SACRIFICIAL Follow the Ways of the Wisemen. Matthew 2:1-12
Okay, I want you to imagine for a minute that it is your birthday. You send out invitations and invite all of your friends over. You make a big sheet cake for everyone to eat and a beautiful, decorated three layer cake with the appropriate number of candles on it and Happy Birthday to ME written in icing across the top. Your friends come and they have a great time. They eat the hamburgers you have grilled. They drink your lemonade and then they devour your cake and ice cream. They throw your paper plates in the trash and get one more glass of lemonade and sit around your pool. Finally, when you can’t take it anymore you say, “What about the presents?” “Oh yeah,” they all yell. They grab up the bags they have brought and with a lot of laughing and fanfare they all start handing gifts…to each other. Unwrapping boxes, tearing off bows, trying on sweaters and ooing and awing over picture frames and video games. And you stand off to the side, all alone, no presents to unwrap, and nobody paying any attention to you.
Matthew tells us the story about the wisemen in chapter 2 verses 1-12.
“After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem 2 and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” 3 When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.4 When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. 5 “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written: 6 “‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’” 7 Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. 8 He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.” 9 After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.”
The healthy, holy Christmas stays simple. It is about a baby in a manger. BUT IT IS ABOUT A BABY IN A MANGER. Listen, I am all for gift giving and presents under the tree and telling Santa what I really want. I likes giving stuff and I likes getting stuff. But if I am going to keep this thing healthy and holy I am going to remember that it is the birthday of the King and it really is all about Him. The Wise Men sacrificed their time. They put themselves in danger. They risked their reputations and their fortunes to pay homage to the God of the universe. They brought Him gifts, gold and incense and myrrh. And they stayed focused on Him.
Okay, so how do we do that. Well, do you remember Jesus talking about giving Him stuff and taking care of Him in Matthew 25. He said in the last days people will come to Him and say, “Lord, Lord.” I have always been on your side. It’s just me and you Lord. And He will say, “Depart from me, I never knew you.” Then others will come and He will say, “Come on in.” When they ask why He will say, “I was hungry and you fed me. I was naked and you clothed me. I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink. And they will say. “When did we see you sick or in prison and come to you? The King will say, Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of mine, even the least of them, you did it to me.”
We may have pushed that a little too hard in our house when the boys were growing up. One of our favorite videos is Josh and Jacob unwrapping their presents Josh is about 8 and Jacob is 3. Josh goes first and he unwrapped a little football that was a free gift when you subscribed to Sports Illustrated. There was a little card that says, “You get one year of Sports Illustrated magazine.” Josh looks up in his very quiet, sheepish little voice and grins, “Does it come with the swimsuit edition?” He’s just like his mother. Then Jacob unwrapped a little ski cap, you know, a knitted toboggan kind of thing that you pull down over your head. He unwraps this $2 gift like it was a Lamborghini and he says, “I’m not giving that to the pouw.” Apparently he forgot that because to this day when it gets real cold he comes to our house and takes all of our blankets and coats and hands them out to the homeless on lower Broad in Nashville.
I’m not suggesting we stop gift giving. I am saying that to keep Christmas truly healthy and holy we make it a little less about us and a little more about Him, especially in being sacrificial at this time of the year to the disenfranchised and marginalized people that God loves and identifies with most.