A Sermon by
Dr. Walter A. Maier

“Now, when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the King, behold, there came wise men from the East to Jerusalem, saying, Where is He that is born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and are come to worship Him.” SAINT MATTHEW 2:1-2

    OUR TRUE AND TRIUNE GOD: Everlasting thanks be to Thee, O Jesus, that in Thine endless mercy Thou wast born the Savior of all men! Praise be to Thee, O enlightening Holy Spirit, that throughout the centuries Thou hast brought mighty minds to humble faith in Christ, the world’s Savior! Eternal glory be given Thee, O Father, because Thou art no respecter of men, but dost receive every sinner who penitently clings to Thy Son! On this first Sunday of the new year we plead not primarily for wealth and ease and luxury, but for a deeper, personal trust in the love that sent Thee, Jesus, into this world and to the cross for our redemption. Remove all doubt from our minds and fortify our faith in Thy sin-removing redemption! Guide the President, the new Congress, our military and naval leaders, along the right paths! Forgive us our sins of pride and thanklessness! Make us a penitent, believing people! With loving care bless especially Thy children in the armed forces! Shorten the days of our separation from them and grant all people a righteous peace! First of all, however, give each of us the trusting, obedient faith of the Magi, by which we kneel humbly before Thee, the cradled Christ Child, our own and only Hope for this world and the next! We ask this confidently because we pray in our Savior’s name and by His promise. Amen!

    On Christmas Day an American airman, piloting a P-51 over China, was shot in the eyes by Japanese ground fire. Instantly blood covered his face, everything before him blurred, and he lost practically all his sight. What deadly peril—to be blinded over enemy territory! However, a comrade in a companion plane came to his aid. He radiophoned minute directions to the wounded flier; and by this constant, careful guidance the sightless pilot was able to land safely at an American base.

    If only morally and spiritually blinded mankind, daily moving closer to destruction would follow the unfailing voice of Jesus and be led to blessing, peace, and salvation! In their bloodlust and mania for murder, men often become as animals, except that human beings wear clothes and speak; but by their disregard of God they sinned even lower than dumb, brute creatures. A resident of Victoria, British Columbia, lost his retriever dog and advertised, offering a reward for its return. Sixty miles away in Vancouver the dog was discovered, and the finder called by long-distance telephone. To be sure that there was no mistake the owner asked, “Let me speak the the dog!” The receiver was placed near the animal’s ear and immediately it recognized the well-known voice. Leaping from those who held it, the retriever dashed beneath tables and desks, behind cupboards and doors, eager to find its master. Yet when the Almighty tells the world of men and women who pride themselves on their intelligence,”This is the way; walk ye in it,” they show less sense than that dog; they refuse to recognize the voice of their God, although He is “not far from everyone of us,” and His errorless, tried, and tested truth is printed black on white in the Bible. His Word directs, “Keep thyself pure,” but a book which as become America’s best seller has 971 pages of sordid sex and seduction. Even our soldiers are sometimes deliberately led into temptation and vice. Listen carefully to this, shudder, and then do something about it! A chaplain, described by a fellow officer as “a soldier’s chaplain, a humble, hard-working man, who has preached seven or eight services on a Sunday when he had a fever and could hardly drag himself around,” writes: “Within a stone’s throw from where I sit this evening is the open-air theater… with a show in progress…. A few moments ago a song from a women’s voice came screaming through the loud speakers… the most vile, obscene thing I have ever heard. In seductive language she is describing why she wants to get married. At the close the mistress of ceremonies yells through the mike, ‘Men, you could all get twenty years for what you are thinking,’ and then lets out a vulgar laugh…. After one has been around Army camps as long as I have, he knows something… of degrading humanity; but in all my life my ears have never been forced to listen to more obscene, suggestive, degrading prattle than these female entertainers are blathering over the air.... It is an insult to God Almighty and human intelligence. My heart is sick over it. Sodom and Gomorrah would blush with shame if they were forced to sit and listen to such obscenity…. Once before I went to a Special Service officer with a protest, and he informed me that nothing could be done, for all programs by agencies entertaining troops were censored in Washington before being allowed to go overseas.” Is it any wonder that America is confronted by serious problems when masses are unconcerned about repentance, return to God, reliance, on His mercy, reinforcement by His heavenly power?

    Behind this disregard of the Almighty is the murderous mistake which concludes that the Christian faith is power less, passe; that only weak, crippled minds, mental morons, still believe the Bible; that the sages and scientists of all ages have rejected Jesus as the Redeemer.

