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The Wise Men’s Gifts

Peninsula Community Church

What is the Meaning of Christmas? Lessons from the Magi!

December 9, 2018

Matthew 2:11 And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.

It is hard to believe that a year has passed and that we are celebrating Christmas and are looking at the gifts we will give and what gifts we will receive. For me personally, I love the Christmas season. In particular, I love the wide eyed giddy response of our grandchildren as they open their gifts on Christmas morning. I am also amazed at which gifts become their favorites so quickly. Sometimes the one we think will be their favorite is often discarded for the more simple ones. At times, I have even witnessed our kids and grandkids playing with the boxes more than the gifts purchased. 

As you consider the gift giving process, how many have ever received that gift that you have to stare at it in order to understand its value or even what it is. At one of our churches, we would have a Christmas party for our adults and one of the gifts that was sure to show up was a silver pine cone. You see, one of the families in the church during their family gift exchange had receive this as a gift. When they opened it they could not understand the gift and always joked about it as it was so cheap and looked like something bought in a dollar store. They gave the pine cone to the white elephant exchange and it soon became a cornerstone of the Christmas celebration each year. The question each year would be who would get the silver pine cone? It was the responsibility of the one receiving the pine cone to to keep for a year, and they had to regift it the following year.

In the passage before us, we find the wise men opened their treasures and offered gifts to the Christ child. These gifts were not just random gestures but were specific in nature and carefully selected to honor Jesus. They presented Him with gold, frankincense, and myrrh. At first glance these gifts seem interesting for a child. In addition to the honor and status implied by the value of the gifts, scholars believe that these three gifts were chosen for their special spiritual symbolism about Jesus Himself. With that in mind let us consider the meaning of these gifts. Adrian Rogers gives us three ideas about the gifts that are worthy of our attention today. 

First, the gift of gold represents His sovereign dominion. Gold was a present for a king, the most precious metal of that day. Gold was a symbol of royalty. To honor royalty you would present them with gifts of gold. Therefore the gift of gold by the wise men recognized this was no ordinary child. This child was a King. He was King Jesus. He was King of kings and Lord of lords! They didn’t cuddle this child, but they bowed their knee in reverence and in worship.  

Adrian Rogers on a memorable trip to Washington DC, stated that he had an opportunity to speak with the President of the United States. In conversation with the President, Adrian stated that He heard the president was visiting his city the next day. The president offered for Adrian the opportunity to ride back to Memphis with him on Air Force One. Adrian responded, “Why, Mr. President, that would be an honor, but I have a plane going back today.” The President replied, “Well, if you can arrange it, I’d love to have you.”  Adrain did not hesitate but he quickly made a hotel reservation, bought a toothbrush, and cancelled his flight. Why did he do that? It was because you do not get those invitations every day! 

Later Adrian had this thought, “You rearranged your schedule, made a reservation, and spent another night just so you could spend a few moments with that man.” Although he would do it again, he thought, “How much difficulty did you go through? And how would you compare that to what you do for the King of kings?” Adrian stated that his heart had convicted him that sometimes he was more impressed with men than with Heaven’s King. How about you?

Secondly, the gift of frankincense represents His sinless deity. If gold was a gift of wealth for a king, then frankincense was used to worship the King. Frankincense was a form of incense that was burned in worship. It is a reminder of the incense of worship found in the Old Testament structure of worship established in Exodus by God for the Children of Israel. Frankincense had a woodsy and fruity smell to it. It was a beautiful fragrance that ushered in the praise of God. These wise men recognized the sinless deity of Jesus, who was deserving of their worship. Remember Matthew’s words. “And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary His mother, and fell down, and worshipped Him… (Matthew 2:11). These pagan astrologers were overcome with the power of this tiny child and they worshipped Him.

In Isaiah 9:6 verifies this. For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Jesus was not only born a king, He was God in human flesh. He came to live a sinless life so that He could take on all of our sin. The three wise men recognized this gift to human kind by offering Him the gift of frankincense as worship. 

Third, the gift of myrrh represents His sacrificial death. Myrrh was a valuable substance used to embalm the dead. Stop and think of the significance of this. They were bringing a child something used to embalm the dead? They recognized that this little one was born to die. Myrrh was also used as a narcotic to dull pain. Upon the cross, they gave Him wine mingled with myrrh, but instead of taking myrrh to numb His pain, Jesus tasted death for every man. Whether or not the wise men fully understood all this, the Holy Spirit impelled them to make these gifts and the Holy Spirit recorded them for our benefit. 

