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CHRISTIAN LIFE - A BETTER WAY Matthew 2:1-12

A BETTER WAY – NEW YEARS MESSAGE  (Matthew 2:1-12; Numbers 6:22‑26; Luke 2:19)

NEW YEAR'S DAY, THE DAY MANY OF US MAKE OUR "NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTIONS." PUT ANOTHER WAY, IT IS THE DAY MANY OF US TRY TO GET IN CLOSER TOUCH WITH LIFE'S BIG PICTURE. IT IS THE DAY MANY OF US TRY TO RESOLVE THE QUESTION OF WHO WE ARE AND WHAT WE OUGHT TO BE DOING WITH OUR LIVES.

A COLLEGE CLASS WAS GRADUATING ON A HOT AND HUMID DAY. AS THE GRADUATES WALKED ACROSS THE PLATFORM TO RECEIVE THEIR DIPLOMAS FROM THE COLLEGE PRESIDENT, SHE SMILED, SHOOK THEIR HANDS AND SAID LOUDLY, "CONGRATULATIONS!" THEN, IN A MUCH LOWER VOICE, THAT COULD BE HEARD ONLY BY THE GRADUATES, SHE SAID, "KEEP MOVING!"

THAT COLLEGE PRESIDENT WAS ONLY TRYING TO KEEP THE LINE MOVING ACROSS THE STAGE, BUT HER WORDS ARE GOOD ADVICE FOR A LIFETIME OF NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTIONS. "KEEP MOVING!" WHEREVER YOU GO, AND WHATEVER YOU DO IN LIFE, "KEEP MOVING!"

  • DON'T STAGNATE.
  • DON'T SETTLE FOR THE STATUS QUO. THERE IS MORE TO THE BIG PICTURE THAN YOU ALREADY HAVE SEEN. IN THE MATTER OF YOUR CHRISTIAN MINISTRY, THE LORD IS SAYING TO YOU, "THIS IS A NEW BEGINNING."
  • KEEP MOVING!
  • KEEP GROWING!
  • KEEP HEALING!
  • KEEP SHARING!
  • KEEP FORGIVING!
  • KEEP LOVING!

IN TODAY'S GOSPEL LESSON, AFTER THE SHEPHERDS HEARD THE ANGEL'S MESSAGE "A SAVIOR HAS BEEN BORN TO YOU,"

  • THEY HURRIED TO BETHLEHEM WHERE THEY FOUND MARY AND JOSEPH AND THE NEWBORN BABY JESUS.
  • THEN THEY RETURNED TO THEIR FLOCKS, EXCITEDLY PROCLAIMING THE GOOD NEWS ALONG THE WAY.
  • AS FOR MARY, LUKE TELLS US, "SHE TREASURED ALL THESE THINGS AND PONDERED THEM IN HER HEART."

AS FOR US, BE IT RESOLVED THAT WE TAKE TIME TO PONDER IN OUR HEARTS ALL THAT OUR LORD AND SAVIOR HAS REVEALED TO US ABOUT LIFE'S MEANING AND PURPOSE.

  • CHRIST CAME TO TELL US HOW TO DRAW EVER CLOSER TO OUR ULTIMATE GOAL OF BECOMING THE KIND OF PERSONS GOD WANTS US TO BE.
  • CHRIST CAME TO TELL US THAT THE WORLD CAN BE MADE BETTER ONLY BY MAKING OURSELVES BETTER.
  • CHRIST CAME TO TELL US TO TURN COMPLETELY AROUND AND TAKE A DIFFERENT ROAD. OTHERS HAVE TRIED TO TELL US HOW TO MAKE THE ROAD SMOOTHER.
  • CHRIST CAME TO TELL US TO CRUCIFY NOT OURSELVES, BUT OUR LOWER SELVES; TO PURGE OUR HEARTS OF ALL VINDICTIVENESS; TO TRANSFORM OUR SOULS FROM SELF‑CENTEREDNESS TO OTHER‑CENTEREDNESS.
  • CHRIST CAME TO TELL US TO BELIEVE IN LOVE AS OUR GOD‑GIVEN ANSWER TO THE QUESTION OF LIFE'S MEANING AND PURPOSE.

