Summary: A brief sermon after giving gifts to all our workers, explaining the meaning behind the gifts of the Magi, using both Scripture and the well known Christmas carol, We Three Kings.
The Magi’s Prescient Gifts
December 11, 2011
A PowerPoint presentation for this message is available by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
TEXT: Matthew 2:11 – “And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.”
This morning we gave gifts of appreciation to all those who have ministered in our church in some capacity over the last year at Grace Baptist Church.
It’s traditional to give gifts at Christmas.
Illus. – Friday night we had our combined homegroups Christmas party and we had a white elephant gifts exchange. – I got the BEST gift of the whole group. (SHOW OSTRICH GIFT; PUSH THE BUTTON AND IMITATE ITS NECK MOTIONS.) (NOTE: This got a lot of laughs)
Gift-giving at Christmas is thought to have started from the Magi’s gifts for Jesus at His birth. Who were these Magi, or Wise Men from the East, or Three Kings as they’re sometimes called? We actually know very little about them. Most of our notions about them are based on tradition, and not very reliable ones at that. We know from the Bible that they were men.
JOKE – I’m sure you’ve heard the joke about how different the visit to the Holy Family would’ve been had they been the “three wise WOMEN” instead of the “three wise men”: They would have asked for directions; arrived on time (hmm, not so sure about that one); helped deliver the baby; cleaned the stable; made a casserole; and brought practical gifts. When I told Susan this joke, she added that they would have remembered the baby’s name, his length and how much he weighed.
Don’t get too smug ladies.
JOKE – The other side of the coin is what they would have said when they left:
• “Did you see the sandals Mary was wearing with that gown?”
• “That baby doesn’t look anything like Joseph!”
• “Can you believe that they let those disgusting animals in the house?”
• “Want to bet on how long it’ll take until you get your casserole dish back?”
A popular idea is that they were astrologers, but actually that’s a myth too.
JOKE – One Alabama preacher had his own view of their occupation. – He believed they were firemen because the Bible says they came from “afar.”
Actually, it’s now generally believed that the Magi were a priestly caste from Persia.
Most everything else we know about the Magi is pure speculation. – For instance…
• We don’t really know how many of them there were. – The idea that there were three is based solely on the fact of the number of gifts given.
• The idea that they were kings comes from the early church father Tertullian because the Old Testament had prophesied that kings would worship the Messiah, mixing up His first and second comings.
• The idea that their names were Melchior, Baltazar and Gasper is pure myth.
What is not myth is what Matthew tells us in chapter 2 of his gospel—that wise men from the east saw a star, and based on certain information we do not know about, realized that it portended the birth of the promised Messiah; that they consulted Herod, who consulted the religious leaders as to where the Messiah would be born, which was Bethlehem; that they went to Bethlehem and found Joseph, Mary and Jesus in a HOUSE, not a stable, so it must have been some time after Jesus’s birth, that they gave Jesus gifts gold, frankincense and myrrh and worshipped Him, and that after being warned in a dream they returned to their own country another way instead of reporting to Herod as he had instructed them.
It’s the gifts that they gave that I want to focus on for the rest of this sermon.
Why did Matthew include this story?
• Remember that everything in the Bible is there for a purpose. One purpose is that this story magnifies the importance of this humble birth.
• But I think the best explanation for why Matthew recorded it is to understand the meaning behind the gifts. The gifts they gave at the most famous baby shower in history tell us wonderful truths about who this little baby was and what He was destined to do.
The meaning behind the gifts is wonderfully and accurately captured in the well-known Christmas carol, We Three Kings, composed by an Episcopal minister named Henry Hopkins in the 1800s to help his nieces and nephews understand the true significance of the Christmas story. [Ace Collins, Stories Behind the Best-Loved Songs of Christmas (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2001), 178-179.] The first verse and chorus set the theme and tone of the song and the remaining verses explain the meaning of the gifts.