    In protest against this destructive lie, my message, commemorating the visit of the Magi to the Infant Jesus, assures you:


    This is the lesson of our Epiphany text (Saint Matthew, chapter two, verses one and two): “Now, when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the King, behold, there came wise men from the East to Jerusalem, saying, Where is He that is born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and are come to worship Him.”    


    As we review this familiar, beloved story, we should note that these Magi who came “from the East to Jerusalem…when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the King,” first of all, were not Israelites, not descendants of Abraham, not members of the chosen race, but aliens, foreigners. What a marvelous example of love in this fact! It shows us, most of whom are Gentiles, that the nationality of our parents, the color of our skin, the place of our birth, mean nothing to our heavenly Father, who “will have ALL men to be saved,” Take heart, you Americans whose ancestors were born in Germany! You know that despite the cruelty racial bigotry, and unbelief of Hitlerism, many sincere, devoted Christians are left in that country. A United States Army officer in occupied Germany writes to a New York newspaper that the homes he entered there were marked by definite loyalty to the Lord. Praise God with me today that the menace of National Socialism did not kill Christian faith across the sea; that Jesus is the Savior of all men, including our foes! Pray in the Epiphany season also that the Gospel may have wide and free course even in the lands of our enemies!

    Again, the Wise Men came from the distant East. Wartime travel is hard today, but it was indescribably more dangerous, difficult, and costly when they made that long, exhausting journey to the Christ Child. For them one moment at His side was worth far more than all the time, money, and effort spent in bringing their caravan around the edge of the dismal desert, by the heat of the day and the cold of the night, through perils and pitfalls unnumbered. O that America loved its Lord with this devotion, that many who carefully keep away from worship every Sunday would walk or ride the few miles separating them from a true church!

    Again, these early visitors at the cradle of the heavenly Babe were men of wealth. How many millionaires in the United States humble themselves before Jesus as they did? Thank God, some blessed with earthly goods are rich in their Redeemer too! One of the most unforgettable moments in my broadcasting experience came when a leader in American industry, pointing to his barns, with their blue-ribbon, prize-winning cattle, put his arm on my shoulder and said, “If you ever have trouble with your broadcast and you can’t go on, I will sell all this to help you keep Bringing Christ to the Nations.” God bless all you who show such devotion to His kingdom! But God warn those of you who love in comfortable suburban homes, whose only financial problems are how to spend your money and how to keep you income tax down, yet who refuse to realize that after all the Lord has the first claim on the bulging bank accounts He gave you!

    Then, the Magi, who asked for the Christ Child, saying “We have seen His star in the East,” recognized the divine Creator in this marvel of nature. Today the Almighty has surrounded us with myriads of divine miracles, yet an increasing number of Americans deny His very existence. Have you ever heard of anyone who stood before the Empire State Building in New York City, craned his neck to behold its skyscraping top, and then declared: “This whole thing came by chance. The steel and stone, bricks and mortar, wood and nails, paint and varnish, all just happened to come together without any plan or design, without architect or builder”? The man who would make that statement would be regarded as insane. Why, then, do people, especially educators with a long string of imposing degrees, behold this entire world, with a billion times as many wonders as in the tall Manhattan building, and say: “The Bible is all wrong. This whole earth is an accident. No God ever made it. No God directs it”? Why, when our Father has given us signs definitely foretelling the return of His Son Jesus Christ “to judge the quick and the dead”—and these every signs are being fulfilled before our eyes as never before—do men sneer, “Where is the promise of His coming?”

    While these oriental sages had only a star to guide them, we have sixty-six books in the Bible. Yet I ask pointedly, “How do men in our age follow this divine, unfailing direction?” Are you not agreed that the world would be far happier and blessed by peace, instead of cursed by war, if international figures had the humble minds of the Magi and followed Scripture?

    Remember also, that these pilgrims from the East recognized Christ’s royalty! The question they eagerly raised in Jerusalem was, “Where is He that is born KING OF THE JEWS?” They acclaimed Jesus a Monarch, a Sovereign. Do we, even those of us who bear the Savior’s name? One can trace the trouble which has engulfed the world, disrupts homes, disturbs souls to the tragic fact that many have not been willing to bow before the Redeemer as the Ruler of the race, who says, “All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth.”

