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When They Saw the Star

Matthew 2:1-12

Rev. Kurt Hering

The Epiphany of Our Lord [Observed]
Trinity Lutheran Church  
Layton, Utah

Play MP3 of this sermon

Sun, Jan 5, 2014 

Preaching to the saints of the Lutheran Church at Christ-Elkhart and Faith-Hugoton in Kansas since February 8, 2015. All sermons prior to that date were preached either at Trinity Lutheran Church-Layton or First Lutheran Church-Tooele, Utah.

And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. 10When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. 11And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.

Dreams play a big part in the salvation story. God even tells us that in the last days He will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. [Joel 2:28; Acts 2:17]

But nowhere in Scripture does God point us to our dreams, or even theirs for that matter. Why?

To hear the entire sermon preached for the Epiphany of Our Lord, "When They Saw the Star," click on the MP3 audio link provided above. The audio begins with the Old Testament reading, Isaiah 60:1–6. The sermon begins at the 18:18 point of the mp3 file.

A servant of the Word and His folk,

Pastor Hering

For those of you who prefer to read or read along while listening, the preaching manuscript follows below. This one is more an outline of points the following NB is particularly apropos.

Nota bene: Sermons are meant to be heard. Some points from the manuscript are explained and filled out during the preaching, so you will need to listen to the audio file to get the full message.

TEXT: 1Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, 2saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” 3When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; 4and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. 5They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet:

6“‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,

are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;

for from you shall come a ruler

who will shepherd my people Israel.’”

7Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. 8And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.” 9After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. 10When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. 11And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. 12And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way. Matthew 2:1-12

Dearly Beloved of God,

Merry Christmas, you dreamers, you.

Everybody dreams. Part of being human.

Good dreams. Bad dreams.

Dreams for a future.

The wise men (magi, kings) [today’s Epiphany Gospel text] and Joseph [2nd Sunday after Christmas & Holy Innocents (12-28) text] had dreams. Their dreams protected the promise in flesh and blood wrapped up in the swaddling cloths born in Bethlehem.

This was God’s promise to Joshua and the nation of Israel.

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare[b] and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. 12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. 13 You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you, declares the LORD, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the LORD, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile. Jeremiah 29: 11-14

It was, therefore, also His promise to His only begotten Son, Jesus—and by extension, the holy family, and you.

Dreams play a big part in the salvation story. God even tells us that in the last days He will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. [Joel 2:28; Acts 2:17]

But nowhere in Scripture does God point us to our dreams, or even theirs for that matter. Why?

Supertramp ca. 1974, 1980:

Dreamer, you know you are a dreamer

Well can you put your hands in your head, oh no

But even if we or an angel from heaven (not to mention in your dreams) should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. Galatians 1:8

The wise men and Joseph’s dreams (as well as the star and the angels) were supplemental to and indeed servant to the Word and Him made flesh to dwell among us.

Two points from our Gospel text today: The wise men from the east teach and remind us that . . .

1. All the world can and should know and believe in the one true God and is without excuse.

For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world,[g] in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Romans 1:19-23

But for this purpose I have raised you (Pharoah and Egypt) up, to show you my power, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth. Exodus 9:16

We are without excuse. We have heard the word. And any who have cannot excuse themselves because someone in Timbukto might not. Or because they seek a sign—a star or angel from heaven.

So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. But I ask, have they not heard? Indeed they have, for “Their voice has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world.” Romans 10:17-18

2. The wise men did not believe because of the star, but because the Word of prophecy and promise that was connected with the star.

Why did they rejoice exceedingly with great joy? Because they had reached the place to which the star led them, where was the one born King of the Jews.

Wise men from the east rejoiced at finding the Christ child beneath the star God placed in the heavens to signal the Savior’s birth, and by which they were drawn to meet Him. We rejoice at finding the same Christ within the confession of His Church that God placed here on earth to meet Him and draw all people unto Himself through Christ alone. 

A READING FROM THE BOOK OF CONCORD

EPIPHANY OF OUR LORD

THE LARGE CATECHISM: PART 3

THE APOSTLES’ CREED

66] These articles of the Creed, therefore, divide and separate us Christians from all other people upon earth. Even if [or: Even if we were to concede that] all people outside of Christianity--whether heathen, Turks, Jews, or false Christians and hypocrites--believe in and worship only one true God, they still do not know what His mind towards them is and cannot expect any love or blessing from Him. Therefore, they abide in eternal wrath and damnation. For they do not have the Lord Christ, and, besides, are not illumined and favored by any gifts of the Holy Spirit [1 Corinthians 2:9-16; Hebrews 6:4-6].

No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me— not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father. John 6:44-46

Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit. 1 Corinthians 12:3

CONCLUSION

Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. 1 Corinthians 2:12

So with the wise men we bow down and worship Him to whom the star led; to whom all the creation is witness; and most especially of whom the Scriptures speak and the Sacraments deliver even in the flesh to still dwell among us.

And as per Paul’s exhortation to Pastor Timothy, with supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. 3 This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 1 Timothy 2:1-4

And we rejoice with great joy in our salvation and that--even as did the wise men, Mary and Joseph--we now can and do have our own part in the salvation story and eternal life—in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.



Insofar as this sermon is a true proclamation of the Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ, it belongs to Him and His Church. Therefore its use is free to all who deem it worthy and beneficial.



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