Christ the King, Palm Coast, FL
~ Pastor Jay Zahn
~ Matthew 2:1-12
~ Sunday, January 7, 2018
When I mention the term “publicity” to you, you understand immediately that I’m talking about a way of
“getting the word out” about something that is happening or has happened. For example, when our congregation
organizes our kids’ carnival event for our community, we spend some time and money on publicity so the people of
Palm Coast know about it. We distribute flyers to local schools. We blanket Facebook, Twitter, and our website with
promotional pieces. We encourage people to talk to their friends and neighbors to help get the word out because we
want to draw a crowd to enjoy the event!
But “publicity” can also apply to things that are much simpler. For example, expectant parents publicize their
child's birth. They might send out birth announcements, e-mail their friends, make phone calls to family members, or
even take out a small ad in the local paper. You’ve probably even seen that some people even get a wooden cut out of
the stork to stand on their front lawn, announcing their new arrival with a balloon tied to the mailbox too.
When God sent his Son into the world as the Baby of Bethlehem, he chose a rather spectacular way of
publicizing that birth. The angel and angelic choir that told the shepherds, and the enthusiastic testimony of the
shepherds after that night were all a part of God’s publicity plan. But God’s publicity plan was more than one night
publicity blitz. There is still much work to do. And that’s why we celebrate Epiphany twelve days after Christmas. We
celebrate Epiphany because: God Publicizes the Glory of His Son: by the Star, by the Word, and, by the faith-filled.
Sometimes Epiphany is referred to as “Gentile Christmas.” Though it doesn’t get much publicity in the secular
world compared to Christmas, Epiphany deserves special attention from God’s people, especially among those who are
not born of Jewish descent. Epiphany, which means “to make known,” is another way of saying, “to publicize,” is to the
best of our knowledge, the first time non-Jews to come to see and to worship the newborn Savior. Epiphany publicizes
the truth that Jesus was born to be the Savior of all people, Jews AND Gentiles alike!
Once the spectaculars of Christmas were over -- the announcement of Jesus’ birth by the angel to the shepherds
and the amazing choir of angels that sang God’s praises -- God still had some spectaculars left for us. For these “Magi”
who came, it was an individual star that alerted them to the event and eventually led them right to the place where
God’s miracle was on display.
The Magi, as they are called in the NIV, were likely descendants of officials who had worked with the Israelite,
Daniel, nearly a half-century earlier. Remember, Daniel had been quite an influential man in the Babylonian government
during the Jews deportation. See, Daniel lived his faith even in enemy territory. Even when that meant he would be
thrown into a den of hungry lions for continuing to practice his faith. It seems Daniel’s faith-filled influence was still felt
hundreds of years after his death. These Magi, these non-Jewish scholars, knew that this special star indicated that the
Savior, the “King of the Jews” was born.
Several times the Old Testament identified the Savior as a “King.” Before Jacob died in Egypt, he prophesied,
"The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs
and the obedience of the nations is his" (Genesis 49:10). The prophet Baalam also spoke of the coming Messiah, "I see
him, but not now; I behold him, but not near. A star will come out of Jacob; a scepter will rise out of Israel" (Numbers
24:17). When the wise men came, there is no indication that they came carrying their Bibles, but whether through
“word of mouth” or the Word of God remembered, they knew that the star indicated something important in God’s
Sometimes we wonder about, maybe question, even critically, the ways in which God chooses to publicize
himself to people. For example, if God wants others to know about the Savior, why doesn’t he just use the angel choir
from Christmas Eve to sing nightly for all people everywhere? Or why doesn’t he just strike people down with a bright
light like he did the Apostle Paul? Those were both pretty effective publicity tools, weren’t they? Of course, there’s also
the unusual method in today’s account – God uses a unique star to publicize the Savior’s birth to this group of Gentiles.
When you stop to think about it, if God can use a star to publicize Jesus to people, can’t he use just about anything? And
if he can use just about anything, can’t he use people like you and me – even if we don’t know everything in the Bible,
even when we’re not always sure what the “right” thing to say is? Of course he can! God does not need us to publicize
the Glory of his Son to others, but rather he privileges us as his partners to take Jesus to a dying world. God uses our
humble witness to make himself known to others! Whose Epiphany star will you be?
As you look into the sky on a clear, crisp night, you see a number of bright stars. Even Bethlehem’s star by itself
would not have told the full story of the Savior or saved the souls of these wise men. God publicizes the glory of His
Son, sharing his story in full by His Word.
