(This sermon and sermon series is based on materials produced and published by Creative Communications for the Parish titled “The Bright Star of Bethlehem.”)
“Space, the final frontier.”
Over a half century ago a young President challenged this nation to, “before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth.” And we did.
SPACE_Record-Skydiver_39km_Stratosphere_14 (Photo credit: MATEUS_27:24&25)
Space fascinates us still today. One of the most incredible feats last year was the parachuting to earth from 128,100 feet by Felix Frankfurter. He safely made it.
We often find ourselves, on a clear night, looking up
Big Dipper (Photo credit: Arnob1_1998)
into the heavens and at the stars and the vastness of space. Learning the location of the big dipper, the little dipper, and other named constellations, have been part of science education for a long time.
The Wise Men 01 (Photo credit: Waiting For The Word)
Space figures into the central story of Advent – the Birth of Jesus Christ. Matthew tells of the arrival of wise men, (note that Matthew’s text does not indicate the number of Magi who came, it could have been three, it could have been more than three) Magi they are called and considered to be astrologers show up to bring gifts to Jesus. What brought them there was the sighting of ‘the star in the east’ which they followed to Bethlehem.
To hear the word ‘astrology’ today is to think of fortune-tellers who foresee into our future and tell us what to expect. But these men were considered very learned men, and some scholars suggest that the first audience, who read Matthew’s account, would have thought about the astrologers who are mentioned in the Old Testament book of Daniel.
But, these “wise men” worship the baby Jesus. The King of the Jews, the King of Heaven! One source I read suggests that Matthew was making clear that Jesus came to die and rise from the dead for all people, not just a few or a select group, and that the Good News of the Christian faith is for all of us no matter our background.
During this advent season we are going to consider this Star of Bethlehem from four perspectives:
As a Star of Creation
As a Star of Hope
As a Star of Unity
As a Star of Joy
Today we take time to consider the Star of Bethlehem as a star of creation.
Now before we look at portions of the texts we have heard this morning and we begin advent by remembering Jesus’ death on our behalf, a brief geography lesson.
Bethlehem, a town of about 25,000 is located about six
Palestine_Bethlehem-Har_Homa-10223_NK20868 (Photo credit: gnuckx)
miles south of Jerusalem.
It is mentioned in the Old Testament in the minor prophet Micah, in Micah 5:2 as a place where a “ruler over Israel,” would come:
“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah,
out of you will come for me
one who will be ruler over Israel,
whose origins are from of old,
from ancient times.”
And, as we read in the gospel accounts of Jesus’ birth, it is the place where Jesus was born.
This morning though we go to the sky above Bethlehem and consider this theme the Star of Creation. Who or what is the star of creation? Let’s consider what each of our three texts has to say about this theme, the star of creation.
Earthrise, Seen From the Moon (NASA, Moon, 6/16/09) (Photo credit: NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center)
Our Old Testament reading for this morning, out of Psalm 19, takes, in my view, a high view of the created order. The Psalmist reminds us that the heavens “declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.”
The Psalmist goes on to give what appears to be contradictory thoughts of speech without words and then says
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world.
Older translations of the Bible use the word ‘line’ in place of speech. And don’t we hear people say from to time, ‘what was his line of thought?’
What is the Psalmist’s line of thought here and how does it relate to this theme of star of creation? More important what is God’s line of thought?
I suggest this morning that creation is a vital part of God’s purposes because they give evidence of His intentions, power, and presence. The heavens declare the glory of God. God both created and dwells in the heaven and so this star which stood over Bethlehem is evidence of His creation power and His personal presence on that night.
But there is more.
In our New Testament reading out of Colossians 1 and verses 15 through 20, Paul goes deep and makes some important statements about who Jesus Christ is:
the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.
in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth,
all things have been created through him and for him.
He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead
For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
I suggest that Paul is saying here that God uses it all – creation on earth and creation in the heavens to accomplish His redemptive purposes through the baby in the manger.
Then there are John’s deep and elegant words in the opening chapter of his gospel:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
Light figures prominently in these opening verses:
He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.
Light refers to Jesus and light refers to the message of Jesus. And the messenger and the message are the same – it is a message of forgiveness; of hope; second chances; of a peace and joy that the hustle and bustle of this season cannot replace.
So Pastor, what does all of this mean?
The star which stood over Bethlehem, a star of creation, which brings magnificent light to us, is a reminder of the light which Jesus brought into the world. It is a light of new creation. It reminds that the Light of the World is the baby in the manger – it’s Jesus.
Remember what Paul wrote?
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!
So as we begin this advent season and as we take time to remember and give thanks for what Paul called an “indescribable gift,” let us remember Jesus’ sacrificial love as we begin this advent season.
English: Baptist communion elements (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Let us prepare our hearts for communion. Amen.