The wise men
1When Jesus was born in the village of Bethlehem in Judea, Herod was king. During this time some wise men from the east came to Jerusalem2and said, “Where is the child born to be king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.”
3When King Herod heard about this, he was worried, and so was everyone else in Jerusalem.4Herod brought together the chief priests and the teachers of the Law of Moses and asked them, “Where will the Messiah be born?”
5They told him, “He will be born in Bethlehem, just as the prophet wrote,
6‘Bethlehem in the land
you are very important
among the towns of Judea.
From your town
will come a leader,
who will be like a shepherd
for my people Israel.’ ”
7Herod secretly called in the wise men and asked them when they had first seen the star.8He told them, “Go to Bethlehem and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, let me know. I want to go and worship him too.”
9The wise men listened to what the king said and then left. And the star they had seen in the east went on ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was.10They were thrilled and excited to see the star.
11When the men went into the house and saw the child with Mary, his mother, they knelt down and worshipped him. They took out their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh and gave them to him.12Later they were warned in a dream not to return to Herod, and they went back home by another road.
A few years ago on “Good Morning, America,” Joan Lunden featured some amazing gifts. One of them was the Jaguar 220. To order the Jaguar 220 you go to the dealer and put down an $80,000 deposit. When the automobile is delivered you pay the balance of $507,000. If you purchase the Jaguar you may be interested in buying a special car wax for the ultimate shine. The wax retails for $3,400 for 225 grams. I guess if you can afford a $587,000 automobile you’re in the market for a $3,400 can of car wax!
When Jesus was born, wise men (sometimes called Magi, scholars or kings) came from the East (v 2). The wise men were astronomer priests. When they saw Jesus “they knelt down and worshiped him” (v 11). Worship came first and then the gifts. [Our family always begins Christmas Day reading the Scriptures, i.e. the Christmas Story. We pray, thank God for the birth of His Son, and then give each other our gifts.]
There are various theories about the meaning and symbolism of the wise men’s gifts. Gold is valuable and represents virtue. Frankincense is a perfume and represents prayer. Myrrh is embalming oil that was used when someone died. It represents suffering. Some scholars suggest the gifts were practical; the gold for buying necessities and the frankincense and myrrh for medicinal purposes.
Giving and receiving gifts is usually at the centre of most Christmas celebrations. But let’s not forget that the greatest gift doesn’t come in a box or a bag. It isn’t something that can be bought or bartered. In fact the greatest gift is priceless. Not something – somebody! The greatest gift is the One to whom the wise men gave their gifts. It’s the Father’s gift to us – Immanuel, God with us!
So give and receive gifts with joy. But before exchanging gifts let’s worship Jesus Christ, exclaiming together: “Thank God for his gift that is too wonderful for words!” (2 Corinthians 9:15).
Father God – thank You for the gift of Your Son, Immanuel, God with us! Amazing, priceless, indescribable – we rejoice and receive the babe, our Saviour, our King. Fill us with delight so that we, like the wise men, may present our worship to Him. For your honour and glory—through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.