THE MAGIC OF CHRISTMAS
December 21, 2014
Christmas is a time when people everywhere gather to celebrate and remember what is truly important. It is a time to hope for what is ahead and to appreciate what we have been given. It truly is a magical time of year.
In this Christmas message, Pastor Ed Young helps us celebrate Christmas in a unique fashion. By reflecting on the story of the very first Christmas through the eyes of those who were there, we are reminded of the magic of Christmas and the power it has in all of our lives today!
INTRO: Have you ever used a Post-It note, or a sticky note? Just think about the last time you did, because they have a presence that is ubiquitous. It was invented in an unusual way. It seemed mundane, but actually it became sort of miraculous because it made the 3M Corporation colossal amounts of cash. The Post-It is basically a square note with a section of adhesive that sticks from surface to surface. And we write words and sentences and pithy comments to remind ourselves and others of important things. A lot of people say that it changed the way businesses organize and communicate on a certain level.
I think it’s safe to say that Christmas is about a brilliant invention that on the surface appeared mundane, but actually was a miracle. And the amazing thing about this, the stunning thing about Christmas is, this invention can adhere to our lives. It’s all about the stickiness, isn’t it? God made sure that everyone was reminded of his intentions, of his plan, by posting sticky notes and Post-It notes all over the place.
I guess you could say the first 3M Corporation were the magi – the three magi that are mentioned in the Scriptural account of the birth of Jesus. There were probably more than three, but only three are mentioned. I think it’s worth noting that the nativity was not described that much. The reaction, though, of the people who saw it and heard about it and read those reminders, those Post-It Notes, is pretty detailed.
The miracle of Christ’s birth motivates a movement! Again, what appeared as mundane was actually a miracle. And this miracle motivated a movement.
The Post-It note was a reminder, and is a reminder, of something to do. Read this. Remember that. Pick up that.
The first Post-It note that God stuck in people’s lives was one that occurred in ancient Babylon. The Babylonian Post-It note. When the Jews were taken into Babylonian captivity they took with them the belief that a Messiah would arise on the scene of history. And some think a Jewish Babylonian official named Daniel read that Post-It note, believed it, wrote it down, and then the people living in Babylon picked it up and spread the news.
The Post-It note carried with it a story that would not die. And for centuries, the story was sticky. For centuries, it stuck to the lives of many. And then one day, three magi saw God’s Post-It note in the sky and followed it to the Christ child.
God places Post-It notes in the right place. He gives us those words, those sentences, those moments that say something to us. Maybe that touch of the miraculous that motivates movement. Are you moving? The Magi did. They went on a serious road trip.
One of my first jobs was working for a travel agency named “Travel Habit.” Millions upon millions of people are travelling right now toward different destinations during the holiday season. Where is your destination? Where is your itinerary taking you?
The Wise Men took the long journey to Jerusalem. It could have been easily 1000 miles. Babylon is modern day Iraq. When the Magi got to Jesus they worshipped him. And you might have seen little sayings on Christmas ornaments or on coffee mugs, “Wise Men still worship him.” But it wasn’t easy for them to worship. They had a lot of barriers to overcome. Think about the distance. Think about the difficulty. There were no travel agencies, no planes, trains, or automobiles. No hotels, restaurants.
There was danger out there. And just walking into the vicinity of Herod’s influence was scary. Here’s a serial killer who had already murdered his favorite wife, his mother, and his sons because he thought they were after the throne. While he was on his deathbed he ordered a lot of prominent people killed so that if people didn’t cry over his death, at least they would mourn over the deaths of others.
As the Wise Men followed the Post-It note, it led them to Jerusalem. In reality, it was over the Christ child, but they thought, “Surely when we’re talking about the king we’re talking about Jerusalem.” And they walked into town and began to ask, “Where’s the king?” Well you can imagine the paranoia of Herod. He was called “Herod the Great.”
When he heard about this contingency of Magi asking about the king and asking “Where is the king,” Herod quickly called his religious leaders around him and asked them the question. And of course, they knew about God’s Post-It note. They took out the Scriptures, read the book of Micah, which talks about Bethlehem being the place where the Messiah would be born.
Let me stop and make this point. These Magi were astronomers. And I think it should not go unnoticed that God met them in their own medium. He placed his Post-It note, his sticky note as he guided these astronomers by the star. This star was sort of like the fire that guided the Israelites by night and the cloud that guided them by day. This was a fulfillment of Numbers 24:17, “A Star shall come out of Jacob; A Scepter shall rise out of Israel,”
It’s such a tragedy that these religious leaders were indifferent to God’s Post-It note. They knew where he was born, but they couldn’t walk six miles to worship him.
The Wise Men, the Magi were intense; the religious leaders were indifferent; Herod was incensed.
Isn’t it true that those are the reactions that so many people have to God’s Post-It notes today? Some are intense. They follow it. Others are indifferent. “Yeah, whatever.” It makes others angry, because it reminds them that they are not born to be king of their lives.
Here were these Magi, and they were the first to come to Jerusalem. And I’m sure they were assuming that the leaders of the Jews would be aware and excited about the birth of the Messiah, but that wasn’t the case.