Of all the gifts they might have chosen, they brought gold, frankincense, and myrrh, recognizing His sovereign dominion, His sacred deity, and His sacrificial death. So as believers living in this generation, at this time, what is our take away? What do we learn from this story recorded by Matthew more than 2000 years ago. Well! It teaches us so much about how we approach God and what we give to Jesus on a regular basis. 

One of the first lessons we learn is that it is more blessed to give than to receive. There is inherit value in giving to others. And, it is even more of a blessing to give without strings attached or to gain something in return. In Acts 20:35 Paul gives us great insight into the power of giving freely.  In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” Notice the Wise men did not come to receive as much as they came to give. And, they gave well, but in the giving they received a greater understanding of the one they worshipped. Too often we are a spoiled people who want to get rather than give. 

We should give our best. The story of Cain and Abel remind us of the need to give that which comes from our best and not just from some of our fruit. We find that Cain gave some and Abel gave his best. Genesis 4:3-5 In the course of time Cain brought to the LORD an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the LORD had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell. 

Notice the comparison here. Cain gave “an” offering. Abel gave the firstborn and the fattest of his flock. Abel was not haphazard in choosing the gift but he made a specific choice. Cain’s gift was random while Abel chose and gave his best. Cain’s gift of “some” spoke to a deeper issue of the heart that was revealed when God honored Abel’s gift over Cain’s. And we know the rest of the story. Cain killed Abel out of jealousy and rage. 

To give our best we may need a heart adjustment. We give our best to the best. Sometimes we do not give as we should because we are hardened or we want to just get by. This happens often when our giving is just a matter of getting it off of our check list, or to get praise for our gift. 

Sometimes we want others to give what we ourselves are not willing to give. We want forgiveness but we fail to give forgiveness. We want grace but we ourselves fail to give grace. We want people to give us some slack but we do not give others room to fail or mess up. We want others to accept us as we are, but do little to accept others as they are. We want love but do not extend love. We want respect, but fail to respect those around us. We must be willing to go above and beyond in giving gifts not because of what we receive but for the joy of giving. 

Luke knew this and that is why he wrote the following in Luke 6:37-38. “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”

What will you give Jesus this Christmas? That is the question for us to consider. For His sovereign dominion, will you give Him your wealth? For His sinless deity, will you give Him your worship? For His sacrificial death, will you give Him your life and your witness? My wealth, my worship, my life, and my witness belong to my Lord. And according to His Word, so does yours. What will you do? What will you give?

For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/messages.

Copyright © 2018 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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What Do You Give Jesus for Christmas?

Peninsula Community Church 

What Do You Give Jesus for Christmas? 

December 18, 2016

Matthew 2:9-11 After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.

Our story today picks up where we left off last week. The wise men moved from their encounter with Herod to find the Christ child. We do not know how long the trip was from the visit with Herod to actually encountering the Christ child but we know that it took some time. They were looking for the one sign that would lead them to the Messiah. When they saw the star that was pointing the way to Christ they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. Their reaction to the star showed the intensity of their expectation and their desire to see this child. The passage here states that their joy was exceedingly great. Their joy overwhelmed them and they expressed their joy in their worship.

As they entered the stable where the Christ child lay, they presented Him with gifts. Each gift presented showed the value and honor they were giving the Christ child. They presented Him with gold, frankincense, and myrrh. For most of us, at a first read this does not mean much but each of these gifts in the economy of the day had great value. The gift of gold was given to the Christ child as a way to honor Him as the King of this world. They recognized what many did not see in their day. He was the king of the world and they chose to honor Him as such. The second gift they brought was the gift of frankincense. Frankincense was given to Him in recognition of his position as the high priest. Frankincense was used by the priest when he went into the temple to present the people before God. It was in essence one of the symbols and tools for worship. They gave Him myrrh because myrrh was used as an embalming oil. They recognized that He was to die for the world. Their gift was a prophetic statement of what was to come. The wise men had a vision for this child more than the scholars or the religious leaders of their day. They gave gifts that spoke to His royalty as King, His priesthood as the intercessor for the people, and the one who would die for our sins.

