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James Merritt - Star of the Show

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    James Merritt - Star of the Show

Scientists now tell us they've estimated that if you count all of the stars, in all of the galaxies in our entire universe, I want you to listen to this. They estimate there are one billion, trillion stars. That's not one billion stars. That's not one trillion stars. They tell us there is one billion, trillion stars. And yet, of all of the billion, trillion stars out there, maybe the most famous and the most celebrated astronomical entity in history is what we call the Bethlehem Star. I don't know of any star in history that has been talked about, and studied about, sung about, had music written about, thought about, especially at Christmas time, than this star. But, you think about it.

Beginning around the third week in November, the star starts popping up everywhere. I could go to a lot of your homes tonight. You could show me your Christmas tree. Many of you have a star at the top of your tree. We all get Christmas cards. How many Christmas cards did you get this year, and embossed somewhere on that card, was this star? You go to any nativity play or any nativity set, you're going to see that star. I mean, the star is just ubiquitous. It's everywhere. A lot of Christmas carols talk about the star. Some Christmas carols are all about the star. You may remember the famous song, We Three Kings, and I don't know if you realize this or not, if you've ever sung that song, you're not just singing about the star, you're actually singing to the star. Maybe you remember these lyrics. Star of wonder, star of light, Star with royal beauty bright, Westward leading, still proceeding, now, you're talking to the star, guide us to thy Perfect light.

Now, if you think we celebrate the star, let me tell you this. If you really want to celebrate the star, if you're really into the star, you ought to go to Bethlehem at Christmas. Now, you talk about celebrating the star, let me give you an example. If you were to go to Bethlehem, if you could get on a plane and fly tonight, and be at Christmas in Bethlehem tomorrow, number one, you could stay at the Bethlehem Star Hotel. Number two, you could shop at the annual Christmas Market. You care to guess which street it's on? Star Street. Listen to this. You can have a latte at Stars and Books Café. Or, if some of you've been with me, you go to Manger Square, you know what you'll find all over the pavement and all over the walls? You will find this Bethlehem Star. It's everywhere. Now, this is the phrase that's been questioned to me. Why is the star so prominent? Why are people so curious about the star? Why is it, every Christmas, we're drawn back to the star. Why do people write music about the star? Why do we still say it is a star of wonder?

And I'll tell you why that I find that incredible. This star is only talked about one time in the whole Bible. It's only mentioned in one chapter in the Bible, and in that chapter, it's only mentioned really two or three times. And yet, it is a part of a very fascinating story. If you'd like to read the story with me, if you have a Bible, an iPad or a smartphone, I want you to turn to a gospel called Matthew. There are four gospels in the New Testament, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. I want you to turn to Matthew 2. And while you're turning and looking at this, we all know the story. If you don't, you may not remember it, but you will very soon. This whole story revolves around some men that we call wise men. The Bible calls them Magi. We're going to read in Matthew 2, picking up in verse one.

"After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, 'Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and we have come to worship him.' After they had heard the king, they went on their way and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was, and when they saw the star, they were overjoyed".

Now, you may remember the story. We called them the wise men. They're actually called Magi. The word Magi gives us an English word. You can figure out what it is. It gives us the word magic, magical, magician. And, the reason why they were called Magi, and the reason why they were called wise men, is because they were stargazers. They were astrologers. They were experts in studying stars. They were experts in studying constellations. Today we would call them astrologers. Now, back in that day, astronomy and astrology were a part of the same overall study. They were kind of hand in hand. They were kind of joined at the hip. Well, these men had come from what we would call today Iraq, modern day Iraq, back then it was known as Babylon. These men had come from the east, so they had come to Israel, and they were looking for a baby. And they were looking for a specific baby, a baby that was going to be a king of the Jewish people.

Now, the question was raised, well now, how did they know anything about a biblical prophecy, about a baby being the king of Israel? Well, you have to remember that, if you don't, I'll refresh your memory. In 600 BC, after being in the Promised Land for hundreds of years, the nation of Israel was actually defeated by the Babylonians, and they took over. And, they deported many of the Jewish people from Jerusalem all the way back to Babylon. Well, these stargazers not only studied the stars, but they were also worried about any kind of sacred writing that they thought might have a clue on what stars might mean. So, it's very obvious that they were very familiar with biblical prophecies that dealt with stars, and there was one biblical prophecy in particular they must have known about, and it's found in Numbers 24, where it says, "A star will come out of Jacob", that is the land of Israel, "A star will come out of Jacob and a scepter", that's what a king holds. "A king, a scepter will rise out of Israel".

