Summary: Sermon for Epiphany Sunday, 2013 Year C
Matthew 2: 1 – 12 / The Gifts They Brought
Intro: Today we celebrate one of the 7 principal feast days on the Christian calendar. It is a fixed day --- the 12th day after Christmas--- so it migrates through the days of the week. Epiphany celebrates the “revelation” or “manifestation” of Christ following the literal meaning of the Greek epiphaneia. Here, the magi’s observation and following of the “star” serves as a physical marker of a new outpouring of heavenly light. Today, instead of talking about who the magi were or weren’t or even the significance of their journey, I want to talk about the gifts they brought and their significance then and now.
I. If you are wearing anything made of gold, please raise your hand. Why do we wear gold? Perhaps a gold ring you wear was given you on the day you married. Often, the value of the gold we wear lies in what it signifies and not so much its monetary value.
A. Gold, in the time of Jesus, as it is today, was the most precious metal. Many of the decorations in the Temple of Jerusalem were made of the purest gold to remind the people that God gave of His best to them, but also that they were to give of their best to Him.
B. Sadly, for many people, their investment in earthly joys far outweighs their concern for the gospel. Gold often represents love. Christ loves us and gave Himself for us. What “gold” are we willing to offer today?
C. Notice also that the Magi didn’t send their gifts, they brought them in person. They weren’t content to acknowledge a King from a distance. They made the journey and followed the star to wherever it would lead. Visitors from the East brought to Jesus, not only themselves, but also their gold; the best of their lives.
II. The 2nd gift offered was frankincense. It is made of OLIBANUM an aromatic gum resin secreted as a milky-white substance by certain species of trees. Canals are cut into the bark of the trees, the gum emerges as transparent beads which are gather, congealed and pressed into cylinder shaped pieces which are then ground into a powder.
A. The name in Hebrew for frankincense is “Lebona” which means” white, shining. The ground pieces of frankincense powder is burnt providing a pleasant, penetrating odor similar to balsam.
B. Frankincense is an offering connected with prayer and praise to God. Therefore, following in the example of the wise men, we should offer our frankincense which is an offering of prayer and praise. If our lives are to be an effective witness for Christ, we must weave the spiritual disciplines of prayer and praise into our daily living.
C. In order for Frankincense to be used as an offering, it had to be burnt. It needed fire. One of the symbols of the Holy Spirit is fire. We need the fire of God’s spirit to burn in our hearts, that we may live lives of prayer and worship.
III. The 3rd and final gift is Myrrh. Like frankincense, Myrrh was an expensive perfume. Myrrh is the dried resin of several Commiphora tree species. The word comes from the Hebrew word murr or maror, which means "bitter."
A. While frankincense had to be burnt to give up its odor, myrrh either had to be converted into oil or beaten and crushed before it would give of its fragrance.
B. Many times in church history, it has been when the church, like myrrh, has been beaten and crushed, that it has produced some of its most effective witness.
C. The challenge to us is clear. We are called to sacrificial living. Such a life is impossible by human strength alone. We need the anointing oil of God’s Spirit to be our comfort and healing when life brings us its “sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, and dying.”
Conclu: VSS. 2, 8 and 11 contain the Greek word, PROSKYNEO. This word was commonly used to describe the custom of prostrating oneself at the feet of a king. For the Magi, the purpose in following the star was to not only offer gifts; but also to declare their loyalty and reverence. Have you journeyed to the manger this year to be unchanged and go back home the same person? What gifts will you bring to Christ Jesus in the daily living out of your life throughout this new year?