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A belated Christmas gift from 2Jesus

I hope that this was your best Christmas ever. I remember a best Christmas ever. I was eight years old. I had asked my parents for a bicycle. Not just any kind of bicycle, but a black English racer. To make sure my mother wouldn't forget, I thoughtfully pasted several pictures from the Sears catalogue of the exact model on the refrigerator door. The expectation of getting the bike was so real, so much a part of me, that just waiting for Christmas to finally arrive was nearly more than I could bare. When my brother teased me and said, "You're not getting that bike, you know." I'd put my hands on my hips and say, "Oh yes I am!" I knew I'd get that bike, because my parents knew how much it meant to me.

On Christmas morning, the second there was any glimmer of day light, my brother and I crept down and there it was! Exactly what I had hoped for. What I has dreamed about. Exactly what I had expected.

I was so excited I hadn't noticed my other presents till my Dad handed me a red metal box. I opened it and was completely amazed. A chemistry set!

Not the little one with just a few chemicals, but the big one with the three full doors of chemicals. With the microscope and alcohol burner. How did he know? I wanted that chemistry set even more than I wanted the bike, but I figured I had a better chance of getting the bike. It was my hidden, true heart desire and my father had given it to me.

How could he have known? I hadn't even told him about it. But somehow my father knew what I really wanted. That Christmas I not only got what I hoped for ... but more than I could possibly have imagined.

The Christmas season is full of surprises ... a tradition that began some 2000 years ago. Not just with the birth of Christ, but with the expectation and anticipation that He would come.

Most of us are familiar with the story of the Magi. These wise men were gentile astrologers, dream interpreters, scientists and respected men of medicine. Nightly they studied the placement of the moon and stars and watched the skies for any change that could indicate a foretelling of a change in the world.

Then one night, something extraordinary ... something supernatural appears in the heavens. A light bigger than anything they had ever witnessed or even heard about mysteriously appears. What did this event mean? What was happening? Could it be an announcement of a new king about to be born? The Magi had a reputation for correctly predicted such events. But surely this child would be no ordinary king. The star was too magnificent for a mere mortal. The star could only mean that the long awaited King of the Jews ... the Messiah ... had been born.

Matthew's Gospel tells us that the Magi followed the star to find this miraculous child so they could worship him. At Jerusalem they stopped to ask for directions. (One must have been a female. Men never stop and ask for directions!) Perhaps it was in Herod's own court that this wondrous king would be born.

"Where is this King of the Jews," they ask Herod. "We've seen his star and we have come to worship Him." News quickly spread all throughout Jerusalem that there were Magi at court who were not only convinced that the long awaited Messiah had arrived, but they were on a quest to find him.

This was not at all news Herod wanted to hear. He might have thought, "What do you mean you're looking for the King of the Jews so you can worship him? What am I? Chopped liver? I am the king of the Jews."

Herod calls a meeting of the Jewish Scholars. "So what do you think? Could these Magi be right? Has the Messiah come? Study the scriptures ... see what they say. Find out if the prophets tell us where he is to be born?"

And they do just that. The scholars inform Herod that the prophet Mica predicted that this child would be born in Bethlehem. Herod sends for the Magi. He has a plan. He's going to hunt for this child, he's going to find him and then he's going to kill him. And he's going to use the Magi to do it.

He tells them that the Messiah is to be born in the city of David ... Bethlehem. And he says to them, "Find out where he lives. Then come back and report to me so I can go and worship him, too."

The Magi immediately head to the city of David. And guess what? The star mysteriously appears again ... just like it had the first time ... guiding them to the exact location. Can you imagine their excitement?

However, when they finally find Jesus, the experience is not at all what they had expected. The boy did not live in a palace but in a small, plain house. He was not a wealthy king dressed in fine robes, but the son of a peasant woman. His outward appearance was nothing spectacular.

But when they look into his face ... when they look into His face ... they receive not only what they hoped for ... but more than they could possibly have imagined. For what they saw was not just a king, but the King of Kings. When they look into His face, they see the face of God ... and they are transformed.

What the Magi saw two thousand years ago, is what we can see today. We are the fourth Magi ... 20th century witnesses to the mystical revelation that God is one of us. He has come to share in our humanity by becoming human. He is not only fully God, but humbles himself to us by choosing to become fully man in order to share our hopes and dreams ... our frustrations and sorrows.

The Magi began their journey filled with anticipation, and a faith that what they would discover was to be a monumental event. They had no doubt that they would find the Messiah, for they brought gifts to give him. They put their simple faith into action and their reward was to be witness to the greatest event in history of time!

Our spiritual journey to find Christ ... to have an intimate relationship with Him, begins as it did with the Magi: with expectation, faith and hope. God first revealed Himself to the Magi in the yearning to find Him. God has also revealed himself to all of us in that same yearning, or we wouldn't be here today. That's the wonder and splendor of the Christmas story: God not only revealed himself to the world, but continues to reveal himself thousands of years later.

The cover of the December issue of Life magazine asked, "When you think of God, what do you see?" Matthew helps us to understand that seeking Jesus is not with the question of what, but with the question of whom? And where? The Magi asked, "Where is this King of the Jews?"

He is here. In this church. He is at the bedside of a sick child when a parent cries out to him. He is found in our laughter, and in our unspeakable sorrows. Christ is always present ... when we need him, and there when we think we don't. He's that supernatural voice who called out to each of us this morning. By walking through the front door of this church today, we followed that star in the east to find Him ... the star who is Jesus.

Keep following that star. Follow that star to the altar and like the magi, expect that something extraordinary ... something wondrous is about to happen to you. Because it is. Feel the intimate presence of your Lord. Look into His face ... see the face of God and be joyful. Because your heavenly father has given you your true heart's desire. All that you hoped for ... more than you could ever imagined. You got your chemistry set!

(Sermon she gave at Christmas at her church)

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