A Hollywood Christmas Part 3
Three Men and a Baby
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
December 15, 2002

 

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.

The 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.

And 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 was no mention of a manger. And then later when we find out that Herod felt threatened by the birth of this new King of the Jews, he had all the infants two years of age or younger put to death.

But it’s 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. We sang “We Three Kings” earlier in the service, I even titles the message today “Three Men and a Baby.” But 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 travelling in a caravan.

PICTURE (PowerPoint - van)
Not that kind of Caravan…

PICTURE (PowerPoint - camels)
More like this.

I suppose there could have been three. There could have been twenty with a lot of duplicate gifts (like a wedding). Or there could have been two people that brought three gifts. We really don’t know. But tradition tells us that there were three of them. Tradition even gives these three 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 song says they were from the Orient, but there’s nothing Biblical to back that up. It just doesn’t say. There’s a lot we simply don’t know.

There. 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.

They’ve been 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 wise person?

In our culture today we place a high value on education. But, you know, being smart is not the same thing as having wisdom.

Peter Blackburn is the pastor of a Uniting Church in North Queensland, Australia. And he says…

“It's time to be wise! We educate on "safe sex" - and wonder why AIDS is on the increase. We teach all the danger of drugs - but kids still get hooked. We build a better road-system - and discover "road rage". We erect finer homes - yet more marriages are falling apart... We're not lacking in knowledge - we lack wisdom!”
~ Peter Blackburn

Let me give you a couple of other quotes.

“Common sense isn’t as common as it used to be.”
~ Will Rogers

“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 have wisdom.”
~ Charles Haddon Spurgeon

What I want to do this morning is look at the Biblical account of the wise men, see what they have to teach us, and see if we can apply it to our lives today. And to do that we’re going to look at five lessons we learn from the wise men.

 

Five Lessons From The Wise Men:


1. Learn whatever you can about Jesus.

The 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 in their course of study they probably looked at the Jewish religion. If 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. Perhaps the Wise Men had learned about the Jewish scriptures from descendents of these people. Perhaps they were familiar with Numbers 24:17 which says:

“What I saw in my vision hasn’t happened yet. But someday, a king of Israel will appear like a star.”
~ Numbers 24:17 (CEV)

I don’t know. Other than that I can’t explain how these wise men could have known the significance of the star they saw. But obviously they knew something about the prophecies that foretold the birth of Jesus. The point is that they had read the 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.

The second lesson is this:

 

2. Be open and ready for God to speak to you.

How 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 read:

“...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

That’s her 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.

Billy Graham once said;

“Knowledge is horizontal. Wisdom is vertical....it comes down from above.”
~ Billy Graham

Now, astrology isn’t 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.

 

3. Follow the direction God gives you.

Back 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 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.

You see, it doesn’t matter how much we know about a particular medication unless we’re willing to follow the directions and take it.

The priests and teachers in Herod’s court knew as much as the wise men did. 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. And they shared that knowledge with King Herod. 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 didn’t mean a thing because they weren’t willing to follow the direction God gave them. It was there for them, they just didn’t 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:

If you look for me in earnest, you will find me when you seek me.
~ Jeremiah 29:13 (NLT)

And if you search for him with all your heart and soul, you will find him.
~ Deuteronomy 4:29 (NLT)

But before you find God, you need to seek Him.

But there’s a problem. And that is 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 was 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 the got directions to Bethlehem and when they finally arrived, and 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 who had it all but are still given more. Yet they had arrived! This was the place! This was the family! This was the King of the Jews that they had traveled months or even years to find.

Listen to me. 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.

A familiar verse in Psalms says;

Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light for my path.
~ Psalm 119:105 (NLT)

You can trust Him. Follow the direction God gives you.

The fourth lesson we learn from the wise men is this:

 

4. Express your love to Jesus.

This was the whole reason for their journey. The wise men said:

“We have seen his star as it arose, and we have come to worship him."
~ Matthew 2:2 (NLT)

Jesus Christ is God and by His very nature He deserves our worship. The wise men probably didn’t fully understand who Jesus was, but they did understand that he was worthy of their worship. So why is it that today in our culture we get more excited about sports heroes and celebrities and world leaders than we do with the Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace?

You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.
~ Luke 10:27 (NLT)

Express your love to Jesus. Worship Him. We’re actually going to get into this more in the new year (probably around February or March) so we’ll leave it at that for now.

The fifth lesson is this:

 

5. Give Jesus the best you have.

I read about a pre-school teacher that was reading the story of Jesus’ birth and stopped to ask, “What gifts did the wise men bring baby Jesus?”

One five year old answered, “Gold, Frankenstein and Smurfs.”

Well, maybe those would have been more appropriate gifts for a baby. I’ve been looking for Christmas gifts for our two nephews. Josh is going on three and Matthew is about a year and a half. So what should I get them? Maybe a chainsaw and a day at the Spa? Okay, not exactly the gifts you get for children their age. But what the wise men brought to the infant Jesus were gold (which we’re all familiar with, and want to become more familiar with), frankincense (which was often used as part of an anointing oil and as an expensive perfume), and myrrh (which was used for purifying and embalming). Strange gifts for a baby perhaps, but it was the very best that they had to offer. What’s the best you have to offer?

"The ideal Christmas present is money. The only trouble is, you can't charge it!"
~ Bill Vaughn

The famous pundit "Ano-ny-mous" has said;

"There are generally two kinds of Christmas presents: the one you don't like and the ones you don't get."
~ Anonymous

Well, what is it that Jesus wants from you? He wants your love, He wants your worship, He wants your time, He wants your trust, He wants and deserves the very best that you have to offer.

And let me clarify something here. He doesn’t want these things because He needs them or because He’s selfish. He just knows that if we hold onto them for ourselves they will come between us and Him. But as we freely give these things over to Him it strengthens our relationship with Him and protects that relationship from losing its place of priority in our lives.

So Jesus wants the best we have. But He doesn't expect us to give Him more than we have. He simply wants the best of what we do have. There's an old legend that goes along with the shepherds coming to the manger that night. According to the legend, one of the shepherds who heard the angel's announcement of the coming of Christ had his daughter with him in the fields. When the men started to seek out this new-born King of the Jews, she begged to go along. But in their excitement and eagerness to get there as soon as possible, the older shepherds paid no attention to the children. Not to be denied, the little girl followed with her faithful dog. As the group entered the stable, she hung back by the door. She watched as each one brought gifts and laid them before the manger. What could she give? She had nothing.

Suddenly, beside her there appeared an angel who asked her why she was so sad. When the little girl told the angel that she had nothing to offer, the angel told her to pick one of the roses growing nearby. Looking around, the little girl noticed that there were some beautiful white roses beside the entrance to the stable.

Eagerly she clutched an armful and hurried in to place them beside the Infant Jesus. His eyes were closed at the time, and she wondered if her gift would be acceptable. But the Infant Christ opened His eyes and smiled just as she placed the roses before Him.

It was acceptable. It was the best she had to offer.

There's a hymn that says;

“Give of your best to the Master;
Naught else is worthy His love.
He gave Himself for your ransom,
Gave up His glory above;
Laid down His life without murmur,
You from sin's ruin to save.
Give Him your heart's adoration;
Give Him the best that you have.”

Whatever it may be, give Him the best that you have. Let Him know that He is most important in your life. Give Him the best of your possessions, your time, your service, your worship, and your love.


 


 

Copyright © 2002 SunriseOnline.ca