WORD FROM THE PASTOR:
...Led by a...What?
A few weeks ago, a family near Fairbanks, Alaska, lost their dog in a vicious snowstorm. They searched long and hard for the dog (in temperatures of 40 degrees below zero), and even set some live traps to snare her, but in vain. They gave up hope...
...because Abby the dog was blind.
And then, the day before Christmas Eve, they received a phone call from their veterinarian. Abby had showed up at his office, safe and sound! The family was reunited with their beloved pet for Christmas. (Abby must be a very good dog, to go voluntarily to the vet’s office!)
How had Abby, in her blindness, found her way to a familiar place? “Must have been by sniffing,” the vet said.
In an odd way, Abby reminds me of the Wise Men. They, too, were blind and lost–not physically, but spiritually. They worshiped the stars and not the true God. But God led them in a special way to the place they needed to be. They found their true home, their spiritual home with the newborn Saviour, not by sniffing–the stablefull of animals didn’t smell that bad!–but by following.
Following what? Well, a star of course! Right?
Actually, when we read the story of the Wise Men carefully, we see that there was something other than the star at work. The star led them to Jerusalem...and then apparently stopped. And they’re confused. They think that the newborn King is in Jerusalem. “Where is he who has been born King of the Jews?” they ask King Herod. So the star led then to the general vicinity, but not to the exact spot. How did they find the exact spot? “Herod inquired of [the chief priests and scribes] where the Christ was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it is written by the prophet [Micah], ‘And you, O Bethehem, in the land of Judah...from you shall come a ruler who will govern my people Israel.’ ” (Matthew 2:4-6). Herod sent the Wise Men to Bethlehem because of Micah’s prophecy that Jesus would be born there.
So it wasn’t just the star that took them to Jesus–it was also the Bible! Without that prophecy from Micah they would never have gotten out of Jerusalem.
So not even the Wise Men, with all their knowledge of astrology and the stars, could find Jesus without the blessed Holy Scriptures. It was the Bible that set their course toward Bethlehem.
The Bible is our guide through life, too. “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path,” as the Psalmist says (Psalm 119:105). I have a feeling that if that Psalm were written today, it would say something about God’s Word being our GPS unit. It’s our guide in the journey through life. “All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correcting and for training in righteousness” (II Timothy 3:15).
The Bible is especially important to Lutherans, because we believe in “Scripture alone”–that all Christian belief must be drawn from the Bible. We don’t accept the idea of an unwritten oral tradition passed down from the time of Jesus (as Samuel Goldwyn once said, “ A verbal contract isn’t worth the paper it’s written on”). We feel that if God really meant something, if He really wanted us to believe something, He would write it down. Writing something down gives it permanence and force. “If you don’t write it down, it didn’t happen,” is a common phrase in many fields (medicine, police work, etc.). Lutherans feel that it applies to God’s work and God’s truth: if it’s important, He writes it down. That’s why the Bible is so crucial–it contains all the truth that we need to know about God.
The main function of the Bible is to point us to Jesus. Blessed Martin Luther once said that the Bible is like the manger in which we find the Christ child. The Bible is meant to draw us close to Jesus and to give us saving faith in Him. The Old Testament prepares the way for Him; the New Testament brings us to Bethlehem to marvel at His birth...to Calvary, to see His precious blood shed for the world...and to the empty tomb in the garden, where we realize that death itself has been defeated. Scripture brings us to the living, loving Saviour.
We may not always understand everything we read. “How can I understand unless someone guides me?” the Ethiopian eunuch said when confronted with a puzzling passage in Isaiah (Acts 8:31). If something in the Bible confuses us, we should do further research to find clarity. (That’s one reason we have Bible studies and trained pastors!) But the central message is clear: God loves us in spite of our sin, and has come to us personally in Christ to take away that sin with His blood.
This year, I actually lived out a heart-warming Christmas story involving a Bible. On Christmas morning, one of our members came in carrying a Bible that had fallen off the roof of a passing car. It was a nice Bible that had been presented to its owner 22 years ago; several family births and baptisms were recorded in it. I knew it was important to the owner.
Inside the cover was a Bank of India envelope with photos of a man in a casket (a beloved relative, no doubt); a calculator; some airline reservations; and sheets of notes written in both English and Hindi. I finally found an envelope with names on it–but an internet search of the names turned up nothing. I opened the envelope–it turned out to be a church contribution statement, with an address in Nassau County. I searched the address online and found a phone number–and was finally able to reunite the Bible with its owner, who was delighted that it had been recovered. I felt good–at Christmastime God had used me to reconnect a believer with his beloved Bible!
New Years is a good time for you and me to reconnect with the Word. A great resolution would be to spend more time with Scripture. Abby the blind dog may have been guided by her nose, but in this stormy life it’s God’s Word that guides us. The Scriptures led the Wise Men to Bethlehem–they will guide you and me to the One who is our peace, our joy, our hope!
God loves you and so do I!