The Greatest Gift
“Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.”
So did you get some good gifts this morning? Did you get want you want?
Hot Wheels set with a loop-to-loop that we ran through he living room
A ring with an “R” on it when I was in high school. This was a time when men’s jewelry was big, serpentine necklaces, pucca shells, etc. Walked into my grandparents house and showed it off
My golf bag when were first married. Took it to bed with me
Ask the congregation to throw out a few of their favorite Christmas gifts.
Wrap up: Gifts are a huge part of Christmas. So let’s look at a gift we all received almost 2000 years ago.
Read Passage – Matthew 1:18-2:12
This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about[d]: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet[e] did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.
20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus,[f] becau`se he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”[g] (which means “God with us”). 24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.
1 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi[h] from the east came to Jerusalem 2 and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” 3 When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. 5 “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written: 6 “‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’[i]”
7 Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. 8 He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”
9 After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.
The Events of Life
One of the intrigues of this story is the way all the pieces fall together and in place so that everything works out just right. I think we expect God to work through Chritians and believers but we might overlook that He is working all things out for His good and that includes using the actions of nonbelievers as well. So verse 1 shouldn’t take us too much by surprise.
“In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world.” Luke 2:1
A regular activity of their time was to take a count of the people. So Joseph is just doing what he is expected to do by the Roman law that is in place at this time. It was not the most convenient time, not the situation you would choose to be in, not ideal, but it was what it was.
Gifts of Royalty
As we recount this story, I want to focus on one thing that I found really revealing; that the magi brought Jesus gifts of royalty. Go back to verse 11:
“On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.” vs. 11
I find it significant that Scripture mentions this act of bowing before the Christ child first, and only then talks about the gifts. It is as if Matthew is making the point that our hearts are of paramount concern, that God is more interested in the condition of our hearts than the size of our check. That our first and most important gift is the spiritual act of worship.
When the magi had bowed in worship, they opened the gifts for the King. They sacrificed a great deal for Him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. The gifts that the magi brought were kingly gifts. It may even have been that they were excited to bring these gifts to Jesus and his parents. Ever give a gift that you just know is going to help someone and you are just so excited to give it?
The Greatest Gift Is…
The first gift was Gold. Gold signifies Jesus’ Kingly role. What is more fitting than gold for a King? See the magi knew Jesus was their king because opf what the prophets had foretold. Zechariah 9:9 reminds us of that when it foretells of Jesus triumphal entry into Jerusalem. They refer to Jesus as king and they remember that. Zechariah 9:9:
“See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” Zechariah 9:9
Their gift of gold is a declaration of Jesus as King.
We give gifts to those we love and they are an expression of our love.
Ex. The gifts we give our loved ones. The time we spend picking them out, etc. Our excitement in giving them. The time spent is important because it shows our thought fullness and sacrifice in picking them out. Example of a gift I gave vs. the example of a close relative who just sent something without much thought.
Part of who we are is much like those magi. We should be declaring Jesus as King; King of our lives. David did this so many times. I remember once in Psalm 44:4:
“You are my King and my God…” Psalm 44:4
Today we declare Jesus as King again. Isn’t that the great thing about Christmas? It truyly is a re-declaration of Jesus as King.
Exercise: Say aloud Jesus is King of Kings and Lord of Lords
The second gift the magi bring is Frankincense. Frankincense was an ingredient used by the priests in temple worship to blend with the smell of the sacrifices. It’s a resin that is tapped out of the Boswellia tree and burned in the temple. To me it signifies Jesus’ priestly role. Jesus was the King of Jews, but he was also the “great high priest.” The writer of the book of Hebrews expressed it like this:
“For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.” Hebrews 2:17
Remember the way to use frankincense is to burn it. That takes energy and effort and sometimes hurts. One of ways for us to declare Jesus’ as our high priest is to offer up our lives as a sacrifice. Paul said it this way in Romans 12:1:
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.” Rom. 12:1
Your being here today is a declaration of Jesus as your high priest. It why we stress coming to church not to fulfill a duty or checklist but to meet Jesus. Our deeds, our obedience, etc. is a sweet smell to God.
Ex. The smell when you walk be a bakery
Or todday the smell of candles in the Sanctuary that put out a sweet aroma.
And the third gift the magi bring is Myrrh. Myrrh, like frankincense is a resin bleed from trees. In Jesus’ time, people used Myrrh to embalm their dead. A thoughtless gift, you might say for a baby shower? Not for this baby. For myrrh signifies the death of Jesus. These wise men, in their wisdom knew that Jesus was born to die. This gift was a way of declaring that Jesus is the ultimate sacrifice on behalf of all mankind. Heb. 10:10:
“.. we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” Hebrews 10:10
So when I think of myrrh, I am challenged to think of why Jesus came to earth – to die for the sins of all the world. This doesn’t make sense to us. Even the disciples didn’t get it. Peter had to be rebuked because he couldn’t understand that Jesus came to die.
“Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” Matt. 16:23
It’s hard to believe this child was destined for death on our behalf but that is why he came.
These gifts were very expensive, so much so, the normal person could not have purchased one, much less three. It is said that the money from their gifts supported the family for the years they had to flee for safety.
Here is the final thought on this whole gift giving thing. Gifts are meant to bring joy, great joy or well at least we hope they do. That is why the angel declares in verse 10:
“But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy….” vs. 10
Song: We Three Kings