    These truly wise men showed their sincerity by bringing the cradled Babe nothing cheap, gaudy, artificial, but costly gifts—precious gold, fragrant frankincense, and costly myrrh, imported and prepared at great price. How differently we often approach Christ in our puny penny-pinching! At the annual fair near Paris, cattle dealers on a specified day cut off the sick animals’ tails and bring them into church, hoping that by this ceremony the ailing creatures will be restored. That is the way many people give today. They offer God the poorest product, yet expect the richest blessing. In our country, spared the bombing and blastings which wrecked large parts of other nations, we are not contributing relatively as much now, despite high salaries and income, as fifteen years ago. In France last week General Patton stated that although for thirty-five years he had been trying to care for soldiers’ health and welfare, he had received only one letter of thanks. Has God received proportionately more throughout the centuries? Would it be unreasonable to expect that Americans, moved by gratitude to the Lord for His mercy, protection, and victories, should give God 10 per cent of their income when some of them are paying the government 90 percent? Had Americans tithed, the Lord’s kingdom would have received $15,900,000,000 last year when, as a matter of fact, church contributions reached hardly one tenth of that tenth. If, as some of you write, your cities have two night clubs for every church, pleasure received the dollars; God, the pennies.

    Learn also this lesson from the Magi: they believed that “we ought to obey God rather than men.” Herod, the murderer, approached them with much friendliness, urged them to find the newborn Babe and then return to Him with full details; yet all the while the crafty King was planning a devilish plot. The world is always trying to use the Christians for evil. The Spirit give us the determination to disobey authority when it seeks to destroy the Savior! They returned to their homes not via Jerusalem and Herod’s palace, but by “another way.” Our country too must be read to go “another way” than that taken by atheist nations. We shall never find real blessing through intimate contact with unbelief. Similarly, you followers of the Savior, be a separate, consecrated people! You young folks, don’t marry unbelievers in the hope that you can convert them! Too often they will take you away from your faith.

    Above all, however, keep clearly in mind that these visitors from the East, well called “Wise Men,” fell on their knees and worshiped the Christ Child. Much at Bethlehem must have startled them: the humble parents, the helpless Babe, the lowly home. The lack of all outward evidence of kingship doubtless left them bewildered; yet they took their reason captive and adored Jesus on their knees. Intellectual leaders bowed down before the Savior!

    Some of you object that those days are gone forever. Wise men since then, you insist, have kept their distance from the Son of God. Only the simple-minded acclaim Him. The learned have been atheists and infidels. But have they? Samuel Kinns, Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society, states pointedly:

“Though there are some few men of high talent and deep research who ignore the authenticity of Scriptures…I contend that not only are skeptical physicists in the minority but also men of highest eminence in every branch of science have been, and still are, sincere believers.” He is right. The most profound minds in every leading nation, particularly in the United States, have been positively Christian. John Adams. Signer of the Declaration of Independence, declared in his will, “I rely on the merits of Jesus Christ for the pardon of my sins,” and he pleaded for “the holy and happy period when the kingdoms of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ may be everywhere established and the people willingly bow to the scepter of Him who is the Prince of Peace.” He spoke in the spirit of many devout American heroes who have led in our march of progress. Now, if men upon whom the nation has bestowed its high honors, patriots like Alexander Hamilton, Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, were professed Christians; if the United States has never had as President a man who ridiculed Scripture or assailed Jesus, then certainly our faith cannot be a childish superstition which educated gorwnups must cast away.

    The mind of the Magi similarly guided some of history’s deepest thinkers. Ask scientists to mention the dozen leading chemists and physicists, and all will name Michael Faraday as one of them. Now, was he a skeptic or a child of God? Listen to him declare, “The thought of death brings the thought of Judgment; it also brings to the Christian the thought of Him who died, who rose again for the justification of those who believe in Him”! Ask physicians who know the history of medicine to designate distinguished doctors, and they will mention Sir James Young Simpson, discoverer of chloroform. Was he an infidel or a believer? He gives this glorious confession of faith: “In the infinitude of His love to our fallen race, God offers to each of us individually a free and full pardon, and life now and forever, if we only believe on Jesus Christ, His Son, whom He sent to suffer in our stead—to die that we might live.” Ask mathematicians to designate outstanding scientists in their field, and they will select among others George Stokes. Was he an agnostic or a follower of our Lord? You know the answer when you hear him testify, “Though sinless Himself, the Son of God suffered death, the appointed penalty of transgression, in order that through His blood we might have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” Ask astronomers to choose notable leaders in their field, and many will point to Sir William Hamilton. Was he an atheist or a disciple of Jesus? You need not doubt when you hear that he gave this expression of his faith:

O Lamb of God, on whom was laid
The debt of all worlds never paid,
Have mercy! Savior, hear and aid!
For Thou art God….

