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By Rev Charles Seet

Preached at / Published Life BPC, Combined Christmas Carol Service, 2004-12-24

Text: Matthew 2:1-11

Tonight we celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. To those of us who love the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, Christmas is a very meaningful time. It is a time to remember how God the Son was willing to leave His heavenly glory in order to dwell on earth with us. And it is also a time for us to worship and thank the Lord for the marvelous gift of salvation that is now ours through this wonderful event!

So let us give Christ the kind of the worship that He deserves from us: the Royal worship that was given to Him by a group of wise men from the East. Whenever the Christmas story is retold today, the worship of these wise men is also remembered. In fact many false legends have become associated with them. In nativity scenes, they are often depicted as three kings, dressed in royal robes. Their names are supposed to be Caspar, Baltazar and Melchior. And they were the rulers of three different eastern nations. Where did the idea of three kings come from? Perhaps from the three gifts that were presented to Christ: gold, frankincense and myrrh. Actually, the Scriptures do not state how many wise men there were. It only says that they were a group of wise men from the east, not kings at all. Look at Matthew 2:1 'Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem,'

And in nativity scenes you may also have noticed that the wise men are usually depicted as being at the manger scene on the very night when Christ was born. And they appear together with the shepherds who had heard the angels sing. But if you look at v.11 of the same chapter of Matthew, you will notice that it says, 'And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped Him.' By the time the wise men reached Bethlehem, Jesus and His parents were no longer staying in the stable, but had moved into a house. This means that some time had already passed since the birth of Jesus took place - perhaps even as long as 2 years. According to v.16, King Herod subsequently ordered the execution of all children in Bethlehem that were two years old and under.

And so the true account, given in the Scriptures is that a group of wise men from the east had seen a new star in the night sky and this caused them to travel to Jerusalem to come and worship Jesus, the newborn King of the Jews.

By the time they arrived, Jesus may have been about 2 years old. He was no longer staying in the stable where he was born, but in a house in Bethlehem. The wise men however, could not find Him. When they came to the court of King Herod they learnt about Micah's prophecy that Christ would be born in Bethlehem. They went there, and the star guided them to place where the young child Jesus was found. There they worshipped Him and presented their gifts to Him.

We are now going to learn something important from these wise men. What we are going to learn are 4 important lessons on the kind of worship that Christ deserves from us: The first lesson is that

I. Christ Was Honoured by Those Who Did Not Belong To Him.

Jesus belonged to the nation of Israel. He was the Messiah of the Jews. But these wise men were not at all from the nation of Israel. They were Gentiles from the east. And yet they were the first to come and pay such great homage to him. Doesn't it seem strange that Jesus should be honoured first by people to whom He did not belong? Should not the Jews have been the first ones to come, to honour their very own Messiah and King? Now, perhaps the reason for this is that the Jews did not know that their King was born. If they did not know about His birth how could they go and look for Him and worship Him? But if you look carefully at our text you will find that this was not the case. 

In vv.4-6 we see that when the wise men came to the court of King Herod, the Jewish chief priests and scribes knew that the Messiah, would be born in Bethlehem of Judaea. They were even able to quote accurately the Old Testament Scripture that foretold this: Micah 5:2. And yet these chief priests and scribes did not seem to be interested at all in honouring Christ. They knew that these wise men had traveled many months from afar, claiming that Christ had been born, and making enquiries about Him throughout Jerusalem.

According to v.3, all who lived in Jerusalem knew about the great quest of these wise men. But that did not seem to arouse their interest or excitement at all. None of them went along with the wise men to Bethlehem to see if their Messiah had really arrived or not. Such indifference to Christ by those who were His own people is very puzzling. John 1:11 says that 'He came unto His own and His own received Him not.' 

Why were they so indifferent? Perhaps it was because they felt no great need for Christ. They were doing quite well without Him. And although there were some godly Jews like Simeon and Anna at the Temple who were looking forward to seeing Christ, most of the Jews were not excited about seeing His coming.

