Surrender and Sacrifice

(Matthew 2:1-12)

New Year's is an exciting time, all the partying, noise makers, streamers, confetti, and the big ball dropping at the stroke of mid-night in Times Square. We sing "Old Ang Sign" and say good bye to the past year, and usher in the New Year with shouts of optimism and hope.

New Year's not only marks the beginning of a new calendar year it also is a time for many people to commit to doing something to improve themselves: like living a healthier life style, seeking new employment, stopping some bad habit, or just simply beginning a new year with a more positive outlook on life.

As we seek to begin something new, or to improve some aspect of our life, we often times look for someone or something to follow. Perhaps it's a special diet, an author, television personality, or someone we just simply admire because they seem to have their life together.

Well many years ago the wise men were told by King Herod to go and checkout this baby born in Bethlehem, and then come report back. And as we heard in our scripture reading the magi, or wise men, left their home to follow a bright star in the east, as they sought to find Jesus. They were looking for the fulfillment of what we now call the Old Testament prophesy and knew that the answer was many miles away in the town called Bethlehem in a land called Judea.

Now the Magi were truly wise in that they were well-educated individuals; they were the scientists of their day, astronomers, and seekers of truth. Because of the respect they received they were often used as counsels and advisors to kings. So it was most appropriate that they would go to a king, Herod in this case, as they sought the truth of Jesus.

Now as they approached the house where Mary and Jesus were, something happened, and they were overjoyed and bowed to worship Jesus, the promised Messiah. And as it turns out the magi found more than just a baby, they found the one who was promised; they found the One who was the Way, the Truth, and the Life!

One of the fascinating things about this story to me is that the wise men, who were people of prestige and prominence, stopped what they were doing, left their titles and positions behind, and set off to find Jesus. And they didn't leave for a week or two; they left for a year or two to make the long journey to Bethlehem.

As the wise men worshipped Jesus they presented him with gifts of gold, incense and myrrh. The wise men gave Jesus these gifts because these particular gifts were worthy of a king. And the gifts they gave have further meaning because they are actually symbols of Christ's identity and what he would accomplish throughout his life.

Gold was a gift for a king "incense was a gift for deity" and myrrh, which is a spice, was a gift for a person who was going to die.

So as you can see the wise men were not giving these expensive gifts to Jesus to earn favor with him. They gave these gifts as a means of worship, and to fore tell the future of Jesus life and ministry in the world. The wise men brought gifts and worshipped Jesus for who he was. This is the essence of true worship - honoring Christ for who he is and being willing to give him what is valuable to us.

We ought to worship God because he is perfect, just, and the almighty creator of the universe, worthy of the best we have to give. The wise men provide us with an example of what it means to truly give of ones self to worship Jesus.

When the bishop was here a couple of weeks ago he spoke of surrender and sacrifice, and this is exactly what the wise men did: they surrendered their lives to Christ, and they made the necessary sacrifices to follow him. What better gifts to give to the one who came to save us then the surrender of our lives and the willingness to sacrifice the world's definition of life for the true definition of life.

Often times when we use the words surrender and sacrifice with respect to our faith we think of surrender as giving up and sacrifice as needing to die for something.

This is not the case. When we speak of surrender we are speaking of the need to turn our lives over to Jesus, meaning allowing Jesus to be our guide and author of how we live. In other words, instead of allowing society and friends tell us how we ought to live, we ought to follow the teachings of Jesus, because following Jesus will lead us to the abundant life we have been promised.

Sacrifice does not mean we are to lay down our life for the cause of our faith, although sometimes it can. Sacrifice means we may have to endure the scorn or ridicule of family and friends because we have decided to follow Jesus.

For an example of sacrifice let's consider our role as parents. Sometimes parents and grandparents sacrifice being well-liked by their children because they enforce discipline in the house, whereas, our children's friends get whatever they want. So our children may not think we're as cool as someone else's parents. But as parents and grandparents we're not called to be cool, we're called to be the parents and grandparents and we're suppose to be raising our children in an appropriate way.

I can tell you when my kids were younger I was not considered cool. But as they've gotten older they are beginning to see the difference in people who got whatever they wanted and those who were held to a different standard of behavior and understanding. And I think now they respect the way they've been brought up. So I sacrificed being cool for the sake of a greater purpose.

I believe God as our parent is the same way. God sacrificed not only his Son but also being seen as cool, so that we might grow in the way he wants to go.

We may not be considered with-it or cool, because we follow Jesus, and hold ourselves to a different standard of behavior and understanding of life. So be it! This may be the sacrifice we have to make as we make following Jesus our number one priority. " We may be made fun of because we chose Sunday morning worship over sleeping in. So be it. " We may be seen as weird because we don't go party and get trashed every weekend. So be it. " We may be viewed as prudes because we believe sex ought to take place within a marriage. So be it. " We may be considered naive because we see abundant life as life with Christ, not as life with all the toys we can buy. So be it.

The birth of Jesus changed the lives of many people 2000 years ago, and his birth is still changing lives today. As we celebrate Christ's birth again we too can experience the life changing grace of God through Jesus Christ when we surrender our lives to him and make the necessary sacrifices to live with him.

In coming weeks we will learn more about the Disciple Adventure we are embarking on this New Year. Through our journey we will grow in our relationship with God through Christ, we will create entry points into the faith for those in our community seeking more from life, and we will provide opportunities for all of us to invite others to join us on our adventure.

This year opportunities to engage in the Discipleship Adventure will be offered to the entire congregation and our community, and I'm sure our ministry teams will offer some new fresh ways to worship, pray, study, fellowship and serve, that will help each of us grow in our walk with Christ.

But all the ministry teams can do is make the opportunities available; it will be up to all of us to engage in them. So as we begin this New Year, I hope and pray God will move our hearts to a new place. I pray we don't come on Sunday morning to simply fill a pew. I pray we intentionally pursue God's purpose for our lives and that we live out his purpose for us with the same intention the wise men had when they left the comfort of their homes and jobs to find Jesus.

Michelangelo once said when sculpting, "I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free." Well the same is true of each of us. God's sees his purpose for our lives within each of us, and he carves away worldly influences until we are set free.

Recommit your lives to Christ, make Jesus the central person in your life, re-dedicate yourself to worshipping him more completely, speak and listen to him more regularly, give to him more wholly, study his word more thoroughly, and serve him more loyally. Approach the New Year with a passion for wanting to do the will of God. Run towards God's light, not away from it. Amen Please join with me in the Wesleyan Covenant Prayer found on page 607 in your hymnal, and let us surrender our lives to God this New Year's Day.

Read other messages by Pastor Wade