“star of wonder"
The Sanctuary Sermon for 12/20/20
The Sanctuary Sermon for 12/20/20
“Star of Wonder”
This week we’ll be able to enjoy an astronomical event that hasn’t happened in 800 years; the alignment of the planets Jupiter and Saturn, better known as the Star of Bethlehem which was followed to reach the birthplace of Jesus. Tonight and tomorrow evening one hour after sunset the Christmas Star will be visible in the southwestern sky. This is such a rare phenomenon according to astronomical records that hasn’t occurred since March 1226 and won’t be on display again until March 2080. Which means I’ll be 120 something by then and that won’t be in my stars, so I’ll be sure to check it out this time around. Hmmmph.
Last week while reading on the star of Bethlehem, one reviewer said, “The practices and beliefs of astronomers during Herod’s reign show why Jupiter and the planets in Aries the Ram on April 17, 6 BC signified a Messianic birth.” A Roman astronomer, one Firmicus Maternus, said that the conditions of that day when Jupiter was in the east were those for the birth of a “divine and immortal” person.
Genesis 1:14 tells us that the stars were given in part for signs and for seasons. Numbers 24:17 is the first prophetic mention of a future great ruler of Israel coming with a Star.
John writes in Revelation 22:16 “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.”
Jesus is the light of the World and he was sent here for all people. The Angels said to the shepherds: “We bring you good news of great joy that shall be for all people.”
God put signs in the heavens to announce Jesus’ birth beyond the borders of Israel. Matthew says that wise men from the East saw his star and came bringing gifts to worship him. Most commentators think these Magi were from either Babylon or Persia or both. The Babylonian captivity had spread the influence of the Jews far and wide, perhaps this played a part in how the Magi came to look for a divine King’s birth in Judea. We don’t know for sure, but they did come to the right place at the right time and found the right person.
Let’s briefly think about these three things in your life’s circumstance: The right place, the right time, and the right person. God has a hand in it all.
The right place. Do you know that God determined the boundaries of your habitation? In other words, God not only knows your address, he gave it to you. Can you accept that about him? Some, even Christians, find it troubling to think that God has that much influence over them. We want to avoid blaming God for the conditions of our lives and the lives of those in worse circumstances. Some think that if we can just leave God out of such matters then he’s not to blame for them and that makes us more comfortable. But, God is God! As God is all powerful, all knowing and all present, certainly he’s able to place you where you are. God has a plan. He put you in the place you are so that you will seek Him. Seek his will and continue to follow Jesus, the morning Star.
Then there’s, The right time. God also determined the times set for you. Why are you living ‘for such a time as this’? Because God determined it so. God is the God of where and he is also the God of when. Jesus is not the only one born at the proper time. Jeremiah 1:5 says, “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you, before you were born I set you apart...” Psalms 139:15 & 16, “My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.
What this clearly says is that God is God over time and circumstance. Nothing escapes his sovereign rule. Yet at the same time, the Bible clearly teaches that we are called and must respond in obedient faith, implying our freedom to choose. But our freedom of choice in no way limits God’s sovereign rule over everything.
God, who is God of where is also the God of when. You are right on time. The right time is now to seek Jesus the Son of God, born at the right time for you. He was crucified according to the schedule of heaven for your sins and mine. He was raised at precisely the right time for our salvation and assurance of eternal life.
Lastly, The right person. This makes all the difficulties of when and where recede into the background. Jesus. The right person. The King who came here for you and me. It was the right place, at the right time, and Jesus is the right person. The God of when and where is the God of Who. And the God of when, where and who has orchestrated that this amazing Christmas Star occurrence would be happening in the year 2020.
In the year when Jesus was born, there was violence, chaos, political and social unrest. It was dark. The Magi found him by way of the Star, which was probably the conversion of 3 planets: Jupiter, Saturn and Mars. They followed the star until it rested on where he was, then they worshipped and presented gifts to him. In a time when it was very dark, Light was born into our world and that Light still shines and the darkness has not overcome it. God put on our flesh and bone as Jesus stepped into the chaos of this fallen world and brought reconciliation and peace.
Fast forward to this year, 2020. It’s a time of violence, chaos, political and social unrest. It is dark. The Winter Solstice arrives December 21st, when the day is the shortest and night is the longest. It’s literally the “darkest day” and is the beginning of what most would say the cold, dark winter season.
But this year, on the darkest day, Jupiter and Saturn meet, giving us the Christmas Star! How fitting, that in the moment of time during this Christmas season we get to see this beautiful reminder—that even in the darkest of times the Light is still shining. In our chaos He is here. In our unrest He is here. In our fears He is here. In our darkest times, He is here. He brings Light and makes all things new.
So, as we look for the Christmas Star this week, may we be reminded of his power and Light that he brings for all mankind. He is the God of when, where and who. He is sovereign and in control. He is perfect at stepping out into the chaos of our world and bringing his order and peace to it.
May the Christmas Star lighting the way at the end of this year be a portent of peace on earth and God’s goodwill towards all people in 2021.
Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus.
This is the Word of the Lord for the day.