Coleta United Methodist Church

Come to Jesus

After this interview the wise men went their way. And the star they had seen in the east guided them to Bethlehem. It went ahead of them and stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were filled with joy! They entered the house and saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasure chests and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. When it was time to leave, they returned to their own country by another route, for God had warned them in a dream not to return to Herod. Matthew 2:9-12 (NLT)

Let’s pray, We thank you for the good news that you are greater, you are stronger. Lord, we are thankful for if you are for us, nothing can stand against us. Today Lord, awake our souls as we are coming to you. Some of us are excited, some of us are feeling so blessed. Some of us are weary, some of us are worn-out feeling unworthy. And we thank you that you are greater, you are stronger, and your grace is available for us. So we pray your Holy Spirit come with us now that you will be our teacher. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen. Let’s find a strange guest to the picture on the scree. (slide 1) Do you fine the strange one in the scene? Yes the Ninja Turtle is visiting the baby Jesus and celebrating his birth with angels, Mary and Joseph, the shepherds!

The truth is when I read the Bible, do you know what I discovered? There’re already some characters that don’t belong in the nativity? There’s already a set of characters who came from far far away and they are really not like other characters. They actually don’t belong. Now of course I am not talking about the angels. We have an angel here. We all know angels belong. They delivered the good news of Jesus’ coming. We know they belong. I am not talking about Mary and Joseph. They are young and devoted Jewish kids. They are looking forward to the Messiah. So they belong. I am not talking about shepherds. We know that King David was a great Jewish king and he was a shepherd and Jesus called himself a good shepherd.
Of course now I am talking about these three wise men, three Magi. They actually at first glance, don’t seem to belong in the nativity set, and I want to tell you why in just a minute. But let me clarify that actually the three wise men are very central to Matthew’s telling of Jesus’ arrival on Earth. In fact we know from Matthew’s Gospel these guys follow the star from a far away land, come into Jerusalem asking around “Where is the one born King of the Jews?” Here is a kind of weird about this. There was already a king named Herod who was called the King of the Jews. These three wise men, I don’t know why they were called wise, but they all of sudden showed up and asked, “Hey where is the new king of the Jews?” Herod heard them and arranged a meeting with them. They were lucky that they lived through the meeting. Herod wanted to a kind of create a sinister alliance. We pick up the story in Matthew’s gospel.

(slide 2) “9 After this interview the wise men went their way. And the star they had seen in the east guided them to Bethlehem. It went ahead of them and stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were filled with joy! (could you circle the word Joy?) (slide 3) 11 They entered the house and saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasure chests and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. (slide 4) 12 When it was time to leave, they returned to their own country by another route, for God had warned them in a dream not to return to Herod.” So God intervenes here so they don’t go back to Herod, the blood thirsty king. They go back in a different way because God talks them to do.

So like our GPS systems guide us, these folks are guided by a star to Bethlehem and there they find Jesus. That’s part of the story. Actually it is really important part of Jesus’ birth story, and here is why I don’t think at first glance they don’t belong. Here is my reason. These are my reason. They don’t seem to belong in the nativity scene. They are kind of a ninja turtle in the nativity set. I will tell you why. First of all, they are late. These wise men, these Magi, these educated men from far away. They are late, like really really late. Matthew tells us that they are about two years to the scene. Now they miss the silent night, the first night Jesus was born. They miss this by hundreds and hundreds of nights. They are really really late. That’s why I don’t think they seem to belong in the nativity scene. And the second reason I don’t think they belong in is they have a strange spiritual practices. They are just different from the rest of the people in the scene. They come from Persia, which is in modern day Iran and Iraq. They are astrologers. In a time astrology was a respected science. These guys studied philosophy, medicine, and all the different things and they were good holy men. But they come with these strange spiritual practices. When they show up on the scene, they are asking around, “Hey where is the king of the Jews?” I am sure these guys were wearing their robes and riding their camels coming from a far away place arriving in Jerusalem. If they come to Coleta or Milledgeville, some of us would’ve been like,“You guys are not coming from this part, are you?” They don’t really fit in there. That’s why I don’t think they really belong.

