What gift will you bring to the King? Give a gift that’s sacrificial!
Offering: Larry Beal & Jeanna Volp
I was on www.forbes.com and an article caught my eye. The Top Ten greatest Christmas movies of all time. #10: Charles Dickens: A Christmas Carol. #9: Miracle on 34th Street. #7: Elf. #5: A Christmas Story. #1: Die Hard.[i] Two movies did not make the list that surprised me. First, It’s a Wonderful Life and this movie: Christmas Vacation! Who here has ever watched Chevy Chase in Christmas Vacation? Clark Griswold wants the perfect family Christmas. There’s only one problem though – we humans are not perfect. We humans are often selfish and messy. Think about the messiness God asked Mary & Joseph to enter! Look at this headline printed in the Los Angeles Times: /Big Rig Carrying Fruit Crashes on 210 Freeway, Creates Jam![ii] /That’s funny! These headlines are not. From the Nazareth Post-Gazette, Teen pregnant – says God did it! Young man says angel confirms woman’s story! Mary & Joseph’s lives are turned upside-down all because of God. This (video) provides perspective! A Social Network Christmas (3:50)
Jesus was born around 5 BC[iii] and Mary & Joseph are thrilled! A baby being born is typically a time to celebrate! But Matthew chapter 2 tells us they choose not to return to Nazareth. Why? Because their own families are not celebrating this birth! Mary & Joseph lost family & friends because of Jesus. People are not buying their feeble explanation. “God did this. An angel confirmed it!” Everyone then is thinking this. Mary should be stoned for being loose and Joseph should be judged for being stupid! Last week we began a series called What gift will you bring to the king? Our main text is Matthew chapter 2. Open up your Bibles to Matthew 2. Do you need a Bible? Make sure you note what’s in your hand out! Please fill out this connect card! Christmas Eve is a week from Tuesday. We are having three services! 3:00/4:30/6:00PM. I have another 500 invite cards waiting for you to take! Come and invite someone to come with you!
Matthew isn’t just a book in the Bible. Matthew is also a person. Matthew was a Jewish tax collector who accepts Jesus call to follow him! Matthew writes this book to his fellow Jews to prove that Jesus is the Messiah or Israel’s long awaited King! Matthew 1 is about Jesus as a baby! Matthew 2 is Jesus as a toddler! Shepherds visit Jesus as a baby, but Magi show up looking for the Christ child! Let’s start with verse 9 in Matthew 2. (Read 9-11)
Dr. Mark Moore said, “These gifts represent the riches of their far off country.”[iv] This is affluence at its best! Mary & Joseph in no way could have afforded these gifts. All three hold special significance. I doubt this young couple grasped the significance. Gold was practical. The gold paid their travel expenses to Egypt. The gold enabled them to live in Egypt! But just what is frankincense? Here’s a definition.
“Frankincense is an aromatic gum resin containing a volatile oil that was valued in ancient times in worship and as a medicine and is still an important incense resin. Incisions are made in the trunks of the trees, and the frankincense exudes as milk like juice that hardens on exposure to air.”[v] Frankincense is also perfume. I have a sample right here. Does that smell good to you?