AS WE CARRY OUT OUR DAY‑TO‑DAY TASKS FOR CHRIST AND HIS KINGDOM, WE NEED TO BE CONVINCED, MORE‑AND‑MORE, THAT MOST OF THE TRIUMPHS OF CHRISTIAN FAITH ARE WON IN THE DAILY ROUND OF LOVING SERVICE.

IN AN OLD "PEANUTS" CARTOON, SALLY IS A TODDLER CRAWLING AROUND ON THE FLOOR.

"HOW LONG DO YOU THINK IT WILL BE BEFORE SALLY BEGINS TO WALK?" LINUS ASKS.

LUCY REPLIES, "GOOD GRIEF, WHAT'S THE HURRY? LET HER CRAWL AROUND FOR A WHILE. SHE'S GOT ALL THE TIME IN THE WORLD. ONCE YOU STAND UP AND START TO WALK, YOU'RE COMMITTED FOR LIFE."

WE WHO CALL OURSELVES CHRISTIANS ALREADY HAVE STOPPED CRAWLING AROUND. WE'VE ALREADY STARTED TO WALK, SO TO SPEAK.

  • WE'RE COMMITTED TO THE JOURNEY.
  • WE'RE COMMITTED TO GROWTH.
  • WE'RE COMMITTED TO A WHOLE LIFETIME OF PARTICIPATION IN THE DIVINELY‑CREATED SCHOOL OF LEARNING HOW TO LOVE!
  • WE COME TOGETHER IN THIS MANNER BECAUSE WE WANT TO GROW INTO COMPLETE PERSONS, FULFILLED PERSONS.
  • WE WANT TO HAVE OUR WORTHWHILENESS AFFIRMED.
  • WE WANT TO BE REASSURED OF OUR UNIQUE VALUE IN GOD'S PLAN OF CREATION.
  • WE WANT TO KNOW THAT WE COUNT, THAT OUR LIFE IS GOING SOMEPLACE.
  • WE WANT TO APPRECIATE THE WORTHWHILENESS AND THE UNIQUE BEAUTY OF OTHER PERSONS.

JESUS SAYS THAT WE CAN BE THAT KIND OF FULFILLED PERSON IF WE LET THE LIVING GOD RULE OUR LIFE. THE GREAT CHRISTIAN PARADOX IS THAT WHEN WE LET GOD RULE IN OUR LIVES, WE HAVE THE FREEDOM TO BECOME WHO WE REALLY ARE.

WHEN JESUS CAME TO GALILEE TO PREACH HIS FIRST SERMON, HE SAID, THE TIME IS FULFILLED.

NOT MERE CHRONOLOGICAL TIME, BUT SPE­CIAL TIME: GOD'S TIME. GOD'S TIME IS HERE, IS NOW. ALL THE HOPES OF THE PAST, ALL THE DIVINE PROMISES ARE NOW BEING FULFILLED. THE KINGDOM OF GOD, THE RULE OF GOD, THE LOVING PRESENCE OF GOD IS AVAILABLE TO YOU NOW.

  • BE IT RESOLVED THAT WE SHOULD AWAKEN EACH MORNING FILLED WITH GOD'S LOVE.
  • BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT, WITH GOD'S LOVE IN OUR HEARTS, WE SHALL AWAKEN EACH MORNING REJOICING.
  • BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT WE SHALL, EACH DAY, DEMONSTRATE OUR LOVE FOR GOD IN AND FOR OUR LOVE FOR ONE ANOTHER.
  • BE IT RESOLVED THAT WE TREASURE THIS GOSPEL TRUTH AND PONDER IT IN OUR HEARTS.

THE PHRASE "OLDER AND WISER" IS OFTEN USED TO DEMONSTRATE THAT THE LONGER ONE LIVES, THE WISER ONE BECOMES. THE AMERICAN FEDERATION FOR AGING RESEARCH ONCE CONDUCTED A STUDY OF THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN WISDOM AND AGING. THEY DEVELOPED A PSYCHOLOGICAL TEST TO MEASURE THE ACQUIRED WISDOM OF ELDERLY PERSONS.

