The True Meaning of Christmas

I was asked to write an Article for the local newspaper on the “True Meaning of Christmas”.  It will be published Christmas day but I am giving you an early read.  It is a culmination of several things I have written over the past several weeks.

The True Meaning of Christmas

This past Sunday our church choir did a great job in presenting a cantata entitled “Joy has Dawned”.  I really enjoyed it because this cantata has such a great message to it, which is the joy of Christmas.  The sad thing is that for many people they have no joy when it comes to Christmas.  Their joy in Christmas has been lost and it has been replaced by the busyness that comes this time of year.  You know the busyness I am talking about:  the baking, the shopping, the wrapping, the visiting, the parties, the giving and receiving of gifts and the list goes on.  In all those things they have lost the joy that is found in the true meaning of Christmas.

I was watching a program on television the other night and one performer said, “Christmas is all about spending time with friends and family”.  Now, while I would say that family and friends are a part of what makes our Christmas season so great, but I also think that we miss out on the real joy of Christmas if we think that it is what it is all about.   Again, do not get me wrong, I see them as major parts of our celebration but the real joy and true meaning of Christmas is not found in family and friends.  So you may what then is the true meaning of Christmas if it is not about gifts, shopping, baking, and spending time with family and friends?

Let me answer that question by sharing with you something  that is found in the Bible.  Most of us know about the Wise Men or the Magi, but do we ever really consider what they were doing?  We often just think about them as some guys from the Far East chasing a star, but  I see much more than that in them.  We can read about them in Matthew 2:1-2  which tells us this about them:  1 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, 2 “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.” These magi were not just chasing a star but they were trying to find the one who was born King of the Jews to worship him.  The whole focus of the magi was to worship Jesus.  The whole reason for their long journey was to worship Jesus.  This is the start of the true meaning of Christmas, it starts with worshipping Jesus but it continues on from there.

Later then in Matthew 2:11 we read this about the magi:  11After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. What we see here is that they do find Jesus and they do worship Him once they find Him.  More than just worshipping him when they find Him, we see that they worship Him with their very best.  They worship Him by presenting to Him gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  They worshipped Him with Gold because He was a King and gold represented royalty.  They worshipped Him by giving Frankincense which was used in the temple in worship so they worshipped Him because He was a Priest.  They worshipped Him by giving Him Myrrh which was used for embalming because He was born to die as Savior.  We can see here the true meaning of Christmas which is worshipping Jesus and not just worshipping Jesus but worshipping Him with our very best because He is our King, our Priest, and our Savior.

The best present you could ever receive was wrapped in swaddling cloths at His birth and was born of a virgin.  That little baby grew to be a man and lived a sinless life.  He died on a cross and rose the third day and satisfied the requirements of a Holy God with the sacrifice of His life.  To place your faith and trust in Him is the best gift you could ever receive because that is the gift of eternal life and joy will dawn in you when you accept this gift.  If you have accepted this gift but you have not been living like it, then there is no greater gift you could give yourself  and those you love than recommitting yourself to living for and worshipping Jesus and have your joy restored.

Let us all focus on the true meaning of Christmas which is worshipping Jesus Christ, our Savior, and our Priest, and our King and have the Joy of Christmas restored!

Holding Back?

Let me share with you an interesting take on this story of the wise men that I read:

One of the three wise men felt sure that what the world needed was a King, one who could rule the nations with authority and power, put down unrighteousness, and bring prosperity and peace to mankind. So, certain that the star would lead them to a King, he brought a royal present, a gift of gold.

The second wise man, knowing that the world’s ideas of God were warped, thought that God needed to come down here in human form and show the world what He was really like. So, wanting God to be manifest in the flesh, he brought frankincense, a gift for deity since incense is used for worship.

The third hoped that the star would lead them to a Saviour. This wise man knew that the world was a sinful place, sadly in need of One who would take on Himself the weight and guilt of the sins of mankind and atone for them. So, convinced that such a great Saviour must also be a great sufferer, he brought myrrh, a gift for one destined to die since the spice was used to embalm the bodies of the dead.

They came to Bethlehem and when the star had led them to a child in a woman’s arms; all three were at first overwhelmed with chagrin and dismay. Then they heard Mary sing the song recorded by Luke in Luke 1:45-47: “My soul doth magnify the Lord, And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.”

“The Lord!” cried the first wise man. “Then I have found my King!” And he presented his gift of gold.

“In God!” exclaimed the second wise man. “Then I have found my God!” And he presented his gift of frankincense.

