Summary: This is week four of our stewardship month and this week we are looking at gospel accounts of people who gave to Christ.
When people talk about their giving you will often hear them speak about giving to the church or giving to God and sometimes about their gift to Jesus. And those are all valid expressions. I do feel that we give to God through the church and that our giving is an expression of love and obedience to Jesus.
If you read through the gospels you can find several examples of where people presented various gifts to Jesus. They weren’t nebulous, “I’m giving to the church so I’m giving these gifts to Jesus” they were actual gifts given by individuals to Jesus himself. And I think if we take a look at why other people gave to Jesus we can see the underlying reasons why we should be giving to Christ as well.
So you see the assumption I’m making and that is that each of us is already giving, I trust that isn’t a false. And so now we are just looking at some of the reasons that make our giving valid.
And so the story begins in a small town outside of Jerusalem, a young woman from Nazareth and her new husband had welcomed into the world her first child and as the woman rests and recovers from the birth of her son before beginning the long trip home mysterious visitors appear at the house they are staying at.
It is a familiar story but one that we normally limit to the yuletide season and here we are four months late. We all know the story of Mary and Joseph and the baby Jesus but this part of the story had actually begun before Mary had any idea that she would deliver a child.
It is of course the story of the Magi, or Wise Men who came to visit the Christ child in the town of Bethlehem. While Matthew only tells us that they came from the east Scholars tell us that the Magi had probably began their journey in what was then known as Persia and is now known as Iran, if we pull up our trusty map we see here is Israel and over here at the very edge of the map is where their journey would have originated from, meaning their journey would have encompassed over a thousand miles. If they were to arrive in Bethlehem in the narrow window of opportunity that would have presented itself while Mary and Joseph and the Christ child were actually there we are told they would have to have left their home months in advance. Remember they were travelling through hostile terrain, possibly on Camels, that’s how they are always pictured, but they may very well have made the journey on foot.
Let’s pick up the story as the Magi arrive in Bethlehem, Matthew 2:10-11 When they saw the star, they were filled with joy! They entered the house and saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasure chests and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. A Gift of Adoration
From all that we learn the Magi arrived, presented their gifts as an act of worship, warned the family of the danger posed by Herod and then disappeared into the mystery that shrouded their entire journey. So what was up with that? Seems like a long trip to just spend a day.
Well they came for one purpose and that was to worship and worship always requires a sacrifice of some kind. Did you catch that? Worship always requires a sacrifice of some kind.
And sometimes I hear people say “Well I give of my time” the wise men could have made that claim, they gave up a significant part of their lives to make the trip to worship Christ and then to travel home again. But they also brought gifts with them. We’ve discussed this before but each of the gifts was significant to who Jesus was and who he would become. Gold was traditionally the gift for a King, we are told that in Persia it was customary that no one could approach the King without first presenting him with a gift of Gold, good work if you can find it. And so we need to remember that the child in cradle was also the King of Kings.
The second gift was frankincense, which was a type of incense that was used in temple worship; as a matter of fact it’s mentioned in the book of Leviticus in the Old Testament as a type of sacrifice. And so this was a gift for a priest, one who would open the way to God for the people.
The third gift was Myrrh and it was mixed with aloes by the Jews to embalm their dead. So this was a gift for the one who would die for us.