(All references NASB unless otherwise noted.)
Sermon text: Matthew 2:1-11
Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, "Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him." When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. Gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They said to him, "In Bethlehem of Judea; for this is what has been written by the prophet:
'AND YOU, BETHLEHEM, LAND OF JUDAH,
ARE BY NO MEANS LEAST AMONG THE LEADERS OF JUDAH;
FOR OUT OF YOU SHALL COME FORTH A RULER
WHO WILL SHEPHERD MY PEOPLE ISRAEL.'"
Then Herod secretly called the magi and determined from them the exact time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, "Go and search carefully for the Child; and when you have found Him, report to me, so that I too may come and worship Him." After hearing the king, they went their way; and the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them until it came and stood over the place where the Child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.
After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
This week's message was a meditation on the incarnation, but one rather unlike our normal meditations. Bruce summed up the entire sermon in two words: "domino effect." The Son of God entered the world in a moment that was both much louder and much quieter than anything we might have done ourselves. But from that shining star, from the angels singing, from a baby in a manger, came a stunning transformation in all the world that is still ongoing.
Bruce noted that the star shining to guide the coming wise men has a significance that reaches beyond its own life. It represents Christ: a light of revelation that spreads to to all the world (compare Luke 2:21-32, John 8:12, Matthew 13:31-33 and Daniel 2:31-45, especially vv. 31-35 and vv. 44-45). "The ultimate result of this—that one day, the kingdom of Christ will fill the whole earth—begins with a star," Bruce said.
Bruce then asked two important questions that this raises:
- Who is included in the kingdom?
The answer is straightforward: according to Acts 4:12, "And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved." Jesus Christ, and He alone, gives us entrance to the kingdom of God. We come only by believing in Him (see John 3:36 [NIV]). For our part, we are completely incapable of earning our own salvation by sheer good deeds, and cannot pay the cost for our own sin.
- What are the children of the kingdom to do?
Bruce opened his answer by noting that "the dominos haven't all fallen yet." We, he said, are the dominos: the light that began in the star now spreads through us. In Matthew 5:14-16 [NLT], Jesus told his disciples that they were the light of the world. We are to show the world our good works with one aim: all people glorifying the father. His two takeaway points here were:
I really appreciated how Bruce drew attention away from the manger and to the whole picture of history. The manger was a stunningly powerful moment, but part of its power is how it informs all history before it and transforms all history after it.