The Characters of Christmas (Part Two: The Wise Men)

Text: Matthew 2:1-12 (NIV)

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem 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.”

When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. 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. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:

“‘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.’”

Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. 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.”

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.

Contrary to our manger scenes and Christmas programs, Jesus wasn't in a manger when the Magi arrived like He was when the shepherds appeared. Up to 2 years have passed since His birth. The Bible doesn't even say there were three wise men. We assumed that based on 3 gifts being presented - gold, frankincense, and myrrh. It is the gifts that I want to talk to you about.

Gold - The most coveted of all precious metals, the standard by which all other wealth is measured. Gold was and is a gift symbolizing kingship. These Magi understood that this baby born to two ordinary people in a land of peasants was God in flesh and deserving of their best.

Let us not forget that we aren't celebrating a baby in a lowly manger. Today we celebrate our King! He deserves our very best in our worship today.

This church is more than a brick and mortar building. More than carpets and seats. It is His house. Here, you are accepted for who you are and where you are in life. Here, we are not only invited, but it is incumbent upon us to bring God our best!

Bring Him our best in praise, in service, in our gifts, our hearts and souls.

Frankincense - This was holy oil. It was one of the fragrances you'd smell at the Temple in Jerusalem. Only priests could make this oil, and only for the purpose of worship. It represented the pure and beautiful Presence of God among the fellowship of believers.

Through our serving, giving, and our "entering His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise", then there is a holy aroma that fills this place. When He's here, you can smell the Rose of Sharon and the fragrance of the Lily of the Valley. And we leave with the fragrance of Jesus on our lives! We leave with the fragrance of holiness and righteousness and grace!

Myrrh - This gift was altogether different. This was anointing oil used for embalming the dead. It would be the final smell associated with a lost loved one.

I don't know that the Magi understood the significance of this gift or not. The day would come when the child before them would be offered this gift again.

Mark 15:22-24 (NIV)

They brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means "the place of the skull"). Then they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it. And they crucified him. Dividing up his clothes, they cast lots to see what each would get.

Even in the telling of the first Christmas story, the Gospel writers couldn't neglect that Jesus was born, not only to live for us a sinless life, but to die for us, bearing our sinful lives. Let us not forget that this really is the message of Christmas and the reason why the angels declare this as "glad tidings of great joy." Jesus carried our sins and carried our sorrows that we might have life and have it more abundantly.