Sunday, December 31, 2017, the Year of the Lord

Pastor Carolyn Sissom


"I said to the man who stood at the Gate of the Year, 'Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.' And he replied, 'Go out into the darkness, and put your hand into the hand of God. That shall be to you better than light, and safer than a known way." (Minnie Louise Haskins) read by King George VI during the Blitz, 12/29/1940. As we seek the LORD for the year 2018, let us know that He has a path of destiny for each one of us and a path of destiny for our nation. Let us stay on the path and put our hand into the hand of God. Yes, I believe the LORD has set at each Gate of the Year angels for the earth, His Kingdom on earth and in Heaven, and in each of our lives personally. Seek Jesus Christ. Hold His Hand and it will be the Way of joy, peace and happiness.


The LORD has set before us a path.  You will show me the path of life; in your presence is fullness of joy; at your right hand there are pleasures forevermore.  (Psa. 16:11)


Each year which is set before us is a bright new beginning; just as each morning of every day is a bright new beginning.  In the light and guidance of the LORD, all the mistakes and mis-steps of our past are forgotten.  Under His BLOOD of no remembrance, let us forget our sins and the sins of others.


  In Faith, there is no Fear of the future. 


In 2017, we saw the mighty Right Hand of God move across our nation and the nations of the earth.


In Houston the clouds poured out water; the skies sent out a sound; your arrows also went abroad.  The voice of your thunder was in the heaven; the lightning’s lightened the world; the earth trembled and shook. (Psa. 77:17-18)


We have watched in awe the LORD’S judgments upon the leaders in our national government.  We have watched the overturning of wickedness in high places and do watch. 


I learned in my journey of the path of life that we cannot “fix” or “glue together” what is broken in life.   The wickedness must be rooted out; not covered over to protect our pride; or even to protect those we love.  We cannot rescue our loved ones from the demons of their own folly.  We must allow each generation to resist and overcome their own demons; just as we must overcome our demons.   Each of us must become strong enough to resist Satan and he will flee from us.


Psa. 139:3:  LORD you encompass my path and my lying down and you are acquainted with all my ways.


All that concerns us concerns Him.  On our path of destiny in Christ, there will be enemies, false accusations, trials, tribulation, life, and death.  As we continue following wholly after the LORD, we will become stronger in faith, courage, righteousness, and love.  At no place on the journey is there an exit sign.  There is no defeat in Jesus.  There is no giving up on the LORD’S Kingdom purposes.  The Lord will always make His own promise true – Then shall we know if we follow on to know the LORD; his going forth is prepared as the morning… (Hos. 6:3).


I find our Gospel heroes today in the story of the three wise men who had such a passion and desire to see the LORD that they followed on until the found him.  The Wise men knew the God of heaven was speaking to them and guiding them by His own star.


The Star was a strange silent messenger which was sent to tell of the Great Sunrise on the Hebrew mountains to the countries far east of Palestine and the Jordan.  There lived a number of men called Magi.  They were greatly esteemed in the courts of Oriental kings.  Daniel, a faithful servant of the true God was known as Chief of the governors over all the wise men of Babylon (Daniel 2:14).  Many of them, however, were “fire worshippers”.  They worshipped the sun, moon and the host of heaven.  They had their watchtowers corresponding to our observatories along the banks of the Tigris and other Eastern rivers. 


One night some of these Magi, as they looked up to the firmament observed a new star brighter than the rest.  Along with many others in Eastern countries, they were expecting the coming of a Great King who was to rule over the whole world.


In ancient times, whenever a very brilliant star appeared, people thought some illustrious prince or warrior was about to be born.  Perhaps these “star-gazers” were familiar with Hebrew scripture and knew that fourteen hundred years before a famous Prophet/Sorcerer in their own country, call Balaam, had stood on the top of one of the grey hills of Moab---looked across to the green hills of the Land of Promise, he said a star would one day come out of Jacob or Judah.  When the Magi saw the new bright light in the heavens, they said to one another, “Surely this is Balaam’s star, which he saw with Balak and his princes from the top of the rocks!  We shall follow the guiding sign.  God has surely hung it like a bright silver lamp in the sky to bring us to His royal palace.


They put on their best robes, prepared their gifts for a King, mounted their camels and travelled a far distance through the sandy desert until the came to Jerusalem.  The strange star was all the while lighting up their path.  St. John Chrysostom (349-407) compares it to the Pillar of Fire which preceded the Israelites through the wilderness of Sinai.


The journey would be through yellow desert sand, swollen winter streams, and at last climb the mountain passes of Moab and Gilead.  They were men on a divine mission driven by a divine passion.


When they reached Jerusalem, they asked where He was to be found who was born King of the Jews?  We have seen his star in the east, and we have come to worship him. (Mat. 2:2).


The Holy Scripture does not give us a full account of their searching, but it appears they may have asked the people of the shops and streets because the Word of God says that when Herod heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. (Mt. 2:3)


Surely the Magi must have been very trusting and simple in their faith!  They might naturally have expected all Jerusalem to be ringing with the news about the young King---that the glorious tidings would be on every lip. 


No one seemed either to know or to care anything about the matter.  They start again all alone in the direction of Bethlehem.  They knew the God of heaven was speaking to them and guiding them by His own star.  The LORD made his own promise true ---Then shall we know if we follow on.


John Ross MacDuff tells a story of a curious tradition on one of his visits to Israel.  Halfway between Jerusalem and Bethlehem, he stopped at a well.  He says he does not tell the story as a true one because it is not in the Bible.  However, the Christians of Bethlehem believe the tradition.  “These wise men, on losing sight of the star which had hitherto guided them from their own country to Jerusalem, were greatly vexed, for they did not know whether the road they pursued was the right one.  They seated themselves by the brink of this well.  But in stooping over it to get drink for themselves and their camels, they saw the missing star reflected low down in the water; and in looking up to the sky above them, there it was.  They rose with glad hearts, and followed the silent guide in its silvery path.  It passed right over the quivering palms of the gate of Bethlehem, then over the flat roofs of many of the houses, till it stood over the house where the young child lay.”