A YOUNG PSYCHOLOGIST WAS CHOSEN TO TRY OUT THE TEST ON A NINETY‑ONE‑YEAR‑OLD MAN. THE PSYCHOLOGIST EXPLAINED THAT IT WAS AN ORAL 'TEST AND, THAT SOME OF THE QUESTIONS WOULD BE EASY, WHILE OTHERS WOULD BE DIFFICULT. THE FIRST QUESTION WAS "WHAT TWO DAYS OF THE WEEK BEGIN WITH THE LETTER 'T.'" THE OLD MAN REPLIED, "THAT'S EASY, TODAY AND TOMORROW."

THE PSYCHOLOGIST THEN MOVED ON TO THE NEXT QUESTION. "THIS ONE IS MUCH MORE DIFFICULT," HE WARNED. "HOW MANY SECONDS ARE THERE IN A YEAR?"

WITHOUT BLINKING AN EYE, THE OLD MAN SAID, "TWELVE!"

OBVIOUSLY PUZZLED, THE PSYCHOLOGIST ASKED, "WHY DID YOU SAY TWELVE?"

SAID THE OLD MAN, SMILING, “THE SECOND OF JANUARY, THE SECOND OF FEBRUARY, THE SECOND OF MARCH, AND SO ON THROUGH THE YEAR."

IN TODAY'S GOSPEL LESSON, WE HAVE MATTHEW'S ACCOUNT OF A LONG JOURNEY TO BETHLEHEM TO VISIT AND PAY HOMAGE TO THE NEWBORN BABY JESUS. ALTHOUGH MATTHEW DOESN'T IDENTIFY THEM WITH ANY AGE GROUP, HE DOES IDENTIFY THEM WITH THE VIRTUE OF WISDOM, CALLING THEM "WISE MEN FROM THE EAST," PROBABLY CHALDEAN DESCENDANTS FROM NEBUCHADNEZZAR’S COURT. THESE SCHOLARS WERE THE LEADING AUTHORITIES IN MANY FIELDS, INCLUDING MEDICINE, PHILOSOPHY, RELIGION, AND ASTROLOGY. BECAUSE OF THEIR DEDICATION TO THE SEARCH FOR TRUTH, THEY WERE TRULY “WISE MEN.”

IT IS WELL FOR US TO CONSIDER THAT THE STAR WAS UP THERE FOR EVERYONE TO SEE. WE DON'T KNOW PRECISELY WHICH STAR GUIDED THE MAGI TO THE PLACE OF JESUS' BIRTH. SCRIPTURE SCHOLARS AND ASTRONOMERS HAVE DEVELOPED CERTAIN THEORIES ABOUT WHAT CAUSED A PARTICULAR STAR TO SHINE WITH EXTRAORDINARY BRILLIANCE. THE REAL LESSON FOR US IS THAT THESE PARTICULAR MEN WERE ABLE TO READ THE MEANING OF THE STAR AND WERE WILLING TO FOLLOW IT. WHEN THE MAGI WENT INTO THE HOME OF JESUS AND SAW THE CHILD, THEY WERE LOOKING INTO THE FACE OF LOVE ITSELF: THE LOVE OF GOD IN THE FLESH. AND THEY KNEW THAT THEY HAD FOUND WHAT THEY HAD BEEN SEARCHING FOR.

THIS IS THE CASE HISTORY OF A BOY WISE BEYOND HIS YEARS, A FIFTEEN‑YEAR‑OLD BOY WHO EXPRESSED HIS OWN PERCEPTION OF THE STRUGGLE TO FIND LOVE. THIS, IN PART, IS WHAT HE SAID:

"THERE IS MORE CONFUSION IN THE MINDS OF MY GENERATION IN TRYING TO FIND THE SOLUTION FOR OURSELVES AND THE WORLD AROUND US. WE SEE THE WORLD HURTLING BY, WITH WARS, POVERTY PREJUDICE AND THE LACK OF UNDERSTANDING AMONG PEOPLE AND NATIONS. "THEN WE STOP AND THINK. THERE MUST BE A BETTER WAY AND WE HAVE TO FIND IT. IF WE ARE TO BE A GENERATION OF REPETITION, THE SITUATION WILL BE WORSE. HOW SHALL IT CHANGE? I HAVE YET TO DISCOVER WHAT WE NEED. I ADMIT WE SHOULD TRY TO FOLLOW SOME BASIC RULES, BUT FIRST WE SHOULD LOOK AT WHO IS MAKING THE RULES. "SOMETIMES IT SEEMS AS THOUGH WE'RE FOREVER CALLING OUT AND FOREVER CRYING. BUT EVERYONE GOES ON WITH THEIR OWN LITTLE ROUTINES, AFRAID TO STOP AND LISTEN.

