“And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshiped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.” – Matthew 2:11
Part of the Christmas story can be found in the book of Matthew, the first book in the New Testament. There, in chapter two, we read of several wise men, Magi, who followed the star till it rested over the place where the young Jesus was living.
But what most people fail to notice is that only the shepherds came to visit Jesus while he was still a baby in a manger. The Magi came later, once they were living “in the house” and Jesus was a “young child.” And, based on Herod’s decree that all male children 2 years old and younger should be killed (Matt. 2:16), Jesus could have been a toddler up and walking.
Simply put, generally, every manger scene protested against by atheists is not a faithful representation of the Christmas story. How ironic is that? But I digress…
When the Magi came to Bethlehem in search of “he that is born King of the Jews” (Matt. 2:2), they brought with them three very rare and valuable gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. They were not random gifts, but ones with specific political, spiritual, and practical importance; they were meant to recognize a literal, earthly, but also heavenly King.
Gold was a universally recognized precious metal, symbolic of all wealth. Frankincense was a substance primarily used as incense, but also mixed with other substances to create the holy anointing oil placed on high priests and kings. Myrrh was a substance used for things ranging all the way from cosmetics and antiseptics, to perfuming the living and embalming the dead.
According to Matthew 2:11, the Magi fell down before Jesus, which would have been an appropriate response when in the presence of royalty (and these men knew the difference). But the wise men did more than fall prostrate before royalty, they “worshiped him.” This young king was more than just “King of the Jews,” but the long-promised Messiah, and they offered their gift to the Son of God.
As long as I can remember there have been sermons preached during and before Christmas entitled, “Wise Men Still Seek Him.” The sermons focus primarily on the seeking leading up to Christmas, but rarely, if ever, on the gifts given after the celebration is over. But today is different.
Today, I am going to ask you to consider three gifts we should give, now that the birthday celebration is over.
For several days after Christmas people will stand in line to return and/or exchange unwanted gifts. Many will trade what others gave them for something they want more. Others will just ask for a refund or in-store credit.
Rest assured that when you give your gifts to Jesus, he will not return them, exchange them, or re-gift them next year. But will you, once you realize what you’ve given, want to take something back?
Don’t wait for a New Year’s resolution. Now that Christmas is over, be like the Magi and leave everything at Jesus’ feet, then “depart…another way.” Once you give Jesus those three gifts, you’ll never be the same.
This morning, as we go to church to worship our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and thank Him for entering this world as a child, born of a virgin, only to one day die for us that we might receive the gift of eternal life through faith in Him, think on the following message I received this morning from a pastor friend in Pakistan…
That was it…just three lines of text on Facebook Messenger.
Earlier today a Methodist Church was attacked by two suicide bombers while the congregants were inside celebrating the birth of Christ. The attack was meant to be a message, one that was meant to strike fear. For some, I’m sure it worked. Thankfully, neither bomber was able to get inside the building, and only one was able to blow himself up at the entrance, so only around 10 people (including children) died, as opposed to the 400 who were in attendance.
But how does this affect my day? How would it affect yours? Are you even planning on attending a worship service? While there are Christians who are attending corporate worship services in places where their spiritual enemies are literally trying to kill them, do we take advantage of the complete freedom in America to congregate, or do we shun it? “Forsake” it?
How does the above message from my brother in Pakistan affect my preaching? My worship? Do I go about my day as usual? Or, do I recommit myself to the seriousness of the call to “take up your cross and follow me”?
“Brother we are dying here.” How long before we start dying HERE? With Islam on the rise, and with very few who are willing to challenge its destructive works-based theology for fear of being labeled “islamophobic,” how long before suicide bombings become more common-place than shootings?
“Please pray for us.” How long before we realize ALL of us stand in need of prayer? How long before we repent of our Laodicean lukewarmness? How long before we take seriously the calls from our brothers and sisters enduring persecution and pray for them? In reality, we should be asking them to pray FOR US!
Our churches will be relatively empty, today. Our post-modern, social-justice-minded, hedonistic society will go about this morning without a thought of God, while those who call themselves “Christian” will blend in with them. The relatively few who do attend worship services will hardly consider the rare privilege of worshipping in peace without the fear of being blown to bits while singing “Silent Night.”
Yet, somewhere in another land, there will be followers of Jesus Christ who will not be intimidated or deterred, bravely walking into proverbial lions’ dens. As the Hebrew children who refused to bow before Nebuchadnezzar’s statue, there will be some who will pray for deliverance from the furnace, but continue to worship Jesus and not bow down to Allah, even if the fire is inevitable (Daniel 3:18).
There are many who are dying. How are you living?
I’m going to church, now.
This morning at South Soddy Baptist I will be preaching a message on the goodness of God. In some ways it will be similar to one that I preached 2 years ago at my last pastorate, but in other ways it will be different.
Nevertheless, even though the sermon I’ll be preaching this morning will be different in several ways from the one I’m going to share with you right now, the truth of this sermon remains the same: God is good, and we should be thankful.
As Thanksgiving approaches, why not take a few minutes to consider what your life would be like if God was NOT good. If God wasn’t the definition of good, the judge of what is good, and the very standard of goodness – if God was not good by nature – all of His other characteristics could be called into question; any of His actions could be suspect. But God IS good, and we have plenty of reasons to praise Him.
I noticed that coming to church has become something of a dying habit for you (well, to call it a habit might be stretching it a bit; habits do require some sort of consistency). From what I’ve heard, you’ve become disheartened and disillusioned with the whole church “thing.”
Is that true? If it is, my heart breaks for you. Believe me, there’s not a single church-related heartbreak or disappointment I haven’t already endured. However, there is something simple you can do to turn things around.
What you need to do is develop a Christ-like love for your brothers and sisters, then even the worst of disappointments will have a hard time turning your heart cold.
You could start by repeating the following statement over and over: “Because He first loved me… Because He first loved me…” Why? Because He first loved you (1 John 4:19)! Believe it or not, Jesus loved you long before you were loveable…long before you stopped breaking His heart on a daily basis…long before you became perfect and quit messing up.
Wait, you are perfect, aren’t you? No? Wow! And He loves you anyway?
Amazing, isn’t it?
So, if you would just try to love others the way Jesus loves you – faults and all – His Spirit would turn those tears of disappointment into healing streams of grace.
Then, if you’d keep your worship more vertically oriented and less horizontally irritated, there’d be a lot fewer things to complain about.
Loving and missing you,
An Average Pastor (without a jet)
P.S. Service times haven’t changed, and no one has claimed your seat.
From my Facebook page this morning…
One week ago nearly half a congregation was murdered in church. Sadly, it won’t take a terrorist to scare people away, today – just the weather, the hard pew, or the encouragement to worship a God other than self. Frankly, any excuse will do. But I guarantee you one thing, I’d rather stand before the Lord one day as one of those in Texas than one who died peacefully while shunning the very commandment of God to “forsake not the assembling of yourselves together…”
Remember how your parents or grandparents used to tell you to clean your plate or eat your vegetables because there are starving children somewhere who would love to have what you’re eating? Well, there are millions who would love to have the freedom you enjoy to worship in a church without fear of being arrested, bombed, burned, beheaded, or shot by their own government. To waste the blessing you’ve been given is to dishonor all those who’d give their lives for what you care so little about…
And, frankly, it won’t go unnoticed when we all stand before the Savior and give an account, either.
Why do we ever treat any day like it’s “just another day”? This day was created by God as a unique, one-of-a-kind event never to be repeated, and possibly our last. Would you treat your last day as any other day?