Now, these men were wise enough to add two and two together, and they said, wait a minute, wow! Evidently there's going to be a star that's going to be like a sign in the sky, and this star is somehow connected to this king. So, when we see this certain star, we're going to figure out, okay, this king evidently must have been born. Now, before we get into the story, and it won't be very long, and the message will be very brief, but before we do that, I know some of you are probably sitting there thinking what I would be thinking, and that is, so, what was the star? And to be honest with you, there's a lot of speculation about what the star was. I've been reading books about it, and it's all over the place. Some believe it was a comet. Some believe it was what's known as a supernova. Some believe it was a certain alignment of the planets, Jupiter, for example, with a couple of other planets, that made this bright light in the sky.

We don't really know what the star was, however, God didn't need a star to guide them to this baby. He could have used a pillar of fire. He could have used just a bright light. He could have even used an angel. He could have just spoke in a deep, bass voice. But, he uses a star. And so, realizing that, I asked myself, okay, why is the star in the story? What is so important about the star? There must be something about the star that I believe relates to you and me, and I'm going to share with you two things that this star did, that I believe you and I ought to do, not just in the Christmas season, but all year round so that we can have a maximum impact on people who do not know the Jesus that we know. Two things the star did, think about it. Number one, we should glow so people can follow us to Jesus. We should glow so people can follow us to Jesus.

Now, let's go back to verse one, and here's what we read. "After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem". These Magi came from the east. The Greek word there literally means the rising of the sun. In other words, they came from Babylon. Now, if you get out a map and you measure the distance from Babylon to Jerusalem, you'll find it's about 550 miles. These men were so determined they were going to find this baby, they get on camels, they probably traveled by camel back in those days. A camel would go about 15 to 20 miles a day, so you do the math. They traveled somewhere between 28 and 37 days, almost a month and a half.

Now, they thought they should go to Jerusalem. They thought their destination was Jerusalem. Why did they think that? Because Jerusalem was the city of kings. It was known from 1,000 BC to 600 BC as the Royal City of David. So, from the millennium BC until the kingdom dissolved in the sixth century, it was known as the city where kings would go to rein. They would have been hopelessly lost from the very beginning. They would have never gotten anywhere they needed to go, except for one thing. They only had one thing that they were pinning their hope on that would make sure that they would find that baby, and that one thing was that star. That's all they had. That's the only thing they knew to follow. That's the only place they knew to go to.

Now, I don't know what it was that made this star stand out from any other astronomical glow, but it was all they had to follow, and it was all they needed. So, when they decided, when they finally saw this star in the sky, and they said, okay, we've got to go. It's time. Somewhere, someway, this baby has been born. We've got to find this little boy. From that day and moment, day after day, mile after mile, week after week, the only hope they had to find that baby was the light of that star. Now, here's what I want you to think about. From the time they left home, they could not see that baby. They didn't know what the baby looked like. They didn't know what his name was. They didn't know who his parents were. They didn't know, they just knew the baby was there. They could not see that baby. All they could see was the light from that star. The only thing that could lead them was the light from that star.

If at any moment that star had said, you know what, I'm just burned out, I'm tired of this, if that star at any moment had just said, you know what, I've had enough of this, I don't want to do this anymore, and just flipped the off switch, they're lost, hopelessly lost, helplessly lost. There is no way in the world on their own they're going to be able to find that little boy. The light was all they had to follow, and the light was all they needed. So, here's what I want you to think about. The number one job of that star, the number one job, was to glow, was to shine, so that they could follow that star and they could find Jesus.

And here's what I want to say to you. If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, what's your number one job? Your number one job is to live your life in such a way, the way you act, the way you walk, the way you talk, the way you treat other people, the way you run your business, the way you operate your financial affairs, the way you treat your spouse, the way you treat your kids, the way you treat your parents, your job is to live a life in such a way, and you shine in such a way, that people can follow you to Jesus. And you might be saying, well, where do you get that? What idea do you get that from? I get it from Jesus himself. You remember this, these words from Jesus? Jesus said, "In the same way, let your light shine before others that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven".

