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Sermon Overview & Prayer: "The Foreigners"

PRAYING THE SERMONMatthew 2:1-12

Matthew 2:1 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 saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”
Father, help me to always closely observe a Nativity scene through the lens of Scripture rather than through mere tradition or sentimentality. Remind me that that moment had its origin in eternity past; is desperately, desperately relevant for the present; and has the most profound implications for all mankind for eternity future.

ESV Study Bible - Wise men or magi applied to a wide range of people whose practices included astrology, dream interpretation, study of sacred writings, the pursuit of wisdom and magic.
They were astronomers and astrologers who thought that events, whether present day or the future were to be found in studying the stars.
Lord, may this group of guests coming to this little town, fill my heart with urgency that all are in need of a Savior; and with thanksgiving and praise that your invitation to be saved extends to all.  May this also fill my heart with faith to pray, because none are beyond the reach or the means that you use to draw sinners to yourself.

Herod knew he wasn’t born king of the Jews, the rightful heir to the David throne of David, but was appointed king under the authority of Rome. So the arrival of the true king of the Jews was very much a threat to Herod. A genuine ruler of Israel would have rejoiced at this news of the birth of the Messiah but not Herod for he was a fraudulent ruler and so it’s no surprise “he was troubled.”
Father, we once again see a vain attempt to challenge your rule and reign...to thwart your purposes and plans. We saw it in the garden, we see it in Herod, we’ll see it in the cross. What hope and joy we find in the truth that no plan of hell will stop your plan of salvation, your redeeming grace, your intention to have a people, and your promise to fill the earth with your glory.

And verse 11 describes the moment when they first laid eyes on the one born king of the Jews and their immediate response to this sight: “And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshipped him…” And they come bearing gifts-gifts appropriate for a king: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
Lord God, I am provoked by the reverence, worship, generosity and awe extended to a babe...by those ignorant of the full truth of the gospel and the cross to come. May my life be my offering to the one I know to be Lord and Savior, God and King...a life of thanksgiving and praise, faith and obedience, love and kindness, serving and sacrifice, humility and holiness. And may I too, go forth to tell others of the one who came to save us from our sin!

The magi represent Gentile sinners like me and you because Jesus is born not just the king of the Jews but as the Savior for every nation, tribe and language.
The nativity scene is actually scandalous! You have a child conceived out of wedlock by a teenage girl.
You have shepherds representing the lowest class, those with no social status in Israel. And you have the magi, star-gazing wizards, representing Gentile sinners. But this scandalous scene is also a wonderful and beautiful scene for sinners like you and me. The scandalous nativity scene accurately understood is an invitation from God himself to Gentile sinners like you and me to respond to the good news of the one born to be the Savior of the world.
Father, may my perspective about any person or group of people, always include and be ultimately informed by, “For God so loved the world, that he have his only Son...” Help me to always remember that my attendance at the Nativity would have been most consistent with the already scandalous scene.  Let the wonder of your great salvation in the birth of our Savior, fill my heart and this season with songs of praise, and testimonies of your glorious goodness and grace!

OVERVIEW OF THE SERMON:
In Matthew 2:1-12, Bethlehem takes the “center stage of human history” with the visit of the magi from the east. God’s personal summons of the magi demonstrates that the gospel extends beyond the nation of Israel. The gospel is not for good people or religious people. It is for sinners like you and me. The nativity scene is scandalous, because the magi represent every unlikely and every undeserving guest that God includes on his personal guestlist. 

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS:

  1. In what ways has CJ’s sermon changed your view of the magi’s visit and God’s purpose behind it?
  2. Unlike Herod, Jesus was born as the Rightful King! Like Herod, our old selves are each threatened by Jesus’ righteous rule. Considering this story, why is the humble “nativity scene” exceedingly better than any worldly success we might achieve?
  3. CJ explained how, in God’s sovereignty, the magi’s gifts served a purpose far greater than they could have realized. Their lavish gifts actually enabled Mary and Joseph to afford and fund their escape to Egypt. How will you pray audaciously this week for far-off provision and salvation that only God can bring?
  4. Thinking of specific people in your life, how could you retell the story of the magi to demonstrate God’s undeserved love even for pagan magicians and sinners like us?