Ask geographers to list noteworthy experts in their field, and most of them will propose Charles Ritter. Was he for Christ or against Him? He has left us this confident assertion: “In respect to my eternity My Savior and my Redeemer will decide according to His grace. While deeply conscious of my unworthiness and sins, I am still trusting, because I know that God is the everlasting love and mercy, and '‘my Redeemer liveth," ”who maketh His faithful to be the partakers of the grace of the eternal and righteous." ”ask scholars in any branch of science to name their most distinguished leaders, and you will regularly find that humble followers of our Lord occupy most of the highest places.

    I know, if course, that present-day college and university teachers are often hostile to our faith, but I charge that many of these are ignorant of its truth and not qualified to speak on religion as experts, as they may be in their own scientific field. I charge also that their rejection of Jesus has helped bring the world into its present plight. Where God’s Word is despised, viciousness and immorality reign. Our constant prayer should be: “O Holy Spirit, give us and our children the faith of the Magi! Help us recognize that ‘the fear of the Lord is the beginning’—and the end—of all true wisdom! Give us schools for our children where the Savior’s love is daily taught, colleges for our young people in which His Word is revered, with no haughty, second-rate minds to ridicule and oppose His redemption! Take out of our homes all books that question Thy Word! Remove doubt from our hearts! Help us all look to the cross and declare with firm assurance, ‘I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that Day.’” If America refuses to follow the Wise Men in worshiping the Savior; if the world continues to shower high honor on those who use science to kill and destroy—and recently we read that the German inventors of the V-l and V-2 bombs had been given outstanding awards; if we train our children’s minds, not their hearts, make them clever, not Christian; if our country permits itself to become entangled in any selfish program while its people spurn an alliance with Jesus, we have no reason to expect anything else for the future but continued chaos, confusion, and conflict.


    The wise always worship Christ because of the blessings He bestows. The Magi experienced this benediction for we are told that when the star led them to the cradled Babe, “they rejoiced with exceeding great joy,” a direct fulfillment of the Christmas angel’s promise, “Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.”

    With all the happiness Christ offers even a world at war, we marvel at the tragedy that masses live on in fear, worry, sorrow, loneliness, grief, anguish of soul, and terror of mind, when there is peace and joy for them in Jesus. Mighty world figures have spent miserable, cringing lives, despite their money, education, power. They have locked themselves in their rooms, forbidden everyone to mention the word “death,” carried charms, good-luck pieces, and other articles of superstitions in the hope of avoiding sorrow. They have worried themselves physically and mentally sick, until life became a frightened, phobia-filled existence.

    The truly wise, however, always worship Christ because He—and he alone—offers them release from these ruinous fears. First of all, our Lord destroys the cause of all evil, suffering and sorrow—our own transgressions of the divine Law. When every one of us was lost “in trespasses and sin,” doomed to hell, with nothing we could do or say, give or sacrifice, pay or perform, able to deliver us from eternal death and damnation, God’s own Son, moved by a love truly beyond description, came to rescue, redeem, and restore us to His heavenly Father. He had no sin of His own. Even His enemies could invent no justified charge against Him; yet, innocent as He was, he became the most guilt-cursed of all criminals, when He took your transgressions and mine, the myriad millions of all humanity’s lustful thoughts, hate-filled words, bloody crimes, and removed them from us completely, unconditionally, and forever, so that, if only we believe Him, in God’s sight we escape condemnation. Jesus suffered as the sinners’ Substitute, Himself assuming the sentence, the punishment, the curse, of our guilt, shedding His precious blood for our cleansing, dying the death of deepest agony for us, and then rising from the grave to give every believer the assurance of the resurrection and life everlasting, all through trust in His truth.

    You see, then, that I begin this year with the same promise I have tried to bring as the climax of each sermon, the pledge of full and free forgiveness through faith in the Lord Jesus. Recently a pastor wrote me, “Why do you always preach the same thing? Why don’t you follow so-and-so?” and he mentioned a speaker who has repeatedly dealt with various theories of the millennium, God and Magog, the number 666, and similar issues. These, I am convinced, may well engage the attention of experienced Bible readers and firmly-rooted believers, but they are so secondary to the Gospel that a man can be saved without knowing of their more intricate details. Our broadcast is a mission. It seeks especially to bring Christ to the 65,000,000 unchurched Americans and to the many more millions throughout the other twenty-four countries and territories in which we employ radio stations. Therefore I make this one definite request: If ever you hear me bring a message that does not show a sinner the way to salvation, come to Saint Louis and pull me away from this microphone! Gag my mouth! Tell the Lutheran Laymen’s League to put someone else in my place! But as we go on for the Lord Jesus, stand by us with your personal, persistent, prevailing prayers!

