time since you were a kid.

And know this…even the Magi when the went, didn’t know really who He was or what was happening. But the trusted in faith. They went.

And my encouragement to you this morning is to just be faithful to continuing on the journey of faith.

Because God is a journey worth following after

Let’s pray.

Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN

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