Not only the strange spiritual practices but also they come in a very strange way. Have you ever tried to go on a vacation instead of taking your google maps on your phone or your GPS, you just tell your wife or husband, “I am just going to follow younger star. Don’t worry, honey. We are going to get there.” We’ve heard about the yonder star so much that We’ve sung like it is no big deal. They are following the star. Cool. But I really think that is a kind of weird. Don’t you agree with me? That is just a strange way to travel, isn’t it? Angels showed up to Mary and Joseph. And in the same way angels also showed up to the shepherds. But these guys just followed the star. The wise men were not Jews. They didn’t know the Ten Commandments, they didn’t know the Torah, they didn’t have the scriptures that pointed them to Bethlehem, they didn’t have any of these stuff. They just followed the star! They got there late. They practiced strange spiritual practices and they got there in a strange way following a star. So to me, in my world they are like the Ninja turtle of the Christmas nativity.

TO be honest with you, I always thought that it was weird that these three magi were included in the nativity scene. But this week I was pondering and thinking about them, and I arrived at this conclusion that I am so glad these guys are part of the scene. And I want to tell you why. It is very personal to me. I am often late to come to Jesus like these guys. Sometimes I would come to Jesus for help AFTER I have said wrong things to my family or friends, after I have given in to temptations, after I thought about what is Sophia’s way of handling this. I am late coming to Jesus. Anybody else done that before? I mean we’ve done wrong things, we’ve said wrong things, we’ve given in to temptations, and then we come to Jesus! I’ve been late before. I’ve been late for years sometimes. I am often late to come to Jesus. Actually I’ve got a strange spiritual habit, spiritual practice. It is not the same as these three kings, but I’ve got my own self-taught spirituality, sometimes. Let me tell you how that plays out. It goes like this. I says things like this, “If it’s going to be, it’s up to me.” Sometimes speaking to myself, and it comes in the form of worry. Sometimes we rely on ourselves instead of relying on God. Sometimes we rely on our own creativity instead of our Creator. Sometimes we rely on our visa or master instead of our provider. See? I am glad the three wise men had all kinds of strange practices, because I got that too. Even though they are late, even though they have such strange practices, even though they come through a strange way, I am glad they are included here because then I can do, too! Here is the good news. You and I can be included, too!

I studied theology at the university in Korea. I became Christian at my age 16, and about two year later I went to seminary to study theology. And my parents were Buddhist, but by the time I was entering the university, they decided to attend the church that I was attending. I think they wanted to give me moral support. You know, knowing that their daughter is going to study theology and do something related to church for the rest of her life, I guess my parents just wanted to support me by becoming Christians. What a weird way to become Christian, right?

They didn’t know Christ, they didn’t know who the God who they were going to worship was. Now I think my parents were like the three kings who didn’t fit into the scene. My parents were late to come to Jesus, they’ve got strange practices, and they followed their daughter, not the yonder star, Jesus Christ. But you know what? God made it meaningful and something really wonderful out of it for my parents.

Before they both passed away, my mom always read the Bible everyday, she went to the early morning prayer meeting everyday, and my dad also attend Sunday service every Sunday, read his bible everyday and prayed everyday. They tried to help others even though they themselves were sick and not very wealthy. Before they believed God, they were not that kind of people.(slide 5) They really looked like this Ninja turtle who looks always angry and grumpy. But the more time went by, the happier they became. God had changed them. My parents knew the joy of faith and blessings of life that only Christ could provide when they passed away! They had started their faith in Christ in a strange way, but they ended up being true Christians! It was a real God’s grace and a miracle!

It doesn’t matter if you are late. It doesn’t matter if we’ve got the strange spiritual practices of self reliance. It doesn’t matter. What matter is that you come, and it doesn’t even matter how you come. What matters is that you come. That’s the invitation that I want to share with you today. That the magi are part of the nativity means you and I can, too.