What about us? Are we excited about seeing the coming of Christ? You claim to belong to Christ. But how excited are you to hear news of His second coming? If you truly want to honour Christ like the wise men, you must have this earnest longing and excitement in your heart to see Him coming. There was a Christian lady who ran a business, and her business was doing well. Someone asked her if she looked forward to the return of our Lord Jesus Christ. She said 'No, I hope He does not return so soon, because I still have many things I want to do first.' Is this the way you feel? If it is, then you would be like the Jews in Jerusalem who were not excited at all when the wise men brought news about Christ's first coming. Honouring Christ means that you should be excited about Him. He must be the One you desire most in this life!

You must be like the Wise Men who put aside all the other pursuits they had in order to find Him and worship Him. And that is not the only way they honoured Jesus. Let us go on now to look at another way that they did it.

II. Christ was Honoured by Their Response to The Word Of God.

According to Matthew 2:2 when the wise men saw the star they believed that this was the sign that the King of the Jews was born. What made them think that the star has something to do with the coming of the Messiah? I believe that they had access to the Old Testament Scriptures. Six hundred years earlier when the Jews were brought into captivity in the East, they brought their Scriptures with them. Through Jews like Daniel the predecessors of the wise men received copies of the Holy Scriptures. I believe that the wise men must have studied some Old Testament passages which foretold the coming of the Messiah. One such passage is Numbers 24:17. Let us turn our Bibles to this important verse 'I shall see Him, but not now: I shall behold Him, but not nigh: there shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel, and shall smite the corners of Moab, and destroy all the children of Sheth.'

According to this prophecy, the appearance of a star will signal the appearance of a king in Israel, since a Scepter is a symbol of a king's rule. But this prophecy mentions nothing about the birth of a king. They probably had to link this verse to another prophecy to see this. Let us look at Isaiah 9:6 'For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon His shoulder: and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.' The word 'government' in this verse clearly implies the rule of a king. And the wise men might have recognized, as they read this together with Number 24:17, that a king was going to be born and that the appearance of a new star would signal that birth. But how did they know that it had to be this particular new star that signaled his birth? After all, new stars do appear in the sky at various times in history. What made them think that this one was the one? Perhaps it was because of the time when the new star appeared.

The wise men might have known about Daniel's prophecy of the time when Christ was expected to arrive. This is found in Daniel 9:25 'Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times.'

Through this verse they were perhaps able to calculate the time when the Messiah was expected to be born. And when they got the answer, they realised that they were living right at the time this event was expected to happen! Every night these wise men searched the sky, looking for this expected star to appear. And then, on one clear night they finally saw it. How excited they must have been to see it! And so they left their homes to find the newborn king. 

What greatly impresses us about these wise men then, is the way in which they regarded the Scriptures. They fully believed everything that is written in it. And besides that, they were willing to give everything they had for it. They packed up their belongings, bought all the provisions they would need, and obtained camels for the journey. And most importantly, they carefully prepared the precious gifts they wanted to give to Christ - their gold, frankincense and myrrh.

As they did this some people may have asked these wise men, 'Why are you going through all of this trouble?' And they might have replied, 'Because a great king has been born in Israel, the one who is the saviour of us all.' And if they were asked, 'What makes you think that such a king has been born?' they would have replied, 'Because it is foretold in the Scriptures.' And if someone asked, 'But what if the Scriptures are wrong? then all of your efforts would be for nothing.' They would have replied, 'We believe every Word of Scripture, because it is God's Word. We are prepared to act upon it and even to give our lives for it.'

And so we see that these wise men honoured the Lord by their willingness to act upon what they had learned from God's Word. And if we want to honour the Lord the way they did, we too must be willing to act upon the Word of God, even if it means giving all that we have for it. 

