1. Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, 2. saying, "Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him." 3. When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. 4. And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. 5. So they said to him, "In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet: 'But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are not the least among the rulers of Judah; For out of you shall come a Ruler Who will shepherd My people Israel.' "
With so much happening in the world, it becomes easier and easier to “lose sight” of the things that really should capture our focus as the people of God. So many things vying for our attention. What is the next big thing? When will the job market improve so that I can purchase the next big thing? With so much violence taking place, are our families safe? Safe from the criminals? Safe from those who are sworn to protect us? In times like these we need to check our anchors, and make sure that we’re sure of this one thing: There is a God who sits high and He’s looking low, and He has all power – in His hands! That means He has the final word! Hallelujah!
So our focal point for the next few moments, and I pray more and more for the rest of our lives, is the A.H.A. moment. As an acronym in this sermon, it stands for Ascending to a Higher Awareness of God. It is what many understand as an Epiphany. It is a moment of divine manifestation – when God reveals to mankind some part of God’s nature, person, or purpose. The word epiphany has Greek origins from the word epiphaneia, and it originally meant an extraordinary appearance, also transliterated “fantasy from beyond.” It is also defined as the moment when a profound thought suddenly comes to you like, (SNAP) “I COULDA HAD A V8!” And this is the season when the church, universally, observes the day of Epiphany as the time that Christ was revealed to the gentiles through the wise men also known as the Magi. We celebrate the belief that through the birth of Christ, God has entered into our plain of existence in a tangible way, and thus into our lives.
The questions that arise through God’s Word today is, “Where do we search for profound moments of inspiration, illumination and revelation?” “Do we seek out the light of God or does the Light of God seek us out?” “Where do we see God to be present among and in us? What are the signs of the sacred among us? It is through that exploration, that spiritual journey, that we consider the AHA/Awakening Moment, Season of Discovery.
It is important to note that the shepherds and the wise men were two separate groups of people with two different purposes in this story. The coming of Christ was first revealed to the Jewish world through the shepherds who received the angelic announcement, an epiphany of their own, and ran to the stable to see for themselves. We often confuse the wise men with the shepherds largely due to the sensationalism of the Nativity Account, but it was through the wise men that Christ was revealed to the Gentiles.
The journey of the Magi – called the “wise men” of this account, translated from the Persian word magoi from which the word “magicians” is derived, they began with a few men who were dedicated to the task of looking up, over and beyond the resources that were within their reach. Many theologians believe these wise men from the East were descendants of the Magi of which Daniel was the (Rab-Magus in Aramaic or) Chief Magi. It is said that many of them were knowledgeable of the Hebrew Scriptures and traditions; honorable astrologers who watched the stars, yet it seems that many of them were not fully aware that someone greater beyond the stars was watching them. Someone who could supernaturally place a Star in the midst of the constellation and cause it to shine more brightly than any other. Someone who knew how to get their attention! Someone who knew how to speak in a language that they could
and would respond to. How many of you believe that God knows how to get your attention! And that my brothers and sisters is the spark that lights the flame of an AHA Moment.
An AHA Moment is an opportunity presented by God to Ascend to a Higher Awareness in God. It does not begin with us. God is the initiator and God seals the deal. Jesus said in Rev. 22:13 that, “I am the Alpha and the Omega. The beginning and the end.” The writer of Hebrews was inspired to write in the 12th chap. and the 2nd verse, “Let us fix our eyes upon Jesus, the author and perfecting finisher of our faith. And so as God illuminated the coming of Christ, it warranted a response from those who were called for such a time as this to reveal the arrival of the Christ to the gentiles.
Like many saints of old they obediently heeded a call to step out on faith, to Ascend to a Higher Awareness of God, not as a vain act of, “Hey look what I’m doing,” but as an act of worship of a King they longed to know. Right here. Right now, in the common places of our lives, God has illuminated himself to call us to a higher place of praise, a deeper level of worship, and a greater level of accountability and service! God is calling us to action! But how will you respond? When God initiates the varied AHA Moments of your life, he can take you from glory to glory dependent on your response. Will you ignore what the Spirit of the Lord is revealing to you right now? In this season? Or will you respond and move as God leads you to move? The Magi responded with a faith that moved them to action!
It is believed that the Magi traveled from Persia in the East, passing through Jerusalem where they inquired about the birth of the King of the Jews. The very inquiry of the Magi was an Epiphany - a moment of revelation for King Herod which must have insulted, as well as infuriated Herod the Great. He was served notice that Jesus, the Bread of Life, had come to the Bethlehem, the House of Bread in Judah the land of Praise, to take His place as King. It meant that someone greater than Herod the greater had arrived! When you begin to heed the call of God to seek something and someone greater than yourself, everybody is not going to be happy about it, but we must be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord no matter what the cost.
Like Abraham, they set out on a journey, not knowing where it would take them (Hebrews 11:8). They did not know how long the trip would be when they decided to follow the star that appeared in the East. They didn’t know how they would be received in the faraway foreign land. They didn’t even know what the King would look like; nor did they know when or if they would return home. Yet they, like Abraham, chose to make the journey.
Following the light of God toward the fulfillment of our purpose is a journey of similar faith. We often feel that we don't know where our journey will lead us, and we certainly never know what we will find along the way. We do, however, know that God goes before us, and is with us, and that the journey is not in vain.
As I close, I’d like to share three responses from the example the Magi provide in today’s scriptural reflection that we should consider as we prepare for the AHA moments yet before us.
First, keep looking up, heavenward, seeking the face of God. Solomon was inspired to write in Proverbs 3:5,6: Trust in the Lord … Trust denotes a leaning forward, and a placing of your weight on the one that you are depending upon to see you through. You’re not leaning or depending upon your own understanding, but you’re leaning on God! Saint’s we have to acknowledge Him in all our ways! When our money gets funny and our bills are due, we have to keep looking up! When the vicissitudes of life overwhelm us, don’t give up - we have to keep looking up – heavenward! When the doctor pronounces a final word prognosis over our health situations, we have to seek out God’s Word, and trust that God will direct our paths!
Secondly we must be relentless in our pursuit of divine connection with God and the things of God.
Jesus said in John 14: “I am the true vine. You are the branches. If you abide in me, you shall produce much fruit!” If you want to be productive and successful in the pursuits you engage next year, you have to abide in Jesus! We have to stay connected! That means we have to take action! We have to pursue the things of God relentlessly as the Magi did. They had caught a glimpse of the prophetic, and didn’t give up until they possessed what God had for them! What God has for you is for you! Don’t give up! Pray without ceasing. Study God’s Word, and take your cues for life and living from God. Let God’s Word be the basis of every decision you make now and in the years to come. Let God’s Word be a lamp unto your feet, and a light unto your path! (Take time to be holy.)
Finally, worship the King with your gifts. Acknowledge the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords as Fine Shining Gold tried by the fire whose luster and brilliance causes others to seek out the King to Worship. As frankincense in your priestly role, let your worship of God be a sweet aroma unto the Lord as the flavor of God’s favor. Present your gifts unto God as Myrrh that you may be used as a covering fragrance for those who are preparing to die that they might live in Christ.
May this season of awakening, this AHA moment of reflection be a time of discovering or rediscovering God's love for all of us, as we truly “trust God to empower and lead us to where God wants us to be.” (Because if Jesus leads us to it, it will indeed be a place of abundant blessings.) And as we engage the All Encompassing Light of the world, may we move with an ever-increasing confidence along the path that only God can illuminate for us, all to His majestic glory, and our good. Hallelujah! Amen.
In His Service,
Pastor Emery B. Barber