“My Saviour!” chorused the third wise man. “Then I have found my Saviour!” And he presented his gift of myrrh.

They did not hold back. They gave their best. In worshipping the Lord, in worshipping God, in worshipping the savior, they gave us the example of not holding back when they understood completely who this child was.

You may say I have nothing to give, oh but you do. Romans 12:1-2 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

Are you giving God your all and your best with your life?  Are you giving God your mind to be renewed?  We all have something that we can give to God and that is our lives and we are not to hold those back.  Have you completely given your life and mind over to Christ or are you holding back?

What are your thoughts?

The Very Best

Matthew 2:11 – After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

These Wise Men when they gave their gifts gave their very best!  For many of us though this is not what we want to do, we want to give but the problem is we do not want to give  our best.  Our temptation often times is to hold back. Instead of offering Gold, and Frankincense, and myrrh in the times of worship in our lives, we are so often tempted to refuse to give anything, or if we give something it is not our best.  God gave us His best, we need to give Him our best not our seconds and our scraps.

Everyday we should look at ourselves in the mirror and ask, “Am I giving my very best in the situation I am in?” God put opportunities in front of us daily but are we doing our best in them?   Can you say at the end of each night when you lay your head on the pillow that you gave God your very best?  Can you say that you gave God the time He deserved that day?  Can you say that you gave God everything financially that you could give?  Can you say you gave God the very best you have of yourself or does God get the seconds and thirds and the scraps of your life?

When the wise men arrived at the house, they didn’t hold anything back. They didn’t say to one another, let’s just keep the gold and give the rest of these gifts to Herod because he looks like a King and worthy to receive them. This is just a child in a shabby looking house; we don’t need to give Him all this expensive stuff.  Oh but how often is this our attitude toward the least of these in our daily lives which Jesus said is Him.

Are you giving your best in every situation that comes each day?  I challenge you today to make a conscious effort to do so!

Any thoughts?

Following God’s way

Matthew 2:11 -After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

These wise men believed in Christ when they had never seen him; but that was not all. They believed in Him when the scribes and Pharisees were unbelieving; but that again was not all. They believed in Him when they saw Him as a little infant on Mary’s knees, and worshiped Him as a King. This was the crowning point of their faith.  They saw no miracles to convince them. They heard no teaching to persuade them. They saw no signs of divinity and greatness to awe them.

They saw nothing but a newborn infant, helpless and weak, and needing a mother’s care like any of us. And yet when they saw that infant, they believed that they saw the divine Savior of the world! Verse 11 says “They bowed down and worshiped him” .

Worship is a presentation of our gifts to God.  We read that these wise men “presented unto Him gifts, gold, frankincense and myrrh.  The significance of these gifts is beautiful. They worshipped Him when they gave the gold—gold is for a king. They worshipped Him when they gave Him the frankincense—frankincense is for a priest. They worshipped Him when they gave the myrrh—for myrrh is for the One who was to die. These gifts of the wise men, even at the cradle of Christ, foretold that he was to be the true King, the perfect High Priest, and in the end the only Savior of mankind.

The Magi were willing to follow God’s way anywhere in order to find the Promised King and Savior.  Are you wise enough to do that?  Are you willing to go anywhere and do anything for the Savior?  If you are – Live like it today!  Model it today!  Do it today!

What are your thoughts on this?

 

 

The Baby and Strange Gifts

In the gospel of Matthew we see that the first ones that Matthew has show up on the scene are the Magi.  What is the reaction of the first ones who are the Magi in the gospel of Matthew to come before Jesus?  It is worship.  It is all about worship.  We see that the Wise Men showed great wisdom in that they came to worship the new born King.

In their worship we see in verse 11 that they gave Him gifts–gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Let us read it: 11After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. These were some strange presents to be bringing a baby boy. The gold, of course, we all can understand because of its value, but the frankincense and myrrh are not normal gifts.

We can guess that these Wise Men had also been exposed by Daniel’s teachings for one thing.  One of the most fascinating aspects of the Biblical story of Daniel is that this young prophet who was able to interpret Nebuchadnezzar’s dream about future world empires in Daniel 2 and so then he was honored by Nebuchadnezzar by making him the chief of his “Wise Men” as you can read Daniel 2:48. From this position Daniel undoubtedly influenced many to believe in Jehovah and the Hebrew Scriptures. They were aware of the prophecies of a coming Messiah through whom all the world would be blessed.  I believe that the Magi might have been some of those who because of Daniel’s influence with the Wise Men who came before them have been influenced indirectly by him.

