What Gift Shall I Bring? (1/3/16)

Posted by on Jan 5, 2016 in Sermons | 1 comment

This message is the first in a three part series called “Three Men and a Baby.”  As we look at the arrival of the “Wisemen” and the Epiphany, let’s also look for way Jesus was manifested as the Christ, the Son of God, and Savior of all.  AND… look for ways that Christ can be seen or manifested in our lives so that the world can see Christ in us and in the Church.

Click the below “Play” button and scroll down to follow along (the recording is from the 11:00 service)…


Our scripture reading was Matthew 2:1-12.  Open the drop down box to read along…

Matthew 2:1-12

1 Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the reign of King Herod. About that time some wise men from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking,

2 “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him.”

3 King Herod was deeply disturbed when he heard this, as was everyone in Jerusalem.

4 He called a meeting of the leading priests and teachers of religious law and asked, “Where is the Messiah supposed to be born?”

5 “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they said, “for this is what the prophet wrote:

6 ‘And you, O Bethlehem in the land of Judah, are not least among the ruling cities of Judah, for a ruler will come from you who will be the shepherd for my people Israel.'”

7 Then Herod called for a private meeting with the wise men, and he learned from them the time when the star first appeared.

8 Then he told them, “Go to Bethlehem and search carefully for the child. And when you find him, come back and tell me so that I can go and worship him, too!”

9 After this interview the wise men went their way. And the star they had seen in the east guided them to Bethlehem. It went ahead of them and stopped over the place where the child was.

10 When they saw the star, they were filled with joy!

11 They entered the house and saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasure chests and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

12 When it was time to leave, they returned to their own country by another route, for God had warned them in a dream not to return to Herod.




Wednesday January 6 is the first day of the season of Epiphany on the Christian Calendar.  The word Epiphany means:

  • Revelation
  • Manifestation


Epiphany talks about how this Jewish Messiah was revealed to the Gentile world.  Here’s how Paul put it…

But God has protected me right up to this present time so I can testify to everyone, from the least to the greatest. I teach nothing except what the prophets and Moses said would happen—  that the Messiah would suffer and be the first to rise from the dead, and in this way announce God’s light to Jews and Gentiles alike.”  Acts 26:22-23


Th birth of Jesus took place in a Jewish environment; an environment of constant oppression.  When Jesus was born,  it was the Romans’ thumb upon the people, but throughout their entire history we see that the Jewish people constantly need the Hope of a Messiah.

Over and over again, throughout the Bible, we are promised a Savior who will rescue us from oppression- oppression from the evil powers of the world, and oppression caused by our sinful separation from God.  But this promise isn’t just for Israel!  The promise applies to Gentiles too! The promise applies to those foreign Wise Men who mysteriously came “from the East.”    He was to be the Savior of ALL peoples….

John 8:12   Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.”
Acts 13:47   For the Lord gave us this command when he said, ‘I have made you a light to the Gentiles, to bring salvation to the farthest corners of the earth.‘” 
Malachi 4:2   “But for you who fear my name, the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in his wings. And you will go free, leaping with joy like calves let out to pasture. 
Isaiah 9:2   The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine. 
Job 33:28-30    God rescued me from the grave, and now my life is filled with light.’  “Yes, God does these things again and again for people.  He rescues them from the grave so they may enjoy the light of life.
Acts 26:23   …that the Messiah would suffer and be the first to rise from the dead, and in this way announce God’s light to Jews and Gentiles alike.
Isaiah 60:1-3    “Arise, Jerusalem! Let your light shine for all to see. For the glory of the Lord rises to shine on you.  Darkness as black as night covers all the nations of the earth, but the glory of the Lord rises and appears over you.  All nations will come to your light; mighty kings will come to see your radiance.
Psalm 18:27-28   You rescue the humble, but you humiliate the proud.  You light a lamp for me. The Lord, my God, lights up my darkness.

John 1:4-9  The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.  God sent a man, John the Baptist,  to tell about the light so that everyone might believe because of his testimony.  John himself was not the light; he was simply a witness to tell about the light.

9 The one who is the true light, who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.

The whole idea of Christmas is to embrace The Messiah.  The goal of Epiphany is to make ourselves a revelation of Christ to the lost world.

The visit of the Magi to Bethlehem is the first manifestation of the newborn Savior to people outside the Jewish community.  The traditional date for celebrating this Epiphany is January 6, twelve days after Christmas.  So we’re at the threshold of a new spiritual season, which will last until Ash Wednesday (February 10)- which is the beginning of Lent.

Our goal of the Christian calendar is that we can be living epiphanies of Christ to the world.