Jesus is the star of the show, but we're on the undercard. We're also to be stars, shining through the way we live, and act, and talk, so that people will see the light of Jesus in us, and we can point them to the star of the show. So, just like that first star, we're to shine. We're to glow. We're to do it in such a way, we're to be so different from the run of the mill people out there in the world, that people will see the light shining in us and they'll say... I want to know how I can follow you to Jesus. That's one thing. Here's the other thing. We should go, so people can find Jesus. We should glow so people can follow us to Jesus, but we should go so people can find Jesus.

Now, this is where the story really gets interesting. They get to Jerusalem, but they still don't know where this baby is. And so, they come to King Herod and they say, look, we saw the star in the sky, and I believe King Herod probably had seen it as well. So, we've seen this star in the sky and we're trying to find this baby, but we don't really know where this baby is. Can you help us? King Herod says, well, gosh, I don't know either, but I'll tell you this. I'm really well connected to the rabbis. I'm really well connected to the Pharisees, and I'm really well connected to the PHDs and these biblical scholars, and they know.

So, King Herod calls in these Pharisees and these priests and these rabbis, and he says, hey, they're looking for this king. They're looking for this new, messianic king that's supposed to be born, the king of the Jews. And they say, oh, yeah, we know exactly where the child's supposed to be born. Really? Where? In Bethlehem. Well, how do you know? Well, Micah 5:2. Micah prophesized that this baby would be born in Bethlehem. Even though they can find Bethlehem, they are still totally out of luck unless something miraculous happens. And what happens? Once again, the star comes through. Because the star doesn't just glow.

Now we're told when they walk out of that palace and they start to Bethlehem, in effect the star said, hey guys, follow me. Just keep your eyes on me. I'm going to take you exactly where you need to go. I'm going to take you to where I was created to go before you even were born in this world. And so, here's what we read in verse nine. "And after they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star that they had seen, when it rose", that is, over a month and a half ago, "went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was". Now, I don't mind telling you, that's one of the most incredible verses to me in the Bible. I don't understand it, I don't get it, and I can't totally explain it, but we're told that the star goes to this house and it stops, almost as if it's shining a spotlight right on the very place where this little boy was born.

Now, the reason why I don't find that hard to believe, and the reason why I find that really kind of what we would expect to find, is this. If you ever go to a Broadway play or you go to a musical and they have a spotlight, who do they always shine the spotlight on, always? The star of the show, that's who gets the spotlight. That's who is in the spotlight. So, it doesn't surprise me that this star comes to this house and says, hey, pssst, you're right there. Right there. Right there. He's right there, in that door. And you say, oh, that's one account. That just sounds farfetched to me. Well, maybe you missed something that we read a while ago. In fact, I'll bet you did, because I missed it almost all of my life until I studied this passage. You see, that was no ordinary, whatever it was, that was no ordinary star that led these men to Bethlehem.

You say, well, what do you mean? Do you remember how they described the star, back in verse one? If you don't, let me show you again. They said, they're talking to King Herod. "Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw", what's the word? Say it out loud. His. Not a star, not some star, not the star. "We saw his star". It was his star. "When it rose and have come to worship him". That star was his star. God put Jesus' name on that star above every other star. And from the time that star was created, that star was created for one purpose, and one purpose alone, go where Jesus was, and lead these men to follow him and find him. Everywhere that Jesus went, this lamb was sure to go, this star was sure to go. You get it? That's why it was there. They said, oh, this is his star.

That's why you read this, in verse 10. "When they saw the star, they were overjoyed". Do you know what that really says in the Greek language? That's a very weak translation. That phrase in the Greek language is so long, here's what it literally says. They were unbelievably, indescribably, deliriously happy. It was because that star had finally brought them to what they'd been looking for all along, Jesus. Now, here's what I want you to hear. Listen to this. These men had gone where God wants all of us to go, and that's to Jesus. You are not put on this earth to make money. You are not put on this earth to get an education. You are not put on this earth to get a job. You are not put on this earth to save for retirement. You are not put on this earth just to buy a house, drive a car, live a little while and turn up your toes and die. You were put on this earth to come to Jesus, every one of us. Every one of us.