I am sure they were familiar with Isaiah’s prophecy in Isaiah 60:3 which says, “Arise, shine; for your light has come, And the glory of the LORD has risen upon you. And then Isaiah 60:6 which says, “A multitude of camels will cover you, The young camels of Midian and Ephah; All those from Sheba will come; They will bring gold and frankincense, And will bear good news of the praises of the LORD. Knowing this Scripture could explain the first two gifts and their worship, it certainly does not explain the myrrh.

In Biblical times myrrh was a perfume, like frankincense. But the strange thing and unlike frankincense, myrrh always seemed to used in regard to death and burial. It was the embalmers choice for preparing a corpse for burial. Jesus himself would be embalmed with this very perfume in John 19:39, which says, Nicodemus, who had first come to Him by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh  and aloes, about a hundred pounds weight. Stop here and think could the magi be thinking of Jesus’ death when they brought the myrrh?

I would say that it is possible that they were thinking of his death.  Over the centuries the truths of Daniel’s prophecy in 9:24-27 could have been read and passed down, and in that prophecy it says that the ‘Messiah will be cut off’ and this ‘will make atonement for iniquity’ and ultimately ‘bring in everlasting righteousness’. It is possible  and so this may be how God led those Wise Men to bring that third gift of Myrrh with them. Amazingly, even at Christ’s birth, the shadow of the cross is already falling over His life.  No wonder that they are seeking him to worship if they understand this truth – that this baby was born so he could die as savior of the world.  When we really understand this truth it should bring us to the point of worship.

How about you?  Have you made the point of Christmas to be worship of King and Savior?  What are your thoughts?

 

Wise Misunderstandings

Believe it or not we are less than a month away from Christmas, so with that we are going to start talking some about some Christmas time things.  Today I want to deal with some of the misunderstandings we have with the Wise Men or the Magi from Matthew 2:1-18.

There are several of the misunderstandings about the wise men and the first thing is that they were not kings as we often think and hear.  They were magi or wise men, which means they were men who specialized in astronomy, medicine, and natural science. These were Wise Men: Magi, not magicians; Astronomers, not astrologers; Scientists, not wizards. They were probably Religious Philosophers from Persia who had become familiar with Jewish prophecies through contact with the writings of Daniel, Jeremiah, Ezra and other Jews scattered throughout the east. They must have been familiar with Scripture. To go along with this, there were most likely not just three, there could have been a great company of people travelling or there could have been two – we really do not know. The reason we often think that there are only three is because they brought three gifts to Jesus.  No where does the Bible say there were three, it just says that there were Magi – there could have been two or five but three is just a guess.

Another misunderstanding is that they do not seem to come on the birth night, but many days or even more likely many months to even a year or more later.  The reason for this is seen in a couple of things.  One is that in verse 11 it says that the Wise Men entered “the house” – we know that Jesus was born in a manger so Joseph has now secured a house for the family. He was most likely able to get a house to stay in during the time of census which would take a long time in those days.  Something else that would give us a clue is that when Herod has all the male children killed, he had those 2 years and below kill.  Remember he asks the Magi when they saw the star in the sky – with that information he could have started figuring how old the child would be.  I believe that is because he wanted to make sure he was going to kill the Jesus so he went a little high but if Jesus were only a few days or a month old he would have only had to have the 1 year olds and below killed.  So I think that this gives us a pretty good idea that Jesus would have been a little older here when the Magi show up on the scene.

Think about this:  how do the wise men show up on the scene?  What are their clues as to where to go?  I truly believe that the Wise Men read the Scriptures and understood what it was saying, they saw the star, and so they sought after Jesus.  When it comes to this Christmas, be like the Wise Men who read the word of God and who sought after Jesus.  They just did not seek after Jesus but they were tenacious in their seeking him.  They were asking the question:  “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.” You can see in this the tenaciousness of their desire to find Him.

Why were they seeking Him?  Were they seeking Jesus to get something from Him?  Did they seek him so that they could get things from Jesus like he would tell them he would grant them three wishes?  No!  There reason for seeking Jesus was to worship Him.  Let me ask you – why do you come go to Church?  Do you come to worship Jesus?  If you are going for any other reason – it is not a good one – but I still encourage you to go.  Why is it that you celebrate Christmas?  Is it to get things and presents or to worship Jesus?  Do you worship Jesus at Christmas or has everything gotten in the way and now Christmas has become about something other than worshipping Him?  If we are to be wise we need to make it about Jesus as the Magi do.

What are your thoughts?