Summary: The Magi come to worship the King, but Herod rejects Jesus' claim to the throne.
Matthew 2:1-12 “Acceptance and Rejection”
The glittering packages that were neatly arranged under the Christmas tree have been transformed into brown boxes, clothing and other items, which now lay in a helter skelter pattern. Gifts have been given and received. Many of them are now being enjoyed, while some are being exchanged at the store. Gift giving, which for many has become the focal point of Christmas, is over.
Today’s text focuses upon a group of people who arguably could be identified as the first gift givers—the wise men. Coming from distant lands in the East, these men sought the king of the Jews and found him in a Bethlehem home. Once they found them, they offered him precious gifts.
The story of the wise men has much to say to us as we celebrate the birth of the Christ child and seek to live out our lives as disciples of Jesus Christ.
AN EXPANSIVE GRACE
The story of the wise men highlights the expanse of God’s grace. We say that God so loved the world that he sent his only son. The wise men and others in the Christmas story demonstrate the validity of this statement.
• The wise men were gentiles. They were probably pagans—Zoroastrians. They were astrologers—seeing messages in the stars, which was something that the Jews would disdain. Yet, they are the ones who were the first to proclaim Jesus as the king of the Jews.
• The wise men have also be identified as royalty—“We Three Kings of Orient Are”. As such, the good news of Jesus was proclaimed to royalty in addition to outsiders.
• The shepherds were among the lowest classes of Jewish society. They too heard the angels proclaim the arrival of a savior.
No one person, or group of people, is outside the circle of God’s grace. No one is excluded. This true constantly challenges the way you and I view other people. Where do we say the circle of God’s grace stops? Who do we not include as children of God and members of God’s family?
MOTIVATED BY QUESTIONS
In Matthew’s story of the wise men, he turns things upside down. The wise men are not only outsiders, but they are men with a question, “Where has the king of the Jews been born?” This question causes them to pack up their camels and travel to a distant land. Their question motivates them to seek Jesus. On the other hand, those who have the answers—Herod and his religious advisors—do not seek Jesus. In fact, they fear the birth of the king of the Jews, reject him and seek to kill him.
There are times when we are scared of our questions—especially our religious questions. We fear that they might harm our faith or cause us to doubt. We can learn from the wise men that our questions can motivate us to seek Jesus. We are challenged to seek answers to our questions and in doing so to grow in our understanding of God, while at the same time being strengthened in our faith.
The times that we should be fearful are those times when we think we have all of the answers, or a corner on the truth. It is at these times that we lose our motivation to grow and to seek Jesus. Thinking that we have all of the answers turns us into “know-it-alls.” Being a “know-it-all” shackles our faith and our witness.
When the wise men arrive in Bethlehem and locate Jesus and his parents, they stop and worship him. As part of their worship they give him gifts—expensive gifts—of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
In our celebrations of Christmas we have exchanged gifts and we have both given gifts and received them. We have experienced the joy of both giving and receiving. Our gift lists are probably quite long and they most likely even include our pets. I wonder, though, if we have ever thought of giving Jesus a gift, like the wise men did so long ago. I think Jesus probably has enough gold, frankincense and myrrh. If the truth be known he doesn’t need a blender, an X-box, a cheese head or a fish tie. So if we were to give Jesus a gift, what would we give him?
We talk about giving our time, talent and treasures to the Lord throughout the year, in response to God’s grace. I certainly don’t want to down play the importance of stewardship throughout the year. We did learn, though, during our Stewardship Emphasis Program of “Living Generously,” that God doesn’t want our money. Instead, God’s wants our heart. Perhaps Christmas can be a time when we recommit ourselves to love God with all of our hearts, soul, mind and strength, and to live our lives as disciples of Jesus Christ.