God Has Landed: Rejoice & Respond! (Matthew 2:1-11)

God has landed! Right in a manger. Right on top of cow spit and barnyard bacteria. Jesus came a long way to save us. Two thousand years ago, the eternal Son of God stepped across the stars of the universe to become a zygote in the womb of the Virgin Mary. And then he was born as one of us. “Manhood and deity in perfect harmony—the Man who is God,” wrote Graham Kendrick.

Christmas, then, is the ultimate display of meekness and majesty in one person. “Glory to God in the highest,” was the angelic response. They easily could have said, “Glory to God in lowest,” too. God is with us now in the person of Jesus Christ. On earth. Magi from the east were among the first to welcome him. Following the natal star, they set out on a journey to find the newborn king. 

It was more than curiosity that drew this caravan of dignitaries and polymaths to Jesus. It was God himself. They saw him at work in the sky—speaking their language—and they wanted to go meet with him. Indeed, this passage shows us that God speaks in a variety of ways because he has something important to say. Matthew 2:1-11 reminds us that God makes himself known to us:

  • generally through creation. (1-2)
  • specifically through revelation. (3-6)
  • graciously through intervention. (7-10)
  • supremely through incarnation. (11a)

Are we listening? The Magi were listening, and that’s why they traveled hundreds of miles across the desert to go see the Christ. They were men of wisdom and learning. They were into math, medicine, astronomy, and human nature. Some of them were superstitious. We get our word “magic” from their title. Call them “wizards” if you like. It was basically the cast of Harry Potter who came to see Jesus. Mark it well: Gentiles (non-Jews) were among the first to welcome and worship the Christ, indicating that God means for Jesus to be the Savior for the whole world!

If the Magi teach us anything, it’s that it’s never enough for us to just be amazed at the wonders of God; we have to set out on the journey and follow him. Our calling is not just to stand in awe of creation but to get to know the Creator. That’s why God’s revelation of himself in Christ demands a response of faith in Christ. He is worthy of our treasure and our trust. Indeed, he wants everyone to come and worship his Son. He wants you to worship his Son. Even if you’re a wizard.

This interactive Christmas Day devotional is followed by a reading of The Tale of Three Trees, a wonderful story for children of all ages.

Sermon Resources:

Contact This New Life directly for the sermon audio file.

Created to Create: Imagineering Our Way through Life

  • “I am imagination. I can see what the eyes cannot see. I can hear what the ears cannot hear. I can feel what the heart cannot feel.” (Peter Nivio Zarlenga)

  • “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.” (Albert Einstein)

  • “If we have learned anything else it is that the ideas of the poets and artists penetrate where everything else has failed.” (Norman Cousins)

  • “The value of the cleansed imagination in the sphere of religion lies in its power to perceive in natural things shadows of things spiritual.” (A. W. Tozer)

  • “I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.” (Michelangelo)

One of the first things we learn about God in Scripture is that he is creative (Gen 1:1). He is both original and originating. Setting aside the important question of why there is something rather than nothing, the universe as an object to be observed bears the marks of order, design, artistry, and imaginativeness. Have you ever seen a giraffe up close? Or an otter? Or a platypus? Can all such oddities be chalked up to biological happenstance, or is God is the original “imagineer”? It is reasonable to conclude the latter.

Moreover, as human beings made in the image of God, we are people who can create. Don’t pass over that truth too quickly. God creates people who can create! Indeed, we often find some of our greatest fulfillment in life by creating things—songs, poems, paintings, novels, sculptures, clothing, cabinetry, etc. By cultivating our inner lives—by nurturing and living out the image of God in us—we can use our imaginations for the glory of God, leading to much personal satisfaction as a byproduct. The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis are a perfect case in point. Lewis was a gifted and effective “imagineer” for the gospel, and writing children’s stories was a great personal delight to him.

