The star is what we usually think about when we think of this story. The Magi were most likely some sort of astronomer / astrologer who studied the stars and looked for signs and messages in the heavens. Tradition says that the Magi came from Persia in the East but I read an interesting article this week that said maybe they came from Sheba, which today is known as Yemen. I have to say that the article made a lot of sense. Sheba was known as a very wealthy nation that had accumulated a lot of gold from the mines of Africa. But it is also the only place, other than Africa, where the Boswellia tree grows and that is the tree where we get frankincense.
The Commiphora tree, where we get the resin to make myrrh, also only grows in the Arabian peninsula.
So Sheba would have been rich in gold, frankincense and myrrh which were the 3 gifts given to Jesus.
But Sheba is also talked about in the prophecies of Israel. The Queen of Sheba brought great gifts to Solomon and Jesus talks about how one greater than Solomon has now arrived. The prophet Isaiah also talks about gifts of gold and incense coming from Sheba to be given to the Messiah. Isaiah 60:1-6.
While we don’t know where the Magi came from, it is interesting to think about how they may have come from Sheba which would connect them to them prophecies of the Messiah found in the Old Testament. What is important, however, is that they came and they came because they saw a star. They saw a new star that appeared in the sky at the time of Jesus birth and that star spoke to them – it told them that a king had been born in Israel.
The Magi allowed a star to guide them. They paid attention to the creation around them, studied all that God had made and all that God was doing and they observed the world and learned from it. What they learned they used to guide their lives. In the New Year we need to allow a star to guide us. We need to slow down and take note of all God is doing in the world around us. In so many ways, God speaks to us through God’s creation if we will take the time to stop and look and listen. Romans 1:20.
There are messages all around us if we will stop and really observe the world. On a hike through the Smokey Mountains a number of years ago I tried to listen to God and look for messages from God in the beauty of the world. One day there were two messages I heard from God in his creation. One came as I was hiking uphill and I saw a tiny flower growing where a trickle of water ran down the hill. It was a tiny flower but so beautiful and I thought, Why would God put a tiny beautiful flower here where no one can see it.
Then I heard God say, I can see it. God creates beauty and puts it in places no one travels to, or creates flowers that bloom and die that no person will ever see it, but God sees it and God creates it because God finds joy in. God creates beauty because God is beauty and power and majesty and wonder. God creates beauty because it simply spills forth from God’s very nature and God finds pleasure in that. If there is no person around to enjoy it – God does.
That little flower told me something about God that I never forgot; God is simply beautiful, full of beauty. But then I heard something else from God. I heard God say, You can see it. I realized that if no one else saw that little flower which might only be in bloom on that day, I saw it. I’m not saying God made it just for me, but God made it and I was able to enjoy it and that is part of God’s nature – to provide beauty for our lives. Please, in this New Year, make time to see the beauty of God which is all around us and allow the beauty and power of creation to guide you. Allow the beauty of creation to remind you that God made you to be a beautiful part of creation and that each one of us adds beauty and value to the world simply by being here.
A second message came to me was when I was hiking downhill. I was looking down a stream with fallen trees and centuries old rocks strewn in a creek and I thought once again how beautiful it was
and I realized that I was actually finding beauty in all the brokenness of life. Broken limbs, fallen trees, the cracked earth – what makes much of life so beautiful is actually it’s brokenness. Sun streaking through storm clouds is beautiful.
Mountains themselves are a sign of brokenness as the earth is pushed up and then eroded away and their brokenness is beautiful.
The grand canyon is beauty that has come through the constant breaking away of land caused by a river.
Beauty through Brokenness. God often brings beauty and strength through brokenness. All of our lives are broken in different ways but God still makes something beautiful out of us. The church is a collection of broken people, broken pieces, and yet when we come together in Christ – we make something beautiful.
The Magi followed a star because they took the time to study the world around them. They observed creation. They looked at the world, considered what it was saying and listened for the messages that were all around us. May our new year be guided by a star.
But it wasn’t just a star that guided the Magi, the star led them to Jerusalem where they asked where they could find this new king. No one seemed to know about him so what did they do? They consulted a book. Matthew 2:3-6. The word of God needs to guide us in the New Year. Regular reading of God’s word is vital to living the way God wants us to live because God’s word is filled with messages and direction for our lives.
I want to invite you to read through the bible with me this year. We have provided several different reading plans for you to look at. Some read through from Genesis to Revelation, some provide a variety of material for you to read each week but the key is to read it regularly. I would also encourage you to think about a 5 day plan so that if you miss a day you don’t get behind, frustrated and give up but so that there will also be time to listen and reflect. While reading God’s word is important we really need to learn to listen.
By following the star and then a book, the Magi learned to listen so that when they heard a voice they knew enough to follow it. Matthew 2:12. Herod’s plan to kill the new king in Israel was to have the Magi find the child, report back to him so that he could go and have the child killed. God spoke to the Magi in a dream and told them to go home a different way, or to not go back to Jerusalem in order to protect Jesus and his family. The Magi now followed a voice. God also spoke to Joseph in a dream and told him to flee with his family to Egypt, which they did. Again, God guided his people by a voice. We need to learn to listen for God’s voice.
I honestly believe God still wants to guide our lives and deepen our faith by speaking directly to our hearts. I don’t think God speaking to people was only for biblical times, it is for today, but we won’t hear God if we aren’t listening. We won’t hear God if we are not tuning our hearts and minds to the right frequency or maybe I should say we won’t get God’s word unless we are using the right network. God provides the free wifi, we just need to connect and we connect by taking the time to look for God in the world and listen to God in his word. The more we allow The Star and the The Book to lead us and shape us the more we open ourselves up to hearing The Voice of God.
Following the star and the book also quiets our lives enough so that maybe we can hear God. Taking time to sit quietly and enjoy the world can help us hear the message God may want to share with us. Taking the time to sit and read and reflect on God’s word can help us hear the message God may want to give to us. God is speaking to us all the time but much of the time we aren’t listening, so make this New Year a year to listen.
Because the Magi followed the star, the book and the voice, they found the fullness of God in Jesus and they worshipped him. They also gave life to the world by not returning to Herod. If we will follow The Star, The Book and The Voice, we will also experience the fullness of God and then be able to share God’s love with others.
What will guide you in the New Year?
A Star. A Book. A Voice.
1. A Star. Take time to observe the world around you.
• Plan a trip with your family to a state park.
• Set aside time every week to take a walk.
• Learn about one area of creation this year: oceans, forests, animals, stars, planets, flowers…
My plan to follow the star in 2017:
2. A Book. Read through the Bible in 2017.
• Reading plans are available in the lobby
• Many more reading plans can be found online.
• Join a small group, Bible study or Sunday School Class to read God’s word with others.
My plan to follow the book in 2017:
3. A Voice. Listen for God speaking to you.
• Ask God to speak to you.
• Set aside time every day or once a week to sit in silence.
• Listen for God speaking to you through others.
My plan to follow the voice in 2017: