This time of year, thousands of kids will dress up in bathrobes and strange hats and play the part of the wise men, the magi, following the star to Bethlehem to meet the new King of the Jews, Christ the Lord. And if we are honest, those of us who are older are captured by this same story.

A long journey.

A bright star.

A newborn king.

Exotic gifts.

And our imaginations and the telling of this story add all sorts of extras to the story — beards, turbans, strange accents, spicy aromas, camels, and a host of other things.

So today, I want to share with you a simple, but powerful truth — the truth the magi from the East were chasing. I want to tell you when our star first began to shine. But saddle up your camels and put on your best pair of sandals for walking, because we are on a journey that will take us back a long, long, time into the darkness of the distant past.

Our first stop on our journey is about 835 BC. Oh, there could be other stops, other similar times the star shined in the darkness, but this is a good one, because without this one, the Magi would not have seen a star because Jesus the Messiah, Son of David, would have never been born!

When Athaliah the mother of Ahaziah saw that her son was dead, she proceeded to destroy the whole royal family. But Jehosheba, the daughter of King Jehoram and sister of Ahaziah, took Joash son of Ahaziah and stole him away from among the royal princes, who were about to be murdered. She put him and his nurse in a bedroom to hide him from Athaliah; so he was not killed. He remained hidden with his nurse at the temple of the LORD for six years while Athaliah ruled the land (2 Kings 11:1-3 NIV).

Now here are some vital things to understand:

  • Joash was the last living and rightful heir to the throne of David. His father and grandfathers had done what is called a blood purge: they had killed their brothers and their brothers' sons to eliminate rivals to the throne. So if he dies, there is no descendant of David to be King. God's promise to bring the Messiah through the line of David would have been broken. The hope of human history hung in this moment on the courage of one, godly, Aunt Jehosheba who risked her life to save her nephew... and ultimately, God's promised deliver who would come 800 years later, Jesus.
  • Joash was inaugurated king at the ripe ol' age of 7, protected by the priests of the Temple in a daring coup against an evil and murderous woman.
  • Athaliah, the murderous Queen Mother was killed at the gate where all the horses entered and left the palace.
  • Joash began massive reforms to try and rid God's people of idolatry and evil.

And as long as Joash was under the influence of his Uncle, Jehoiada, he did what was right in the eyes of the LORD God! ( 2 Kings 12:1-2).

Oh yes, let me tell you about when our star first began to shine... when darkness was thwarted, disaster averted, and when a child led God's people out of darkness into light. Yes, let me tell you about when our start first began to shine.

You see, God's great plans for deliverance often begin with a child.

And this principle goes back way before Joash... and before baby Isaac... and baby Moses... and before many others — and even back before... Seth! Remember Seth? When Cain killed Abel, God brought Adam and Eve the gift of Seth to help them have renewed hope after sin, evil, and death had ripped apart their family.

Oh yes, how I love to tell this story. I want to share with you about when our star first began to shine! Do you see it? Can't you see it sparkle in the deepest of darkness? Doesn't it draw your heart to journey toward hope? And this star began to shine even before Seth.

You remember the promises and curses after Adam and Eve rebelled against God and were cast from his presence and the garden of his delight? God cursed Satan and said to him:

"I'm declaring war between you and the Woman, between your offspring and hers. He will wound your head, and you will wound his heel" (Genesis 3:15).

In this moment of humanity's deepest darkness, in the moment when human rebellion overwhelmed the gifts that were given them by the Father's love, in this moment of deepest pain and harshest rebuke, comes this word of grace... this promise of deliverance and a deliverer... the birth of a child who would be wounded by the serpent, but who would crush the power of darkness. Yes, let me tell you about when our star first began to shine!

And for decades, and generations, and centuries, and millennia on end, this star has shown its light in the darkness, and even when people didn't look for its light, even when people lost all hope, and even when darkness was so thick you could cut it with a knife, the darkness could not overcome and put out this light because the star can shine in the darkest of skies. It was there, waiting for those who trusted and believed, to navigate their journey to grace. Oh, yes, I love to tell people about when our star first began to shine!

So a week after this child, this promised Messiah, our Savior Jesus was born, we meet an old man named Simeon. Simeon longed for God's starlight to burst into glorious light for all to see. And led by the Spirit of God, he comes to the Temple and sees Joseph and Mary with their one week old child and he praises God, led by the Spirit and proclaims:

God, you can now release your servant; release me in peace as you promised. With my own eyes I've seen your salvation; it's now out in the open for everyone to see: A God-revealing light to the non-Jewish nations, and of glory for your people Israel! (Luke 2:29-32).

So that those around us will ask us when our star first began to shine!
Oh yes, don't you just love to tell the story about when our star first began to shine! The grizzled ol' apostle Paul said it this way:

For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ" (2 Corinthians 4:6).
Yes, I love to celebrate that moment when our star first began to shine!

So let me ask you a simple question, a question for all of us who have been bathed in the starlight of God's grace: So how do we keep the light shining?

Let me suggest three things for you to add to your own convictions:

  1. Let's invite Him into our home. Let's make sure the starlight shines in our houses and reaches out and touches the hearts of our family. Yes, let's do it for Christmas. But the light shines in the darkness... always... so shouldn't Jesus be the light of our families?
  2. Let's have courage to stand up for the King. He promised us that if we confess Him before people, if we recognize Him in front of others as our Lord, that he will recognize us before the Father in heaven! Let's be people of gracious compassion and righteous character — not obnoxious or harsh, but never ashamed of the One who brought light to our darkness!
  3. Let's commit to be personally involved in His rule of grace. May grace permeate all that we do and who we are. May the light of our Savior be reflected, undiluted and undiminished and unpolluted, to others around us.

So that those who know us — those who work with us, who live around us, who watch what we do — will want to know about the star that shines in our darkness, and that gives light to our path, and that gives us more than just a wish for better things — that gives us the assurance of the Magi: our Savior has come, our lives have been blessed, and the world will never be the same. And then, with joy and grace we can tell them about when our star first began to shine!