They unloaded their beasts of burden taking out the valuable things they had brought with them, “gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.”  Gold from the mines of Ophir or from the beds of their rivers; frankincense and myrrh---jars of fragrant gums and precious oils, resin extracted from the trees of Arabia or India---something perhaps resembling the “attar of roses,” sold in all the bazaars of Asia.


Tradition has given names to these Wise men. These names are repeated so often in ancient literature, that I certainly thing it worthy of mention.


“One was Melchior, an old man with a silver beard.  Another, Belthazar, in full grown manhood.  The third, Caspar, a youth.”


These wealthy kings/Magi/wise men enter this lowly abode in the city of David and find a humble man and woman bending over a little babe.  They strew their presents at his feet.


Psa. 72:10:  The Kings of Tarshish and of the isles shall bring presents; the Kings of Seba and Sheba shall offer gifts.


“Saw you never in the twilight,

When the sun had left the skies.

Up in heaven the clear stars shining,

Through the gloom like silver eyes.

So of old the wise men, watching,

Saw a little stranger star,

And they knew the King was given,

And they followed it from far,

You have listened to the story,

How they crossed the desert wild,

Journeyed on the plain and mountain,

Till they found the Holy Child,

You may also seek His cradle,

There your heart’s best treasures bring,

Love, and Faith, and true Devotion,

For your Savior—God and King.”

(Cecil Francis Alexander – 1853)


The infant Jesus had a variety of worshippers to welcome him to earth:


  1. The bright Angels sent to the plains of Bethlehem to tell of the Heavenly palace He had left.
  2. The beautiful Star in the deep blue above, telling of the worship of the heaven of the stars.
  3. Simeon and Anna telling that grey-haired age was not ashamed to come and welcome “an infant of Days” as their Lord and Savior.
  4. There were the Wise men of the East, Oriental princes—reminding of the rich and great, noble and learned.
  5. There were the Shepherds from the hills of Judah telling how he came to be the Friend of the poor, simple and unlearned.


All unite in declaring this Sun of Righteousness, who has risen with healing in His beams, is like His type and image in the sky.  He does shine alike on all.  I am the Star of Bethlehem.  I am the Golden Lamp of the Temple of Jerusalem.  I am the Light of Israel.  I am the Light of the World. 


How kind it was of Jesus to come in the form of a little Child.  He might have descended to earth all at once, like the fabled gods of the heathen, in the fullness and strength of perfect manhood.  The Light of the World might have no dayspring, no early dawn, and no streaks in the Eastern sky.  He might have blazed forth suddenly in the brightness and luster of His dazzling noontide glory.  The youngest may be able to say, Jesus was once as I am.  Jesus knows my heart-sores and heart-aches, for He was once Himself a feeble Child, the Holy Child Jesus.


The Bible tells us that King Herod was very angry when the wise men did not return to him and tell him where the Christ child was (for they had been warned in a dream to return to their distant homes by another route.)  


King Herod built what is now known as Herod’s temple for the perpetuation of his name.  History tells us that he was very handsome, highly educated, and owned many palaces.  One in Jerusalem, another at Jericho, another half-palace, half-fortress on a mountain Jabel Fureidis (Mountain of Paradise) now called Heroduim.  This is the only place in Israel that is today named after King Herod.  Herod was an Edomite and as such he had no right to the crown of Judah. 


Herod was passionately found of art.  No single king with the exception of Solomon had more numerous or more splendid cities, towers, theatres and temples than he.  He sold himself to work iniquity.  He became like a savage wild beast in his old age.  At the early age of eighteen, he drowned his brother-in-law, the Jewish High Priest.  He killed his wife, three sons and uncle as well as other nobles, friends, and the people.  


When news reached the wicked old King that Angels had been heard singing in the sky about a little child born in Bethlehem; still more when he heard about this bright silver lamp that had been hung in the heavens guiding the wise men, he became greatly troubled.


It is recorded in the Talmud that he gave instructions to have all the records of Jewish families destroyed, the registers of family births and family names which were kept in the Temple.  He gave orders that all the male children in Bethlehem, under two years of age be slain with the sword.  The cruel order was not confined to the town of Bethlehem.  It extended to what is called in the gospel of St. Matthew its “coasts.” 


We know Around the Throne of God in Heaven,

Ten thousand children stand,

 Whose sins are all through Christ forgiven,

 A holy happy band,

 Singing glory, glory, glory.


These babies were martyrs to the cost of Jesus’ birth.  Satan fought hard, but he could not win.  The Lord would not allow Satan to destroy the Lamb of God.


An Angel appeared to Joseph one night when he was asleep and dreaming.  He told Joseph, Rise up from your couch.  Do not wait another day.  Take Mary and the young child; for Herod is seeking the infant’s life; and never stop until you come to the land of Egypt.  Remain there until I bring you word from God that it is safe to return. (Mt. 2:13).


Egypt has always been for the Jews a place where they would go when they were in danger or want of food.  Egypt always took the Jews in.  For this reason, perhaps they will be one of the “sheep nations,” when the nations are separated with the sheep nations on the right and the goat nations on the left.


Carolyn Sissom, Pastor

Eastgate Ministries Church


Scripture from K.J.V. - “Saw you never in the twilight, (Cecil Francis Alexander – 1853); Poem by: Minnie Louise Haskins (1875-1957); Story by John Ross MacDuff (1818-1895).  Comments and conclusions are my own and not meant to reflect the views of those from whom I gleaned.

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