A Christmas That Matters part 3
Making Christmas Matter In Your Heart
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
December 12, 2010
Christmas is a wonderful time of year, don’t you think? The lights, the
songs, the decorations… they all seem to add so much. And there are a
lot of traditions and a lot of other things that have become a part of
the whole Christmas experience. And there’s always such a build-up
toward the big day, with every year seeming to get bigger and bigger.
first Christmas… the birth of Jesus… certainly received much less
fanfare. It was actually a pretty exclusive party, just the immediate
family, some shepherds and some foreigners from a land to the east.
This birth would have seemed like an insignificant event at the time,
but here we are over 2000 years later still celebrating it.
the reality is that those foreigners—those wise men—probably didn’t
arrive until quite some time later… even up to a couple years later.
Just being fashionable late for the party, I guess. But the Biblical
account talks about they arriving at a home, not a barn or a stable,
and there’s no mention of a manger. Plus, And when King Herod heard
about this Child that was supposed to be the King of the Jews, he felt
his own authority threatened. So he had all the infants two years of
age or younger put to death. So that’s why we say Jesus may have been
as old as two years before the Wise Men arrived.
interesting how we lump them together with the shepherds on the night
of His birth. We picture the shepherds there gathered around the manger
when these three wise guys show up. And the truth is that we don’t even
know that it was three. All we really know is that they brought three
kinds of gifts, but that doesn’t mean there were only three people. I
expect there was actually a large number of people traveling in a
PICTURE (PowerPoint - van)
Not that kind of Caravan…
PICTURE (PowerPoint - camels)
More like this.
suppose there could have been three. For all we know, there could have
been twenty of them with a lot of duplicate gifts (like a wedding). Or
there could have been as few as two people that brought three gifts. We
really don’t know. But tradition likes to tell us that there were three
of them. Tradition even gives these three Wise Men names: Melchior,
Balthasar, and Casper. We’re told that they came from the East. We’re
not sure exactly where. It could have been Persia or Iran, Syria, or
even India. The popular carol says, “We three kings of Orient are,” but
there’s nothing Biblical to back that up. It just doesn’t say. Maybe
they didn’t even set out together. Maybe one person started out and met
up with others along the way. There’s a lot we simply don’t know.
Aren’t you glad you came today? You always suspected I didn’t know what
I was talking about, right? Well, let’s keep going.
called kings, they’ve been called Magi, they’ve been called astrologers
or astronomers, but what seems to be the most common and perhaps the
most accurate is “wise men.” And you know, that’s quite a reputation
for them to have had for 2000 years. Wouldn’t you like to be known as a
C.H. Spurgeon, a famous preacher from the 1800s
drew a distinction between knowledge and wisdom. Because they’re not
the same thing. You can have a lot of knowledge and not be very wise.
This is what Spurgeon said:
“Wisdom is the right use of
knowledge. To know is not to be wise. Many men know a great deal and
are all the greater fools for it. To know how to use knowledge is to
~ Charles Haddon Spurgeon
travelers from the East were wise. They had some kind of knowledge
about astronomy and about prophecy, and they put that knowledge to wise
Over the past couple weeks we’ve been taking about making
this Christmas matter. Today we’re going to examine these Wise Men and
learn from their example three ways to make this Christmas matter in
our spirits. Here’s their story from Matthew 2…
Matthew 2:1-12 (NLT)
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, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it
rose, and we have come to worship him.”
King Herod was deeply
disturbed when he heard this, as was everyone in Jerusalem. He called a
meeting of the leading priests and teachers of religious law and asked,
“Where is the Messiah supposed to be born?”
“In Bethlehem in Judea,” they said, “for this is what the prophet wrote:
‘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.’”
Herod called for a private meeting with the wise men, and he learned
from them the time when the star first appeared. 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!”
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. When they saw the star, they were
filled with joy! 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
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
Okay, so what do these Wise Men teach you about making Christmas matter in your spirit?
The Wise Men Teach Me To…
1. Learn whatever I can about Jesus.
Wise Men are thought to have been people who studied different fields
of science and nature and superstition and religion. They were among
the most educated people of the day and were highly regarded in
society. And their study probably included a look at the Jewish faith.
you’re familiar with the Old Testament, you may remember that almost
600 years earlier thousands of Jews were taken into captivity by the
Babylonian army into the area which is now Iraq. When the Jews were
freed, some chose to stay behind and carried on their beliefs there.
Were the Wise Men from that area, or at least from that general
vicinity? Maybe. If so, then perhaps the Wise Men had learned about the
Jewish Scriptures, and perhaps they were familiar with Numbers 24:17
Numbers 24:17 (CEV)
“What I saw in my vision hasn’t happened yet. But someday, a king of Israel will appear like a star.”
they found out about it, the Wise Men obviously knew something about
the prophecies that foretold the birth of Jesus. It appears that they
had read the Jewish Scriptures and they had learned about the coming of
Jesus… they must have. And it would serve us well to learn about this
same Jesus today through the same method of reading the Bible. Take
that as a lesson from the wise men.