When we give gifts, especially here at the Christmas season, we try to give gifts based on who the person is and how much we love them and know about them. But what do you do when you have to buy a gift for the person who has everything and can buy what they want when they want it? As I was preparing for this message, I was thinking about this Christmas season and what gift could I give to Christ. This was a difficult thought process because certainly Christ has everything He needs and what He does not have He could create as He has the power to do so. After some thought, I realized the answer was already given to us. The greatest gift we can give to Christ is ourselves. 

The greatest gift we can give to God is to say, “Lord, I give You my life. I give You my talents. I give You my abilities. I give You my dreams. I give You my future. I give You my weaknesses. I offer myself, all of myself, to You.” Our posture should be one of outstretched hands and open palms to give Him our life and all that we are. Any other approach communicates that we are approaching God with clinched fists or clinched teeth which speaks of resistance and rejection.

Too often we hold back from God just in case. We hold back from God because the last time we fully trusted someone they wounded us, the betrayed us, and they failed to live up to their promises. So we approach God the same way. We approach Him with fear and the apprehension that He will fail us, let us down, and in the end we will be left wounded and destroyed. But I can assure you that God will never fail you or let you down.

Paul in Romans 12:1-2 perhaps defines the giving of one’s self as a gift to God better than anyone else. Paul states I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

What is the gift Paul is referring to here? It is the gift of ourselves as a living sacrifice. Our gift to God is a resistance to being conformed to this world but rather a focus on being transformed by the renewing of our minds. Rather than settling for the status quo, we begin to adjust our lives in order to follow the ways of God. Each day we are transformed by the renewing of our minds. The result is that our way of thinking, the way we act, the way we perform our duties in life begin to be transformed so that we are much more like God in what we do. Can you imagine what life would be like if we truly committed ourselves to God and refused to be conformed to the world’s image of ourselves?

Let me sum this up by saying the best gift we could give God is to live the life He has designed for us to live. It means that we walk in forgiveness and healing so that we are free to be all that He desires. I know what you are thinking because I have thought it myself. It is too hard and it is impossible for me, there is just too much to overcome. But when we give ourselves to Him, He will begin the work of healing and restoration in us. That is His plan and it is has been His plan from the beginning of time. But how do we do this?

First of all the passage before us says that we should offer ourselves to God because of His mercy. Paul presents God’s mercy as the strongest argument for giving ourselves to God. When we fully recognize all that God has done for us the only response worthy of Him is to give Him our whole being, our whole mind, soul, and spirit. We were all sinners and sin had deadly consequences but while we were yet sinners He died for us. His mercy moved Him to give Himself so that we would be forgiven of our sins in total: those we committed, those we are committing, and those we have yet to commit. It was His mercy that saved us, redeemed us, and began a process of restoration. It was His mercy that will sustain us.

Secondly, we must offer ourselves as a living sacrifice. What an oxymoron. We are to offer ourselves as a living sacrifice. Most sacrifices of the Old Testament were slaughtered before they were sacrificed. Paul, however, is calling for us to present ourselves as living sacrifices not as dead lifeless ones. The expression of a living sacrifice is used as the backdrop to the Old Testament sacrificial system where an animal would be sacrificed for the forgiveness of one’s sin. You see in the Old Testament man offered an animal but in the New Testament man was to offer himself. We are to be the sacrifice God receives. Because we are living sacrifices, we are to be a living sacrifice wherever we go. This means at the office, at school, in our homes, and wherever we go we should live as as a sacrifice to God.

Thirdly we must offer ourselves to God through transformation and renewal. We best demonstrate our commitment to God by refusing to conform to the world by being transformed through renewed minds. When we give ourselves to God it is reflected in how we live. Worshipping people are changed people and that is reflected in their walk, their talk, and their personality. When we give ourselves to God we live as transformed people who live Christ-centered lives and not self-centered lives.

Finally, we offer ourselves to God all of the time. Living implies life. Offering ourselves cannot be contained in a one-hour service on Sunday. A living sacrifice implies a sacrifice that is alive and continuous in action. It moves from one activity on Sunday to all of our activities: each relationship, each task, each opportunity, each problem, each success, and each failure. Even the most common of deeds become an act of worship. Real worship is the offering of our everyday life to God.