So who were these “Wise Guys” anyway???  The hymn tells us “We three  kings of Orient are…”  We get the picture of three guys traveling through the desert on three camels.   But Matthew doesn’t give us a lot of details.

Here are a few things that Matthew DOESN’T tell us…

Matthew doesn’t say anything about Kings.  He just writes “some wise men from Eastern lands.” (TLB, verse 1).  Most English translations use the same words (“Wise Men”), but others use the word “Magi.”

The notion that they were”kings” may have come from Isaiah 60:3…   Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn. 

Matthew doesn’t say they rode on camels either.  That may have come from Isaiah 60 too (verse 6)…

Herds of camels will cover your land, young camels of Midian and Ephah. And all from Sheba will come, bearing gold and incense and proclaiming the praise of the Lord.

Matthew doesn’t tell us there were three of them either.  That’s inferred from the number of gifts (Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh).  This wasn’t just a caravan of three guys on a field trip.  There arrival caused quite a stir; they’re may have been 100s of them.

And the image of the “Three Wise Men” at the manger doesn’t fit either.  It would have taken them 6-18 months to reach Bethlehem.  And notice that verse 11 says that “when they had come into the HOUSE, they saw the YOUNG CHILD…”

Matthew simply tells us that they came from “the east.”  Possibly this was from Mesopotamia or Persia, but there is no clear identification.

The seeds for their vision were probably planted by Daniel, Ezekiel, and even Esther.

We do know about the Magi from other sources.  They were a class of astrologers, men who studied the stars for Christmas Parade 2015-11-28 - Lot _IMG_4323guidance.  Of course, such people would be on the lookout for special signs in the heavens.  But how did they know this particular star was going to lead them to the Christ?  The Magi were priests of another religion; why did they want to find the Messiah of Israel in the first place?  Of all these details we’re quite in the dark.  All we know is that they came looking for the King of the Jews,  following his star, but not knowing exactly where it was taking them.



1:  The Magi Brought Change

Listening again to this familiar story, it begs a question:  “How come the religious leaders of Jerusalem didn’t notice Nativity Star _12.59.22that star until the Wise Men called their attention to it”?  Why weren’t they excited about the possibility that their Messiah had been born in Bethlehem?  Why didn’t they prepare some gifts for the King of the Jews?

They all knew that Bethlehem was  where their new ruler was supposed to come from, just as the prophet Micah had said (Micah 5:2)…

“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.”

But they didn’t recognize what was going on.  They could recite the facts but they couldn’t understand because they weren’t looking for the Messiah.

In fact, if they were doing any looking at all, it was to Look OUT for the Messiah!  They were happy with their current status, privileges, and power.  When the Magi asked about the “King of the Jews,” Herod was beyond upset.  He was ticked off; he was irate!  Furious!!!

The Magi “got it” and responded by welcoming God’s gift.  Herod, and the powers that be, turned a deaf ear to the good news.  None of the “Religious People” went to Bethlehem.  The ones who were going to worship every week missed it!  They were committed to some religion and not to God.  They didn’t expect God to show up!

Now before we come down too hard on the religious faithful of that day, how aware, how excited, how filled with anticipation are WE to worship, celebrate, and do whatever is necessary for our Messiah?  How truly committed to this Messiah are WE?  When we pray, do we really believe that God will answer?

An anonymous poet wrote the following:

Three thousand for my brand new car, Five thousand for a piece of sod, Ten thousand I paid to begin a house — A dollar I gave to God.

A tidy sum to entertain My friends in pointless chatter, And when the world goes crazy mad I ask, ” Lord, what’s the matter? ”

Yet, there is one big question, For the answer I still search ” With things so bad in this old world, What’s holding back my church? “

A token effort won’t work with God.  God demands change.  When God shows up, things can’t help but change.  When He steps into the picture everything changes.

Someone has said, “If you’re satisfied with things as they are, you don’t want God to show up.

If you want everything to stay the same,  you’ll have to exclude God from everything.

A careful read of the Bible clearly shows that everywhere God shows up in the Old Testament, every time Jesus shows up in the Gospels; every time the Holy Spirit shows up in the New Testament, things, circumstances, and people are changing!

God is an agent of change!

In a literal way, the Wise Men changed their course after seeing Jesus; verse 12 tells us that they “departed into their own country another way.”  Because they had a life changing encounter with the Messiah, they gave their best (represented by the gold), and their lives were changed forever.

Once we have an encounter with the living Jesus Christ, we can never walk the same path again.  We can’t go back to 2015.  It’s over, it served its purpose, it’s time to be fresh.  Do we still try to do things we did 75 years ago?  Do we wear the same clothes we wore 75 years ago?  Is our hair the same way?

