Summary: 1st Sunday after Christmas, 2003 -- A study of the gifts brought by the Wise Men and how we can today symbolically offer those same gifts to Christ.
Gifts Worthy of a King
1st Sunday after Christmas, 2003
Scripture Ref: Matthew 2:1-12; 28:18-20
Additional References: “We Three Kings of Orient Are,” John Henry Hopkins, Jr.
The Bible Knowledge Commentary
New Bible Dictionary
a. Of the many decorations we use in our homes and elsewhere to celebrate this season, the crèche (or nativity) is the only one that truly depicts what and why we celebrate. Its history is this:
b. The story of the origin of the Christmas crèche rests with St. Francis of Assisi.
St. Bonaventure tells the story like this. In the year 1223, St. Francis, a deacon, was visiting the town of Grecio to celebrate Christmas. Grecio was a small town built on a mountainside overlooking a beautiful valley. The people had cultivated the fertile area with vineyards. St. Francis realized that the chapel of the Franciscan hermitage would be too small to hold the congregation for Midnight Mass. So he found a niche in the rock near the town square and set up the altar. However, this Midnight Mass would be very special, unlike any other Midnight Mass. He prepared a manger, and brought hay, and an ox and an ass to the appointed place. The brethren were summoned, the people ran together, the forest resounded with their voices, and that venerable night was made glorious by many and brilliant lights and sonorous psalms of praise. (St. Bonaventure, in his Life of Saint Francis of Assisi)
c. The difference between St. Francis’ nativity and the one we are familiar with today is the conspicuous absence of the wise men.
d. While the wise men played a prominent role in Christ’s early life, they were not part of that first Christmas night.
e. Today, however, I want to examine the role they did play and the example they set for us in worshipping Christ.
f. Read Matthew 2:1-12
g. Matthew is the only gospel that tells of the visit of the Magi. Yet their visit is extremely important and full of divine involvement and implication. This morning we are going to examine the significance of the star that led them to Christ and the gifts they offered Him.
2. So, they followed a star. So what?
a. A beautiful Christmas Carol entitled We Three Kings of Orient Are tells the wise men’s story. The first verse tells of their long, arduous journey following the star of Bethlehem.
“We three kings of Orient are: Bearing gifts we traverse afar. Field and fountain, moor and mountain—Following yonder star.”
b. Read Matthew 2:1-2, 9-10—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 in the east and have come to worship him.” After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.
c. That the wise men followed a star from the east is important, but it is not the most important part the star played.
(1) When the Magi met with Herod to inquire of Christ’s location, they met with him in Jerusalem.
(2) When the Magi left Herod, they followed the star to Bethlehem, a town 5 miles south of Jerusalem.
(3) Stars normally travel east to west, not north to south. God had changed the structured order of the heavens to lead the wise men to Christ.
d. Today’s Application
(1) We have the opportunity today to be that star. We may or may not lead wise men, but we have the opportunity, the authority, and the privilege of leading men to Christ.
(2) Read Matthew 28:18-20
(3) Jesus’ commission, applicable to all His followers, involved one command, “Make disciples,” which is accompanied by three participles in the Greek: going, baptizing, and teaching.
(4) The going is the most important of three, because if we don’t go, we can’t teach and we can’t baptize.
(5) We must be like the star of Bethlehem was to the wise men, we must go before our fellow man and lead them to Christ.
3. So they thought He was cool.
a. Matthew’s story goes on to say that after the star led them to Him, they worshipped Him.
b. Read Matthew 2:11—On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him.
c. These wise men, men who were important people in their own right, recognized the importance of this child and worshipped Him.
d. The term worship originally referred to the action of human beings in expressing homage to God because he is worthy of it. It covered such activities as adoration, thanksgiving, prayers of all kinds, offering sacrifices, and making vows.