Scripture

The Bible itself bears witness to the power of the imagination:

  • The delightful description of growing older in Ecclesiastes 12
  • The curious visions of Ezekiel, Daniel, Zechariah, and John
  • The earthy parables of the kingdom by Jesus in the Gospels
  • The heartening portrayal of the New Jerusalem as a radiant bride in Revelation

The list is long. Consider the story of David and Absalom in 2 Samuel 17. David has been forced out of Jerusalem by Absalom, who now possesses his father’s throne, wives, and leadership of the army. But in the midst of his achievement, he has a problem. What should he do with his father-king who has escaped into the wilderness? Absalom solicits advice from two sources:

Ahithophel (17:1-4)

  • His advice is “left brain” (i.e., objective, precise, logical).
  • His emphasis is on information, analysis, the factual.
  • His approach is to be a conduit of information.
  • His message is “heard.”

Hushai (17:7-13)

  • His advice is right brain (i.e., subjective, affective, emotive).
  • His emphasis is on the hearer (“you” . . . “your”).
  • His approach is to be a painter of word pictures
    • “as fierce as a wild bear robbed of her cubs”
    • “whose heart is like the heart of a lion”
    • “will melt with fear”
    • “sand on the seashore”
    • “dew settles on the ground”
  • His message is “seen and felt.”

Absalom and his advisors like Ahithophel’s plan, but Absalom still wants to hear Hushai’s counsel. When Hushai is finished offering his (more imaginative) presentation, everyone regards his plan as superior to Ahithophel’s, and that is the plan they follow.

Had they followed Ahithophel’s advice, they would have routed David. Instead, David’s life is spared (17:14). This turn of events is a fulfillment of David’s prayer that God would turn Ahithophel’s counsel into foolishness (cf. 2 Sam 15:31).

Clearly, the impact of a presentation laced with imagination can be profound. Like any other capacity we have, imagination can be corrupted, but as A. W. Tozer noted (above), a cleansed imagination has much power.

Jesus

Jesus himself made use of the imaginative to communicate his message. His parables, for example, were not “Bible stories” when they were first told; they were short, simple, earthy stories invented to communicate important spiritual truths. Regarding these parables, Haddon Robinson writes, “[Jesus] didn’t read them out of a book. He made them up on the spot. He created them out of life. He used his imagination.” In other words, Jesus was not merely propositional in his teaching ministry. He was not static, flat, dull, or uninteresting. He was dynamic and pulsated with divine life. Michael Card, in his book Scribbling in the Sand: Christ and Creativity, describes the famous scene in John 8 where the woman is caught in the act of adultery, and Jesus curiously stoops down to write on the ground:

“It was art and it was theater at the same time, but it was more. It was what he did not say that spoke most powerfully to the mob that morning. It was a cup of cold water for a thirsty adulteress and an ice-cold drenching in the face to a group of angry Pharisees. To this day we have not the slightest idea what it was Jesus twice scribbled in the sand. By and large the commentaries have asked the wrong question through the ages. They labor over the content, over what he might have written. They ask what without ever realizing that the real question is why. It was not the content that mattered but why he did it. Unexpected. Irritating. Creative.”

Card goes on to suggest that Jesus’ stooping to write on the ground was his way of drawing the angry stares of the Pharisees and the nosey gawks of the crowd away from the woman and onto himself. The leers and hostility were now falling on him instead of the accused. That’s the gospel. Jesus became her substitute. It was an enacted parable of grace, verified by those climactic and memorable words, “Let he among you who is without sin cast the first stone. . . . Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.”

Wonder

This re-presentation of the text is imagination at its finest, producing a true sense of wonder in the listeners. C. S. Lewis suggested that wonder is “the echo of a song the soul has not yet heard.” That is, it is a song coming to us from the Original Singer who sang all of creation into existence.

One Christian author wrote, “Wonder is that possession of the mind that enchants the emotions while never surrendering reason. . . . It interprets life through the eyes of eternity while enjoying the moment, but never lets the momentary vision exhaust the eternal.”

Let us, then, be “wonder-full” people. Let us keep creating good and beautiful things that speak well of our Creator, in whose image we are made. Let us imagineer our way through life.

Image Credits: pexels.com; stacksnap.io; saltradioministries.com.