Well as we come to the last sermon in our Advent and Christmas sermon series the songs of Christmas. the Christmas season, we have been looking at some of the hymns carols and worship songs of Christmas. And today as we celebrate epiphany Sunday. We are taking a look at the hymn The First Noel the original the original Melody of The First Noel was composed by an anonymous writer dating back to at least the 17th century. And then 1823 William B Sandy's and Davis Gilbert edited and added lyrics to create the version. We sing today the publication of Sandy's 1823 book Christmas carols ancient and modern has historical significance in that it was the first of its kind to include many of the songs. We now consider the classic carols.
Songs such as God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen the first Nowell I Saw Three Ships Come Sailing In and Hark the Herald Angels Sing had their public debut in the song book. Now the word Nowell is a French word which means Christmas derived from the Latin word the talus which simply means birth. And of course that is what Christmas is all about the birth of Christ and then new birth that comes to each of us as we believe in Jesus Christ for salvation. Well now that we have a little background on that hymn. Let's try to sing that first verse together. It'll be up on your street on your screen.
Well, the first verse of this hymn deals with the announcement of the birth of Christ of the Shepherds people who are part of the Covenant relationship with God and His People Israel. Well they were part of the Covenant relationship by virtue of being Jewish. They were not part of the class of people who would normally be found among the leaders and rulers of Israel. Instead. These were the people who are on the outskirts of the city the outskirts of the community the outskirts of a cover of the Covenant relationship that the people of Israel enjoyed with God. So God brought his message to people who would have missed it. Otherwise, this is the announcement of the birth of a king the be king the one who would Shepherd his people who would care for his sheep and as we come to Christmas we should be looking
For a king not just to rule over us but to lead us into righteousness to comfort us and to show us what it means to be loved by God.
Now as we sing the second and third verse as we come to the real focus of our text for today the story of the wise men as read this morning in the gospel lesson. So sing with me these next two,
For the gospel lesson, we read today dealt with the story of the coming of the wise men to see the young Jesus now though. We often place the wise men in our manger scene the scriptures do not say that they came to the stable on the night of Jesus birth. The Shepherds did but the wise men were likely still in their Homeland our homelands that night. How do we know this? Well in Matthew 2:2 we read where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his Star as it Rose and we have come to worship Him.
When Christ was born in Bethlehem stable the Angels sang to the Shepherds and a new star rose in the sky. These were signs from God that the Messiah the Christ had been born the wise men saw the star and began their Journey this journey took approximately 2 years and we learn about this with a gospel text as well.
As we look a little beyond our reading for today Matthew 2:16, we find some very important information. It says Herod was Furious when he realized that the wise men and outwitted him. He sent soldiers to kill all the boys in and around Bethlehem who were two years old and under.
Based on the wise men's report of the Starz app first appearance. So about 2 years has passed since the rising of the star indicating the Jesus was near two years old or perhaps already two years old at the time of the wise men's arrival in Jerusalem. We also know that the holy family had not stayed in the stable for those two years because the wise men find the Child Jesus in a house in verse 11 the wise men entered the house and saw the child with his mother Mary then they Bow Down and Worship Him
We do not know whose house. This is it could be that they were staying with family. Remember? This is the hometown or maybe they had found a house of their own to stay in while they waited for Jesus to be old enough to safely travel with them know that's what have been part of God's plan because God wanted the world's leaders to know that times were changing that there was a new King in town and that God was about to do a new thing. See Gods always about doing new things. Isn't he? He's always about setting our ideas kind of on their head so that we can get right side up with him.
And so we wanted to make sure that the leaders of the world would know that the Savior has been born sing verse four with me here.
And we've heard about these Wiseman so often that I think we don't even really think about who these people were.
You see God has sent his message through this star to people who were outside of the Covenant relationship that he had made with the people of Israel. God could have brought his message to the leaders and rulers of Israel in any way he chose to he could have used any method of sharing the message of the birth of Christ. He wanted to
But he chose to share the message with those who did not already have faith in the one true God and by the use of a star.
God is always reaching out to those who do not already know him. He's been in that business or ever he's still doing it today God seems to do whatever it takes to reach out to an embrace all people. Announces the birth of the Messiah to Shepherds through angels on Christmas to Magi via star on epiphany.
Into the political and religious authorities of God's Own people through visitors from the east from a Manger where a child lies wrapped in bands of cloth you little house in Bethlehem God's reach God's Embrace in Christ. Jesus just keeps getting bigger and bigger and bigger.
He continues to reach out. He continues to expand that reach so that all the world will know remember the birth of the Savior was joy for all the people. Not just a few with a star God reached out to pagan people that they might have a chance of knowing him.
Psalm 19 says the heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament showeth his handiwork day unto Day uttereth speech and night under night reveals knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard their line has gone out through all the Earth and their words to the end of the world.
In creation. God makes himself known. There's a great book written by Brother Andrew called God's Smuggler and it's it's autobiographical of his story of smuggling Bibles into the old Iron Curtain countries. He tells a story concerning the amazing power of creation to share the truth of God. It says one day a guard found a stash of Bibles secreted in brother Andrews car and yet allowed him through the checkpoint later. He learned the reason why one one cold Winter's Night.
The winters are definitely cold. The soldier was standing guard beneath. One of the giant soviet-era statues. Have you ever seen pictures of some of those menacing things.
They were all over the place to remind people of the power of their government. He's standing beneath one of these statues on that cold night and all the sudden he was very aware of the hand that was on the statue looking at that handy was suddenly struck by The Wonder of the opposable thumb without which he would not be able to hold his centre-right nor even a glass of water properly.
He had been taught atheism since he was a child and evolution is part of that because the Soviet Union was atheistic in all of their teaching. In fact, most religion was outlawed except for atheism.
But he couldn't help but wonder how in the world without some sort of a designer could something as amazing as the hand with the opposable thumb ever of come into existence.
Therefore there had to be something out there Beyond himself beyond the politburo and the Soviet government and even the wonders of the world. There had to be something beyond that that was his first realization of the presence of God and because of that he let brother Andrew continued his work and came to Christ himself.