    The wise always worship Christ, for He, and again only He, gives the courage required to defeat fears and worries. I wish all of you could have heard a naval chaplain who last week spoke to the students at our Seminary. He told of case after case how pilots and others on his airplane carrier before battle were suddenly overcome by grim terror. These fliers, some of them young and inexperienced, others veterans, would nervously tell their commander that they were through. They were bewildered and dazed. Fellow officers could give little help; physicians and psychiatrists shook their heads; but when the chaplain read the Bible with them, spoke to them of Jesus, explained His promise of all believers, “Lo, I am with you always,” prayed with them, many men were changed, filled with new courage and confidence. You can experience the same transformation. Once the Savior rules you heart, you know that in wartime no problem is too difficult for Him to solve, no need too great for Him to supply, no sorrow too heavy for His comfort, no separation too wide or long to be bridged by His love, no bereavement too crushing to be healed by His compassion. If only you embittered men and women, who feel yourself defeated in life, who are selfish, suspicious, sorrow-filled for your past, dissatisfied with your present, fearful of your future, would find the new life in the Lord, give Him the mastery over your souls, dedicate yourself to Him in grateful love and service, I could promise you in His name that an entirely new and far happier existence would begin for you.

    The wise always worship Christ because through His love—and once more I say, only through that devotion they can begin to understand earth’s sorrows. When you view your life in the light of the Savior’s truth, you realize that the blows which your Father permitted to strike you were the means of raising you closer to Him; that the pains of body and mind you endured came not from God’s anger but from His love, all directed to strengthen you spiritually. When God’s children, forgetting His love, become proud, self-reliant in their prosperity; when, following their own way, they would destroy themselves, Jesus, who paid too much for their redemption to permit that, intervenes and sends the visitation of His love to bring them back to full reliance on His mercy, full trust in His grace, full acceptance of His leadership. Blessed will you be who labor under these remedial affliction if as you stand beneath the cross, you look up to Christ and say, “He hath done all things well,” Our troops defending Saint-Vith in Belgium must have shivered when the temperature suddenly dropped and bitter cold engulfed their battle area; yet, if that below-zero weather had not come, a five-mile stretch of forest road would not have frozen—it had been muddy the whole week before—and our Seventh Armored Division could not have withdrawn to escape capture or destruction. Similarly in your lives, as children of your heavenly Father, heavy blows are often disguised blessings; hindrances, helps; agonies, advance toward heaven.

    The wise always worship Christ, because He is the one effective Power in resisting temptation and overcoming evil; the one Impulse to a life of service and sacrifice; the one Help against hatred, envy, jealousy, strife; the one Hope our world has for counteracting war’s increased brutality; the one Means of giving us a real peace, the one Assurance of a blessed eternity, with no more war and wickedness, no more wounding and killing, no more bombing and blasting, no more wasting-away and starving, a heavenly place prepared by Jesus, where we who love the Lord will have the privilege of beholding Him and enjoying the fulfillment of the startling promise that “we shall be like Him”

    My fellow redeemed, are you one of the wise who worship Christ? Don’t write me, as some of you do when you criticize the Gospel, “If you want to know who I am, look me up in Who’s Who.” That leaves me cold. Criminals have been listed in Who’s Who. What I want to know is this: Is your name found in God’s Who’s Who, the Book of Life? The Lord grant that you especially whom the Spirit now urges to declare yourself for the Savior, who are close to the Kingdom but not in it, almost persuaded but no altogether convinced, will heed the call issued on this first Sunday of January to join the precession starting with the Magi, including the most profound minds history knows, and leading to the worship the incarnate Redeemer.

    Every day you defer accepting Jesus becomes more dangerous. Over in Russia where, despite atheistic disfavor, many humble folks yesterday, on Epiphany, celebrated their Christmas, the peasants told each other the story of an old woman who saw the Wise Men pass on their way to Bethlehem. “Come with us,” they invited her, “for we are going to find the heavenly Child.” “I will come,” she answered, “but not just now. I will follow you every soon and overtake you.” When her work was finished, the Wise Men had disappeared. She could not find them, and she never saw the blessed Babe. Men and women of America, these Eastern sages, in spirit, are passing you now. Through the words I speak to you they are asking everyone of you, “Come with us to worship the Christ Child, the King and Savior!” May the Holy Spirit grant that on the first Sunday of the new year, you, as the truly wise of God, the Magi of our modern world, will answer this invitation and repeat it to other:

Oh, come all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant,
Oh, come ye to Bethlehem to worship the Lord!
Come and behold Him, born the King of angels,
Oh, come let us adore Him, Oh, come let us adore Him,
Oh, come let us adore Him, Christ the Lord!


The preceding Lutheran Hour sermon first aired on January 7, 1945.