Are we prepared. Are we “prayed up?”  Are we expecting God to show up? Are we ready to be changed???


2:  The Magi Brought Gold

The Magi packed some gifts with them before starting their journey.  They were prepared to participate in this wonder of worshiping the Messiah.  They weren’t going to show up empty handed, take a look at the manger, and then complain that things could have been done better if they had been in charge.  They came to worship, not to be spectators.

Is the modern church becoming “Spectator Oriented”?  To encounter Christ, worship must be participatory.  Offerings; gifts of money, gifts of time, gifts of talent open us up to the Holy Spirit.

And so, the Magi packed some expensive gifts in order to participate in this worship.  The most notable of them is the gold.

Gold was very valuable and was used because of its rarity, beauty, and workability.  It can be melted without harm and is extremely manageable.  Thus it can be used for cast objects, inlays, or overlays.   A number if Israel’s worship objects were solid gold or gilded.  Gold occurs in the Bible more frequently than any other metal.

Gold is of great worth, and when we think of gold we think of great wealth.  We also think of royalty.  The Scottish Theologian William Barclay has suggested that “gold, the king of metals, is the fit gift for the King of humanity.

What is it that comes to mind when we think of what we can offer as our best for Jesus and His church?  To be sure, this gold assisted Joseph economically as he took Mary, Jesus, and himself to Egypt in order to flee the murderous hand of King Herod.  They were poor peasants; they never could have afforded this.  God used the offering of gold to provide for the physical needs of Mary, Joseph, and Jesus.


3: The Magi Brought Their Best

But there’s a second meaning here: Gold represented the best the Magi could offer.

When we serve the church, are we doing our absolute best?  Are we doing all that we can?  Are we giving our absolute best in time, talent, and finances?  Or, are we “spectator oriented?”  When we  give, there is someone on the receiving end.

In Revelation 5:12, multitudes are praising God saying…

“Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength
and honor and glory and praise!”

May our gifts and efforts be worthy of Him!

The familiar carol by John Hopkins says it so well:

Born a King on Bethlehem’s plain, gold I bring to crown Him again.

Gold is the symbol of wealth, power, and excellence.  We still give gold medals to those who achieve great things.

Our wealth, our material substance, represents the investment of our time and the application of our abilities.

What we do with our “gold” here on earth is a demonstration of what is truly important to us.  To say it differently, what we do with our “gold” reveals what we hold to be of greatest value.


4: The Magi Brought Hunger

The Magi followed the star until they found Jesus, AND THEN the epiphany took place:  The Savior is manifested to a world of those who seek God, who hunger for divine truth, who cry out for a vision of the glory of the Lord.  The epiphany of God will take place for us as individual believers and as a body of Christ ONLY IF we are willing to actively seek, follow, and give the “gold” of our time and treasures.

During their journey, the Wise Men might have been singing “antiquity’s version” of “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough, to Keep me from You.”  They forged on, driven by their hunger to see Jesus.


What do We Bring?

Are we willing to do what it takes so that we can see Christ?  Beyond that, are we willing to do what it takes so that others see Christ?

Jesus wants us to be so committed to Him that we put Him first even before our own lives.  He doesn’t want our second best or our leftovers.  He wants our total commitment.


Alvin Straight, age 73, lived in Laurens Iowa.  His brother, age 80, lived several hundred miles away in Blue River Wisconsin.  According to the Associated Press, Alvin’s  brother had suffered a stroke, and Alvin wanted to see him, but he had a transportation problem.  He didn’t have a driver’s license because his eyesight was bad, and he apparently had an aversion to taking a plane, train or bus.

But Alvin didn’t let that stop him.  In 1994, he climbed aboard his 1966 John Deere tractor lawn mower and drove it all the way to Blue River Wisconsin to see his brother.

Are we that committed to Jesus?  Are we that committed to the church?  The Wise Men brought their gold and gifted Jesus with it.  You and I have an opportunity to extend these same gifts to Jesus today and everyday.

Can we commit 100% of our gold, time, and talents?



 Quiz Time!

As you reflect on what you’ve just heard/read, give this quiz a try.  If you don’t understand an answer (or if you disagree with the “correct” answer, post a comment)…

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One Comment

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  1. Jane Pape

    I am so glad I can come and listen to the sermons.

    I am usually a week behnd, but at the moment am still one week behind which I hope to listen to
    this evening when I do my nebulizer.

    Pastor Jim is just terrific and warms my heart to be able to hear his message.

    I just wish there was the music also, as music also has such a message.

    i hope to be back out to church soon, getting stronger, and I see the doctor
    on Wed along with an x-ray and breathing test.

    Peace and Blessings!

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