Merry Christmas! After much anticipation, we finally made it to the big week, and there is much to celebrate. So, who wants to talk about gifts?! How are you feeling about your Christmas shopping this year? What was your favorite gift you gave or plan to give? Favorite gift you received or hope to get? While the shopping and buildup can be stressful, gift exchanges can be a fun and meaningful experience at Christmas. In Matthew’s account of the Christmas story, three men are remembered for going well out of their way on a long journey to participate in a gift exchange with a… child. Take a few minutes to read slowly through Matthew 2:1-12.
Read Matthew 2:1-12
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.
Questions to Consider
What stands out to you as you read this passage? What words, images, characters? Why?
Verses 1-10: What challenges did the Magi face on their journey to Bethlehem? Why do they go to such great lengths to worship Jesus? What guidance do they receive on their journey?
If not a paranoid King like Herod, what barriers or distractions may threaten your worship of Jesus over the holidays? Back at school?
Verse 11: What is significant about the gifts the Magi brought to Jesus?
What “gifts” can you offer as an act of worship to Jesus this Christmas?
In this passage, these three wise men went out of their way to bring these expensive gifts to Jesus. Much has been suggested about the beauty and significance of these gifts: gold (signifying Jesus’ kingship), frankincense (signifying Jesus’ deity), and myrrh (foreshadowing Jesus’ death).
However, as valuable as these were, what if the greatest gift the Magi gave was not their presents, but their presence? What if the worship they gave was more valuable to God than the gifts they brought? The expensive gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh were only an expression of their worship - their offering to Jesus recognizing that He is worthy of all things.
And the real beauty of this story is the gift exchange that happened later. As these Magi laid down their gifts to a King, we know King Jesus would one day lay down His life for them – and for you and me. Now, through the gift of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, we can receive eternal (Romans 6:23) and abundant (John 10:10) life. And not only that, but we now also have access to God’s presence with us all the time through the promised Holy Spirit (John 14:16-17)!
So, as we celebrate the birth of Jesus again this Christmas, what gifts can you bring to Him in response? How can we keep the busyness of this season from getting in the way of us giving God the best gift we have to offer: our worship? Along with the Magi, the most valuable gift we can offer to God is our worship, and the most valuable worship we can offer is ourselves.
Don’t think your life feels like much to offer God right now? Think again. God loves it when we bring Him all of who we are. Gratitude? Sadness? Fears? Loneliness? Hopes? Joys? Failures? Disappointments? Relationships? Hurts from our past? Trust for our future? And maybe most importantly, our time and attention in the present. Whether we feel like it or not, we can choose to bring it all to God as worship!
In The Message, Romans 12:1 says it this way, “So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around (Christmas-party-going, hanging-out with friends, enjoying-and-getting-annoyed-with family, social-media-scrolling) life — and place it before God as an offering.” (Christmas break additions mine)
O, Come, Let us Adore Him!
Jesus, thank you for the gift of Your birth and Presence. Help us to celebrate Your coming not only with songs and services this Christmas but by offering our whole lives to You as worship. You are our greatest gift and treasure, worthy of all we could ever bring. Amen.
In the spirit of giving, here are a few gifts from me to you. May they be another resource to help you connect with Jesus this Christmas.