2. Be open and ready for God to speak to me.
did God speak to the wise men? He used a star. Now, many different
attempts have been made over the years to explain exactly what this
“star” was. Some scholars suggest that perhaps it was a meteor or a
comet or a supernova that these wise men saw. Here’s one explanation I
“...It was the first Jupiter/Venus conjunction of August
12, 3 BC in the constellation Cancer that alerted the Magi to look for
further signs. They found them - in the triple conjunction of Jupiter
with Regulus in the constellation Leo [Regulus is the chief star in
Leo]. But it was the second conjunction, on June 17, 2 BC, in the
evening, of Jupiter and Venus, in the constellation Leo, that started
the Magi on their way west. Although the Magi probably had predicted
these celestial events in advance, they wanted confirmation that their
predictions would come to pass. The "star" they followed was the planet
Jupiter, the King Planet, which, having gone through its retrograde
motion, appeared to stand still on precisely December 25, 2 BC in the
southern sky - and from Jerusalem it would appear that Jupiter had come
to rest directly over Bethlehem. It remained stationary for 6 days, and
to add to the symbolic significance, it was stationary in the centre,
or perhaps ‘womb’, of the constellation Virgo.”
~ Susan S. Carroll
The Star of Bethlehem: an Astronomical and Historical Perspective, 1997
an interesting theory. Mine’s a little different. I think God created a
star that led the wise men to Jesus. The point is that God spoke to the
wise men in a way that they could understand.
Now, astrology is
not something that the Bible encourages us to participate in. In fact,
the Bible warns us against it. But God knew that these wise men studied
the stars and would notice a new object in the night sky, and that they
were ready and open for God to speak to them. So God spoke to them in a
way that they could understand.
You know what? God wants to
speak to you in a way that you can understand, too. So pay attention.
Be ready and willing to hear from Him. And listen for His still small
3. Follow the direction God gives me.
when I was a student at the University of New Brunswick I was a science
major. And I remember in my second year taking a Chemistry lab where I
got to make Acetylsalicylic Acid, otherwise known as ASA or Aspirin.
Aspirin, of course can be used to relieve mild inflammations and
headaches and pains. And every once in a while I get a headache. But
you know what? It didn’t matter that at least at one point of time I
knew how to make Aspirin. That knowledge won’t relieve my headache.
see, it doesn’t matter how much we know about a particular medication
unless we’re willing to follow the instructions and take it. And trust
me… being married to a pharmacist I receive plenty of instructions when
it comes to medication.
It goes back to what we talked about
earlier. You can have a lot of knowledge, but you’re not wise unless
you use that knowledge in appropriate ways.
The priests and
teachers in Herod’s court knew as much as the Wise Men about the Jewish
Scriptures and the prophecies about the birth of Jesus. In fact, they
knew more because they knew that Jesus was to be born in Bethlehem.
They were even able to quote the verse in Micah in the Old Testament
where the Bible foretold that.
Micah 5:2 (NLT)
But you, O
Bethlehem Ephrathah, are only a small village among all the people of
Judah. Yet a ruler of Israel will come from you, one whose origins are
from the distant past.
The priests and teachers had a knowledge
about this Old Testament prophecy, but none of them did anything with
that knowledge. They didn’t go to Bethlehem, they didn’t follow the
star, they did nothing. All of their knowledge was useless because they
weren’t willing to follow the direction God gave them. It was right
there for them, but they chose not to follow it.
The wise men,
on the other hand, did follow God’s direction. They chose to be
seekers, not sitters. They put feet to their faith. Listen to this:
Jeremiah 29:13 (NLT)
If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me.
Deuteronomy 4:29 (NLT)
And if you search for him with all your heart and soul, you will find him.
So you’ve got to not just learn about Jesus; you’ve got to put that knowledge into practice. Follow His direction in your life.
there’s a problem with that: Following the direction of God may take
you where you don’t expect. Look at the wise men. They were following
the star but they stopped off at Herod’s palace in Jerusalem. Why?
Well, why wouldn’t they? If you expected that a new king had been born,
isn’t that where you would check? So they stopped to ask where the
newborn king was. (Actually, that is why some people claim the wise men
have remained so famous for so long… they were the first men to stop
and ask directions.)
But when they finally arrived in Bethlehem,
what did they find? A small town, not a national capital. A house, not
a palace. A humble, hard-working, needy family, not a royal, majestic
family. Yet they had arrived! This was the place! This was the family!
This was the King of the Jews that they had traveled perhaps for months
or even years to find.
Listen, God may take you on a journey
through life that you don’t expect or understand, but I’m here this
morning to tell you that you can trust Him every step of the way. He
sees the big picture, He wants the best for you, and you can trust Him.
Read this with me:
Psalm 119:105 (NLT)
Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.
You can trust Him. Follow the direction God gives you.