The wise men / the Magi had to have had contact with the Word of God in order to come in the first place. And
it only made sense for them to seek a “king” in a King’s house. So they came to Herod. King Herod was a non-Jew, but
he was “king of the Jews.” He had a reputation of being wicked and ruthless, so Matthew says that “When King Herod
heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him” (Matthew 2:3). The Jews knew his reputation and his past
actions, so when he “called together all the peoples chief priests and teachers of the Law,” they knew he was up to no
good. But God had good things in mind. Through this meeting with Herod the Magi were directed to God’s Word. From
Micah the prophet they learned where they would find the Savior: "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" (Micah 5:2). In his Word, God publicized the Child of Bethlehem as his Son -- our Savior.
While the Star got their attention, it was really God’s Word that brought the Magi to Jesus. When the Magi
found the Savior they were overjoyed. They worshiped. They presented gifts. They received spiritual life as Christ’s
presence moved them to trust in him as their Savior. It was Christ and Christ alone who was the source of their faith,
the object of their faith and the power of their faith.
The same is true with us. Like the Magi, we have faith. We worship Christ. We come to church. We sing hymns
to glorify our Savior. We bring our offerings of money, of our talents and our skills. We show kindness to each other in
the name of Christ.
But all this comes only because the glory of Christ shines on us through God’s Word. Our relationship to Christ is
like the relationship of a candle to a lighter. A candle cannot light itself. It needs the lighter to pass its flame onto the
candle. Only when the lighter burns and only when the lighter’s flame touches the candle’s wick—then and only then,
can the candle burn. It does so with a borrowed flame. My friends, that’s what Christ did for the Magi. Just as he set
their hearts aglow with faith in him, he is still doing that same for you and me through his Word to this very day!
The Magi were privileged to have the Glory of God’s Son passed on to them through the Word of God. We too
share in that privilege. That leads us to one final lesson we can learn from the Magi in today’s account. God publicized
the glory of His Son by the star, by the Word, and finally, by the faith-filled. Once the Magi left Bethlehem they again
experienced God’s grace. After they saw Jesus and worshiped, Matthew reports, "And having been warned in a dream
not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route" (Matthew 2:12).
So do you think that they left their joy in Bethlehem? Highly unlikely. I believe that it is just as unlikely that
Christmas for the Magi ended in Bethlehem as it was that Christmas ended there for the shepherds. And of the
shepherds we are told, "When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about
this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them" (Luke 2:17-18). I’m sure that like the
shepherds, the Magi were filled with joy and wonder. I am sure that like the shepherds they told anyone and everyone.
So what can you and I learn from Epiphany? We get to exclaim with John, “We have seen his glory, the glory of
the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth" (John 1:14). And now that we’ve seen it, what
are we going to do with it? We join in the rejoicing with the Shepherds and the Magi, and with them, we exercise the
privilege of Sharing the Good News that we have learned.
This blessed work starts with us on bended knee worshipping Jesus. If we are to share the Good News we need
to first be filled with the Good News. Begin your task with Holy Spirit filling you up with his message of rescue and
renewal. That’s what happens in worship, in Bible study and Sunday school, in personal devotional time with God’s
Word – the Holy Spirit is filling us up with the Good News so we have plenty to share with others!
How we publicize that Good News takes on many different forms. The way we live our lives, the messages we
speak, as we process and persevere through life’s ups and downs, particularly life’s challenges, seeing all of these things
through the lens of God’s Word with an attitude of faith – in this way our lives are a walking billboard! With our
offerings and our prayers we support the ministries of this congregation. As a congregation we send 10% of the offerings
we receive on to our church body, to support the work of training future, full-time church workers, and to provide
support to missionaries who go to other countries to share the message of Jesus as well as the starting of new missions
right here in the United States!
I also want to lay before you a special opportunity to publicize the Good News. Do you have a friend, a relative,
or a co-worker, or a neighbor who is searching spiritually right now? Of the people God has placed in your life, who do
you know that doesn’t have a church home currently and could really benefit from digging into God’s Word and
connecting with caring people? I want to encourage you to invite that person to come to our congregation’s “Starting
Point” classes which start tomorrow night, Monday night, from 6:30-7:30PM! The classes are designed to connect
people with the core truths of God’s Word as well as connecting people to our caring community here at Christ the King!
One additional thought: You can offer a very special kind of encouragement to attend the classes by offering to attend
along with them! What a practical and personal way of carrying out exactly what Epiphany is all about: Publicizing the
Glory of God’s Son, Jesus! Amen.