There’s something else about frankincense we need to know. “Frankincense is highly fragrant when burned and was therefore used in worship, where it was burned as a pleasing aroma or offering to God. “[vi]
Did that thought just whiz past Mary & Joseph? I was following a dump truck south on State Street by Giant Eagle. He turned right onto dirt and road and I followed him. I wasn’t supposed to do that. He starts motioning with his arm – Go this way. I didn’t get the message at first. Pretend with me. Mary & Joseph are looking right at the gift of frankincense. Would they get the meaning of the gift? We’ve read from Matthew. Let’s get Luke’s perspective. Turn to Luke 1:26. Read 26-33. Go back to verse 32. Tell me, what makes Jesus great? He gave up his life for us! “The gift of frankincense to the Christ child was symbolic of His willingness to become a sacrifice, wholly giving Himself up, similar to a burnt offering.”[vii]
At this time I would like us to take communion. Communion is a time to focus on what made Jesus great! His willingness to sacrifice his life. The bread represents his body. The juice represents his blood. I have four tables set up today and communion has been prepared on each table. I also placed a few bottles of frankincense. Before you take the bread and juice would you smell the frankincense? Did you know that Jesus was born to be a sacrifice? He was born to be our sacrificial lamb. When you are ready – leave your chair and go and commune with the child who grew up and became your sacrifice. PRAY! (Modified Communion slides)
The Magi give Jesus frankincense! What does that matter to me? This is why it matters! T or F: Christmas is all about PRESENTS! (F) Tor F: Christmas is all about PRESENCE! (T)
The reason God sent his son is so Jesus would be present in our lives. Immanuel means “God with us.” When Mary held Jesus – she was holding God! When people looked at Jesus, they saw God. When people look at us, they should see Jesus. What gift will you bring to the king this Christmas? Give Jesus a gift that’s sacrificial. What gift do you consider a genuine sacrifice? I’m convicted that the answer is - TIME! I have a few examples. #1: ATR Basketball! #2: The Gift Shop! Look at these pictures. Last Friday names on a list became real people. The goal of The Gift shop is not just to hand someone a gift. It’s to connect. To look a person in the eye and say – if you didn’t know – now you do – God is real because His people care! Ethan Magness said, “God is the flesh” is the truth that Christ left the comfort of heaven to minister and serve among those who were lost and least and lonely.”[viii]
Example #3: Consider Doris! A British medical doctor shared a story about his interaction with Doris, an 82-year-old hospital patient. Two days before Christmas, Doris seemed healthy and ready for discharge. But for some reason she kept complaining about continual health issues. The doctor wrote: "Yesterday it was her arm that was hurting, before that her hip. Truth is, Doris is an incredibly healthy 82-year-old, and we can't find anything. I have no doubt that it will be the same today." When the X-rays came back normal, he told Doris that he would have to stick to the plan of sending her home. Doris looked down at the floor and quietly said, "I don't want to go home …. It's just that I'm all alone and there are so many hours in the day." Then after a long pause, Doris sighed and asked, /"Doctor, can you give me a cure for loneliness?"[ix]/
Christmas for some people emphasizes what they don’t have! My family has created a few new English words concerning anger. People get angry for certain reasons. The words are “tangry,” “hangry,” “shangry” and “langry.” Tangry is you’re angry because you are tired, hangry is you are angry because you are hungry, shangry you are angry because you’ve spent so much time at the mall shopping! Males seem to get shangry more than femalesJ Can you guess what langry is? You are angry because you are lonely. Nobody can cure loneliness except God! If you are lonely you can call upon God himself to fill the void in your heart. But there is something about human interaction / physical touch that’s special. After all – God became flesh! Who’s your Doris? Is it someone in your family? Your spouse? Your Mom or Dad? A friend? An older neighbor? Maybe you’ve never met them, but God’s going to create an invitation. A sacrificial gift is time! When I give you my time I’m shouting that you are important.
#4: Mary is also our example! Go back to Luke 1:29. (Read 29-30) What does it mean that Mary found favor with God? God saw that Mary’s heart was humble. Mary was willing to be used of God and to be used of God will cost you your TIME! God, my plans are now your plans! Now here’s what that doesn’t mean. That Mary’s life would be easy. That everything would go her way. That life, especially Christmas, would be perfect! That’s nonsense. God doesn’t just favor Mary. He favors you! Favor is grace and grace is a gift and gifts can only be received and not earned! Come accept God’s grace through His son! Come ask God – who’s my Doris? Who needs my time?
[ii] Reader’s Digest, December 2013, 100
[iii] The Bible Overview Chart
[iv] Mark E. Moore, The Chronological Life of Jesus, 59
[vi] www.gotquestions.org–Why did the Magi bring gold, frankincense and myrrh?
[vii] www.gotquestions.org–Why did the Magi bring gold, frankincense and myrrh?
[viii] Ethan Magness, The Ironic Opportunity of Christmas, Christian Standard