Dearly beloved, if you really want to honour Jesus Christ as the wise men did, then you must believe and act upon His Word. And you must also be prepared to honour Christ in another way demonstrated by the wise men. This is the third lesson that we can learn from them:

III. Christ Was Honoured Jesus Through Their Perseverance in The Journey

It was very difficult for the wise men to travel all the way to Israel to see Christ. Today we can travel with comfort in air-conditioned vehicles and may not fully understand how hard it was for the wise men to make their journey. In those days camels were the only means of transport for them in the desert - but they were quite slow. And it was extremely difficult and dangerous to travel in that area at that time - they could easily become victims of robbers, especially since they were carrying very costly gifts with them - their gold, frankincense and myrrh. They could easily have been attacked and killed along the way. 

And the journey they made was a very long one - about 2,000 km. They had to cross many rivers and hot desert areas. The least amount of time they would have taken to complete the whole journey was three months. But together with the time taken for all the preparations they made, and some prolonged stops along the way, it may have been as long as 2 years between the time that they first saw the star, and the time when they found Christ in Bethlehem.

Perhaps there were times during the long journey when the wise men felt very discouraged and wanted to turn back. Many things could have made them give up their journey, like the burning heat of the noon-day sun, the cold nights when they had no place to rest; and the moments when they ran out of food or water. The fear of being killed, or being captured and sold as slaves might have gripped some of them along the way. But despite all of these, they kept going on and on. They persevered onward until they finally reached their destination.

What gave them the strength to carry on? How were they able to endure all the hardships of their journey? It was the supreme worth that they ascribed to the One they were looking for. To them, Christ was worth their very best efforts. For Him they were willing to cross over hill and mountain, rivers and deserts. For Him they were willing to face every danger.

So let us especially learn this lesson about honouring Christ from the wise men. The Lord Jesus is worthy of the very best efforts you can put into your service for Him. If you truly consider Jesus to be your great Lord and master, then you must show it by the commitment and devotion that you put into your service for Him. And do not allow any difficulties and trials to stop you, but keep on pressing onward. 

Dearly beloved this present year is soon coming to an end. The New Year will be here very soon. Can we make the year 2005 a year of giving our Lord the service and Honour that He deserves from us? Yes, we can: If we all will commit ourselves wholeheartedly to serve Him with the very best of our efforts. Let us not consider any sacrifice too great to make for Him.

And let us also honour Christ in one final way demonstrated by the wise men. This is the fourth and final lesson we will learn tonight from the wise men:

IV. Christ Was Honoured by Their Costly Gifts

Now notice what the wise men presented to Jesus: They did not bring money, animals, or goods, but very precious commodities: Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh. These were presents fit for a king. 

These gifts were actually a very timely and useful provision for Joseph and Mary. They would need it for their journey and stay in Egypt in order to escape from King Herod�s evil plot against Christ. By selling the gold, frankincense and myrrh, the family would have sufficient funds for all their needs perhaps even until they returned back to Israel. God used what the wise men gave for the very important purpose of keeping them safe in Egypt.

And God will also use whatever you give to Him well, for the needful work of His Kingdom. In the coming year we trust the Lord to open doors and opportunities of service in Life Church. 

Are you willing to give to Him in order that there will be no lack of resources for using these opportunities? Are you willing to give of your gold, frankincense and myrrh to Him? Are you willing to give Him the things in your life that are most precious to you? Giving is the most basic requirement for honouring our Lord. And the most precious gift you can give to Him is your life. 

Dearly beloved, while we celebrate Christmas by giving gifts to one another, let us not forget to give our best gift to the One whose birth we are celebrating tonight: Our Lord Jesus Christ, who came to be our King! Please do not think that He is still that harmless little baby lying in a manger, as depicted in all the nativity scenes. He is no longer a baby, no longer a child, but the great almighty King of kings and Lord of lords, who deserves only the very best that you can give!

Vision & Mission

 

To build a united church family that is committed to making disciples through Salvation, Sanctification and Service, to the glory of God.

Verse for the Week

December 3 & 10 - Holy Living

Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, 2 Peter 3:11