In the final analysis, the best gift we can give to the one who has it all is ourselves. It is a choice we make but that is what He desires and that is what best reflects our love for Him. Today, as we gather around the Lord’s Table we are reminded that He loved us enough that He gave Himself completely to save us and redeem us from our sin.

For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/media.php?pageID=14

Copyright © 2016 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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Christmas Is Worship

Christmas is Worship

 Text: Matthew 2:1-11

 The Christmas season is about worship and adoration to the “King of the Jews” who came to bring salvation and hope to all mankind.

 It is amazing how society has made this season about buying and giving gifts when in reality it is about worship and adoration to the King of Kings who came to earth as a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes.

In the passage we read this morning we see five great truths about Christmas as a season of worship.

Who were the Magi? They were wise men who were astronomers and philosophers. God used their love of the stars to draw them to the place where Christ lay.

1. Jesus is the Messiah, the King of Jews, and should be honored that way. In V2 the wise men ask this profound question – Where is He who was born the King of the Jews? For we saw His star when it rose and we have come to worship Him.

This question is profound because they are asking Herod this question. It had been Herod who had proclaimed himself as the king of the Jews for almost 40 years. But no one could call Herod Messiah, the long awaited God-anointed ruler who would overcome all rule and bring an end to history and establish the kingdom of God and never die or lose His reign. 

The fact is no one can take the place of Messiah God who is King of all the earth. And Christ is no ordinary man, teacher or prophet, He is the Son of the Living God who came to turn the world upside down – not as a warrior but in the innocence of a baby. You see this was important because in Jesus he was not just a king but He was the Messiah.

For the Jewish people the promise of a Messiah, redeemer, was what they longed for. The story is told that the Jewish people of that day would greet each other with the words “have you heard any good news?” They longed for their Messiah who would redeem the world and rescue them form the bondage and turmoil they faced.

The Magi recognized the fulfillment of prophecy and they had come to worship him. The Magi recognized what Timothy in 1 Timothy 1:17 recognized that Jesus should be worshipped as King when Timothy stated that to the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.

2. Jesus is to be worshipped by all of the nations and not just the Jews as represented by the Magi coming to worship Him.

Matthew 24:14 – And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.

Jesus did not come to save a select few but he came that the whole world might be saved. John 3:16 For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son.

It is God’s desire to today that all mankind turn to Him and worship Him. This is regardless of their background and ethnicity. With this thought in mind it behooves us to understand that we too must take Christ to all of the world. We must deal with our innate biases that steer our thoughts and efforts away from loving the world.

3. God will do whatever it takes to make His Son known and worshipped. This is the heart of God.

 V2 – For we saw His star when it rose and we have come to worship Him.

 It is not clear how the wise men saw the star or how God used the star to draw them to the place where Jesus lay. In fact, we must be careful and not over think this as we will miss the truth that they were led by a star to the place where Jesus lay.

 There is often a time that God does things beyond our ability to comprehend them but that does not diminish what He has done. It simply means that rather than trying to figure it out we accept the truth and learn the greater lessons from these stories:

  • The Star
  • The parting of the Red Sea

4. Jesus is troubling to those who do not want to worship Him and brings out opposition to those who do.

 V3 – When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem was with Him.

 When we share Christ, we must be aware that there will be those who will not worship Him. I don’t understand that but that does not change the reality that some will refuse to give Him honor.

Even worse there will be those who not only fail to worship Him but they will come in opposition to what Christ stands for. We see this in our society today when people who refuse to worship Christ do not stop at that point but they go into a total opposition mode.

Isn’t it interesting that we can talk about God and we can talk about spiritual things but we can not talk about Jesus.

5. Worshipping Jesus means joyfully ascribing authority and dignity to Christ with sacrificial gifts.

 V11 – … and they fell down and worshipped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered Him gifts.

 We come into worship to give him gifts:

  • We give him our voices in song and words
  • We give him our thoughts as we recognize that worship is not a Sunday Morning event but a lifestyle that never ends.
  • We give of our time, talent and tithe to Christ. We offer what we have to honor God and to ascribe authority to Him.

 We do not give our gifts grudgingly or with suspicion but we do so because we are ascribing worth to Christ when we recognize that all we have belongs to Him anyway.

 Conclusion:

 This is the season of giving, food and relationships. It is this time that we honor God with all that we have and that we are so that our whole lives are a worship to Him. So, our worship and who we are can not be separated.

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