OUR CULTURE IS OBSESSED with youth. We attempt to erase wrinkles, color gray hair, and improve health, but we can't stop the aging process. However, we can choose to be young at heart at any chronological age. Psalm 92:12-15 describes God's people. Jesus affirms this in John 15:5.As we abide in Christ, His life flows through us like sap in a branch, enabling youth and elderly alike bear fruit.

Through my years of living, I've discovered three practices that contribute to staying young and fruitful.

  • First, keep learning. Instead of taking it easy and opting for entertainment, we must stimulate our minds by reading and learning—especially Scripture. (Psalm 119:105)
  • Second, keep loving. Make it your priority to love God whole heartedly, and then extend His love to others as Jesus commanded in Mark 12:30‑31. We may be tempted to withdraw from people or hold grudges as we get older. But love protects us from selfishness and bitterness.
  • Finally, keep laughing. Nothing ages us quite as much as grumpiness. (Proverbs 17:22) Laughter lightens our burdens. Even when life is hard, godly thinking transforms our attitude, increases trust in God, and fills us with gratitude and gladness.

Remember, getting older is inevitable, but flourishing throughout life is a choice. My prayer is that you will see each year as another opportunity to grow in Christ and bear more fruit.

WHETHER WE ARE 15 OR 50, 91 OR 101, EACH OF US IS CAUGHT UP IN THE STRUGGLE TO FIND ANSWERS TO THE GREAT QUESTIONS:

  • WHO AM I?
  • WHY AM I?
  • WHAT AM I TO DO?
  • WHERE IS MY LIFE TAKING ME?

POSSIBLY THESE WERE QUESTIONS THAT PROPELLED THE "WISE MEN" ON THEIR ADVENTUROUS JOURNEY TO BETHLEHEM.

  • THE MAGI WERE JOURNEYING IN SEARCH OF MESSIAH.
  • HE HAD COME AT LAST, THEY BELIEVED.
  • SOMEHOW, THEY HAD SEEN IT IN THE STARS!
  • A PARTICULAR STAR, IN FACT, WAS LEADING THEM ‑‑ ONLY GOD KNEW WHERE.
  • BUT THEY FOLLOWED IN SPITE OF RISK AND DANGER.
  • AND IT LED THEM TO THE YOUNG CHILD JESUS IN THE HOUSE.

THE CRIES ARE ALL AROUND US, MAYBE EVEN WITHIN US, "THERE MUST BE A BETTER WAY!" AND WE HAVETO FIND IT! THERE IS A BETTER WAY, AND WE HAVE FOUND IT. NOT SOMEWHERE "OUT THERE," BUT DEEP WITHIN OUR INMOST BEING, WE HAVE SEEN THE STAR/SAVIOR JESUS. (JOHN 1:9)

WE HAVE SEEN, IN THE CHRISTMAS EVENT, OUR CLEAREST GLIMPSE OF THE AWESOME MYSTERY OF LIFE AND LOVE! WHEN WE RESOLVE TO LOOK FOR THIS, WE SEE THE NEWBORN CHILD AND, LIKE THE MAGI OF OLD, WE KNOW WE ARE LOOKING INTO THE FACE OF LOVE!

THE INVITATION

You can't depend on your own goodness to get to Heaven. We've all sinned  (Romans 3:23). Jesus paid the penalty for your sins with His death on the cross and His resurrection (John 3:16).

To be forgiven and be guaranteed a place in Heaven, you need to repent of sin, confess that you are a sinner, and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ in your heart (Acts 2:21).

You can use the following prayer or your own words, but you must actually believe in your heart that your prayer is real:

         Lord Jesus, I believe You are the Son of God. I confess that I have sinned against You in thought, word, and deed.

      Please forgive all my wrongdoing and let me live in relationship with You from now on.

      I receive You as my Savior and recognize that the work You accomplished once and for all on the cross was done on my behalf.

      Thank You for saving me. Help me to live a life that is pleasing to You.

                     In Your name I pray, Amen.