“Lo, the Star Went Before Them”

Matthew 2:1-12

6 January, 2012 - The Epiphany of the Lord

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, pastor

West Walworth: Zion United Methodist Church

Matthew 2:1-12

In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet: ‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.’” Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.”

When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.


If only it was this easy.

Facing questions of love and marriage,

school, major, and career,

children, job, health, and retirement,

cancer, aging, and death;

if only we had a clear, simple path

defined by black and white choices

upon which we could make the easy decisions.

If only we had a star to lead us.

Many a fervent prayer begins with

“Show me the way, Oh, Lord”

simply because we don’t know the way

and the choices life presents us with are less than crystal clear.

Our prayers for life’s big decisions are easy,

yet ease diminishes with the size of importance.

The cumulative effect of uncertainty, however,

tends to erode our confidence in making the big decisions.

Not only do we not know the way,

often times, we don’t feel it is right to ask.

Decision making often is like whistling as you walk past the graveyard;

there is fear, on the one hand,

that the wrong choice can have devastating consequences,

at the same time,

decision making can give the illusion of power, freedom, and control;

which can teeter on the verge of unfaithfulness and idolatry.  

If only we had a star to lead us.

Three wise men provide clarity this morning,

which is especially helpful as we take on the promise of a new year.

These are Epiphany’s facts:

Wise men from the east observe a star at it’s rising.

They follow that star.

The star first leads them to Jerusalem and King Herod.

Then the star leads them to Bethlehem and the baby Jesus.

What does this mean? I ask.

What does this mean.

1. God is doing the leading.

Wise men make the correct decision to follow the star

because it is God who is in control.

God lifted that star, or comet, or some other celestial occurance

up before the wondering eyes of wise people.

Wise people are always observant,

expecting something new and different,

even something fresh from God.

Wise people are curious, questioning, seeking, learning

about our natural world, our place in it, and God’s place in it.

Wise people understand that there is a limit to our understanding

and are willing to accept the mysterious, the unexplainable, the Divine.

Wise people are willing to trust in this God,

even though God is completely unexplainable.

Wise people are willing to make life changes because of faith,

that it is God doing the leading,

that God is in control.

2. God illuminates our path.

The choice laid out before the wise men was clear:

come back and report to Herod

or leave for their country by another road.

The threat of danger is greatly diminished when God shines light on our choices.

The evil in Herod’s heart was revealed for the wise to see.

God’s light gives clarity to our decisions, both big and small.

When we take the time to ask,

to discern God’s will,

to wait for God to respond,

to listen to what God has to say,

we avoid the pitfalls and temptations of life.

God’s plan and path is revealed.

3. God leads us in His preferred path.

We aren’t told where to go or what to do.

Yes, the wise men had free will,

and so do you.

God draws us to make right choices;

lures us down pathways of righteousness and love.

With God as our leader,

we avoid the pitfalls of human will and ego.

We surrender ourselves,

our need to always be right,

to stubbornly refuse to accept God’s change,

when we are willing to give up the reigns of control in our life

and hand them over to God.

The life of faith

becomes less and less about winning and windfalls,

and becomes more and more about drawing nigh to our Lord

and becoming one with God’s greater plan.

Trusting that God’s ways are always for our benefit and the result of His love

led wise men to leave life behind to follow His star

and can lead us to make similar God inspired decisions.

4. God’s path always leads to Jesus.

God may lead others down different paths,

but for you, me, and our house,

the star always leads us to Jesus.

Living a faithful lifestyle,

surrendering ourselves and submitting to the will of God,

always leads us to the heart of God:

Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.

He was born to dwell among us

and to become the channel for God’s love to flow into the world.

He was born to set us free from our sins.

He was born to save us into eternal life,

to live in everlasting communion with our God.

God’s star at it’s rising

is like our bread and wine this communion day:

it points us to an insane notion that God loves you just the way you are.

God created you out of love.

God has always loved you.

And God will forever love you.

Our bread and wine this day

serve as God’s confirmation that His ways can become our ways.

We are able to set aside our wants, needs, and desires.

We are able to put on God’s will and claim it for our very own.

We can accept the choice

and be led straight to the heart of Jesus.

“Show me the way, Oh Lord,” we pray.

Look to the bread.

Look to the cup.

Follow the example of the wise.

Cast your eyes to the heavens

and be willing to follow wherever God leads.

If only we had a star to lead us.

We have a star,

and it is leading us to Jesus.