Here’s three things that I want to share with you. The first thing is (slide 6) It doesn’t matter when you come to Jesus. The presence of the magi means that it doesn’t matter when we come to Jesus. What matters is we come. Even if we are already messed up, Even if we are already blown up, even if you missed your baptism, even if you missed your first communion, first communion, first confession, I want to say it’s okay. You can still come. It doesn’t matter if you are late. Now is the time for you, for us. We have some friends, or some families who say it is too late for me to come to Jesus. My mom said that to me when I first invited her and dad to go to church. Please tell them. Now God’s time for you is now. We have people who say “I will be there later not now, but I will be there some day.” That is not right. Right now is the time for them, for us! What matters is right now!

And (slide 4) It doesn’t matter why you come to Jesus. In the Gospels, we encounter all kinds of people to come to Jesus for all different reasons. In the Gospel of John, in chapter 3, you will find a story about a guy whose name was Nicodemus who comes to Jesus. This guy got it all. He was a well respected teacher in his community, he was well resourced, he was well-read… He’s got everything, everyone looks up to this guy. He is a popular, prominent Pharisee in town. And yet, after he climbed the ladder of success, Nicodemus seems that he found his ladder was leaning against a wrong wall. So he sneaks out under the cover of darkness so that no one knows that he comes to Jesus. And he encounters Jesus. And Jesus tells him, “Nicodemus, you get to be born again.” Then you go to the John’s gospel, chapter 4, the next chapter, you will see a woman who is the complete opposite of Nicodemus. She is not respected at all. In fact she is the subject of the town’s gossip. She has been with five men, and now she is living with a guy that is not her husband. She is standing at a well in the middle of a day because she’s got no friends. And Jesus comes up and starts a conversation. Jesus knows that she’s been looking for love and meanings in all around places. And he offers to her at the wall saying, “I am the living water.” Jesus is the only one who can quench our spiritual thirst. It doesn’t matter why we come. In John 3:16, Jesus says to Nicodemus, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” I love the word, “whosoever.” That means you and I can come. Your family member and your friends can come.

(slide 5) It doesn’t matter how you come to Jesus. In this story, God uses a star to lead these three men to Jesus, all the way to Bethlehem. And you see throughout the Bible how God uses unusual, surprising ways to speak to people to lead people. Think about Moses. God used a burning bush. God led Balaam to a talking donkey. God spoke to Noah through a rainbow. God talked to the first believers through fire and strong wind of the Holy Spirit. Christmas Candle light service is always so touching. Right? All of us love the moment when we light our candles, holding the candle and singing the Silent Night all together. It is so peaceful! When I was Standing up here and I had a candle in my hand and you all had your candles. Here is what has been so meaningful to me. You lit your candles, and the light is shining on your face. I can see you faces. And I have been here long enough now to know some of your stories. And I know how God has led you here. And it is so cool. It is so surprising. I know that some of you have been following yonder star. I know how some of you have been walking to come this far and how God has been leading you. It is so amazing and touching. It doesn’t matter when we come to Jesus, why we come to Jesus, and how we come to Jesus. What the most important thing is that we comet to Jesus right now. Now is the time for us to come to Jesus.
Let’s think about Paul. The Apostle Paul was late. He already persecuted other believers. He was a terrorist to the early believers. He was terrible. But he came to Jesus. He was late, but he came to Jesus. Look with me at 2 Corinthians 6:1-2 together. (slide 5) “As God’s partners,[a] we beg you not to accept this marvelous gift of God’s kindness and then ignore it. 2 For God says, “At just the right time, I heard you. On the day of salvation, I helped you.” Indeed, the “right time” is now. Today is the day of salvation. Today is the day of salvation. Come to Jesus. Invite your friends and family who don’t have Christ in their lives to Jesus. They might look stronge and don’t fit to the scene at first, but God will work with them. Come to Jesus, Invite your loves ones to Christ. Thanks be to God! Amen.

Let’s pray. “Spirit of the Living God. You would come to this place and you would move our hearts. For when you move Lord, you calm all of our fears. When you move Lord, you bring us tears. So we ask that you move among us and we want to come to you today. We thank you that you don’t scold us for being late, coming for weird reasons and with weird ways. You just invite us. We thank you for your love and mercy that are unlimited for us. We pray in the name of your son who is born among us. Amen.”