And there have been so many stars in your life, whether you recognize it or not. So many lights in your life, and all of these stars and all of these lights have been to bring you to Jesus. So, what I want to do now is just close with two questions, and we're going to go home. Two quick questions. Because you have the right to ask this question, and I would ask it, too. And you may be sitting there saying, well, this is really nice. I really enjoyed that. I've never thought about the star that way before. You did a lot of homework. I appreciate your study. That was really interesting. But, wait a minute. What's the star got to do with you? And what's the star got to do with me? I mean, you've still got to go to work next week, and you've still got to pay your bills, and you've still got to make a marriage work, and you've still got to be a good parent, and you've still got to be a good son or a good daughter, and you still need to be a good neighbor.

So, what does all of this have to do with you? Well, let me talk to two groups of people real quick, and we'll finish. I want to talk to the majority of you in this room, and you're a follower of Jesus. You would say to me, I'm a Christian, I'm a follower of Jesus, I love Jesus, I've been born again, He's my Lord, He's my Savior. Well, okay, then I want to show you something about you. A Jewish rabbi by the name of Paul, who at one time hated Christmas, hated the Christ at Christmas, didn't want anything to do with Christmas. He didn't believe in the Magi, he didn't believe in the shepherds, he didn't believe in the angels, he didn't believe in the baby. He didn't believe nothing until he met Jesus, face to face.

This Jewish rabbi, who became a follower of Jesus, wrote something to a church in Philippi about how he expected them to live, and how God wanted them to live, and here's what he wrote. He said, "I want you to become blameless and pure children of God without a fault in a warped and crooked generation. Then you will shine among them like", what's that word? "Stars in the sky". This man said, you know, when you meet Jesus, and you trust Jesus, and you love Jesus, and you know Jesus, and you worship Jesus, then you will glow and you will go so that other people want to come to that light. My question to you tonight, if you're a follower of Jesus, is this question. That's my question: Is your flashlight on? Are you shining as a star, so that people can follow you to the star of the show?

There was a prophet named Daniel who wrote these words thousands of years ago. He said, "Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens and those who lead many to righteousness like the", what? "Stars, forever and ever". You've got a job as a follower of Jesus Christ. You are to shine. Your light is to shine. Your light is to shine in such a way, so bright, it is to glow in such a different way from everybody around you that people will see the light of Christ shining in you. And they'll say, I want to follow and find what it is you're following, and what it is that you have found. That's my word to you.

Now, the second group. So, you walked in here tonight, and I'm glad you're here. But maybe you came because the grandkids begged you to come, or your kids begged you to come, or you're in town and you've got nothing else to do. It's the kind of thing you do at Christmas Eve with your family. But just to be honest, you're really not into this Jesus stuff. You're not really sure about the Christmas deal. You're not really buying into the star, and the Magi, and the angels, and the shepherds, and this baby was the son of God. You're just not really into all of that. You're not really sure about all of that. Here's all I want to say to you. There's one of the groups in this story that I don't want you to forget, and it was those religious leaders, those Pharisees and those priests, and let me tell you why I want you to think about that.

What you did tonight, they did every Sabbath. They went to the synagogue every Sabbath. They studied the Bible. They prayed. They said they had a personal relationship with God. And they didn't even bother to take the time to walk the five miles to check the story out for themselves. All I'm asking you to do is this. If you've never trusted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, and you've never given your heart and your life to Him, all I'm asking you to do is just this. Just take the five mile journey, and just check him out. That's all. Just see. Just see whether or not he really is who he said that he was. Because if you don't, a miss is as good as a mile, and this is what I close with, and this is why this is so important to me.

So, I believe the greatest tragedy in life, by far, is to go through this show called life, and miss the star of the show. Because I've got news for you, I wish I could talk to every Hollywood actor and every Hollywood actress. I wish I could talk to every millionaire and every billionaire. I wish I could talk to every dictator, and every ruler, and every president. I wish I could talk to everybody and anybody that's got power, and money, and influence. You know what I would love to tell them? You're not the star of the show. Jesus is the star of the show.

So, I'm just telling you this, and then we're going to pray. It is a tragedy to go through this life, the show called life, and miss the star of the show. Because, this Jesus, that little baby that those wise men, those Magi, that little baby that they traveled a mile and a half, 550 miles, and oh, by the way, when they got there, the first thing they did was get on their knees and worship a two year old boy. And the reason why they did that is because that baby is no ordinary baby. That baby is the Jewish messiah. That baby is the savior of the world. That baby is the Lord of the universe. That baby is the king of kings. That baby is the star of the show. That baby is the star of Christmas. And that baby wants to be the star of your heart.
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