It’s worth understanding the greatness of Jesus, even as a young child, because he is so potent a factor in the world that no sooner is he here in the world in a state of weakness, a newborn king, that he begins to reign. He hasn’t preached any sermons or performed any miracles, yet already you see and know and feel his power.
These religious leaders, these chief priests, they understood the biblical information correctly. They understood the Post-It note, but they failed in the application to their lives. They read the note, but they didn’t stick it on their lives.
Herod, this paranoid, power hungry, serial killer tried to use the Wise Men to find the child that he may kill him. And because the Wise Men were wise and knew that he as full of lies, they didn’t tell him. Apparently Jesus was between 6-18 months old when the Wise Men showed up.
And subsequently he commanded that all boys age two and younger be killed in the area.
Herod heard a really good Bible study, didn’t he, about the birthplace of the Messiah? But it did him no good.
Over the years we’ve had tens of thousands of people attend our Christmas services. Many have heard a good Bible study about Jesus, yet be all the worse for what they discovered. Herod claimed to have a desire to worship, but in reality he wanted to kill him. And we say, “Wow, that’s pretty harsh. I would never be that way.” But we try to kill him all the time, to rub him out of our lives, to disregard those Post-It notes.
When they entered, the Magi bowed down and worshipped him and they presented him gifts – gold, frankincense and myrrh. It was common, especially in the east, that one would never appear before royalty or a person of importance without bringing gifts. Considering who these Wise Men believed Jesus to be, it’s not surprising that they gave such lavish gifts. Gold speaks to royalty, incense speaks to divinity, and myrrh speaks to death.
Gold was a gift for a king. It symbolized royalty. Daniel 9:25 (NLT), “Now listen and understand! Seven sets of seven plus sixty-two sets of seven[e] will pass from the time the command is given to rebuild Jerusalem until a ruler—the Anointed One—comes..”
We must offer God submission because he is our king. It’s not about just nodding; it’s about kneeling. It’s like those Burger King crowns. I could never find a crown that fit, because my head is so big. Gold represents his sovereign dominion.
Frankincense represents his sinless deity.
Exodus 30:34-38 (KJV), “34 And the Lord said unto Moses, Take unto thee sweet spices, stacte, and onycha, and galbanum; these sweet spices with pure frankincense: of each shall there be a like weight:
35 And thou shalt make it a perfume, a confection after the art of the apothecary, tempered together, pure and holy:
36 And thou shalt beat some of it very small, and put of it before the testimony in the tabernacle of the congregation, where I will meet with thee: it shall be unto you most holy.
37 And as for the perfume which thou shalt make, ye shall not make to yourselves according to the composition thereof: it shall be unto thee holy for the Lord.
38 Whosoever shall make like unto that, to smell thereto, shall even be cut off from his people.”
Basically this text says that frankincense is the base of this holy incense that is most holy. It’s to be given to God.
The text says that the Magi worshipped him. The word “worship” is “worth ship.” The Bible says we are made to worship and it says in Matthew 2:11 that the brought these gifts and worshipped him. “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.”
The Bible also says in Matthew 4:10, “Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.”
1 Timothy 3:16 (NKJV), “And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh,”
So because of his sovereign dominion, I need to give God my will. Because of his sinless deity I give him my worship.
So they brought him gold (his sovereign dominion). They brought him frankincense (his sinless deity). And they brought him myrrh. Myrrh was used to embalm the dead.
It’s interesting, the Bible never records the early church celebrating the birth of Jesus. We are told to remember his death. So the real Christmas tree is this: He, in his own body, bore our sins on the tree. And that tree is a bloody cross. It’s not a decorated tree, but one stained by the blood of Jesus. Jesus had to be born in order to die. It’s interesting, we’re drawn to a crib easier than we are a cross.
Because of his sovereign dominion, I give him my wealth; my gold, frankincense, and myrrh. “Everything I have belongs to you.”
Because of his sinless deity, I give him my worship.
Because of his sacrificial death, I give him my witness. I want the world to know he died for me.
T.S. Going back to the people. We see the responses that we have with these three types of people. The Wise Men were intense, Herod was incensed, and the religious leaders were indifferent.
The Wise Men weren’t satisfied with just looking at the Post-It note. They did something about it. They followed its directives. They persevered. Those who look for Jesus will see him. Those who see him will worship him. Those who worship him will consecrate their substance to him.
Herod was angry, because when you try to make yourself king of your life and your world, it never works. Self-worship never gets you to where you think it’s going to get you. He was angry because Jesus reminded him of what he was not.
The religious leaders were just indifferent. They had the “whatever” mentality. Life goes on, even though they were confronted by the Post-It note, nothing happened.
The Wise Men worshipped, and the Bible says they left by a different way. Matthew 2:12, “And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.”
The miraculous motivates movement!
At the cross, our sins were stuck on him. And God arranged for the sins of the world to adhere to Christ, to stick to the savior. They moved from one surface to another, from mankind to the Messiah. The crib and the cross were Post-It notes for the world to see. The miracle of Christmas is that God stuck the sins of the world upon him.
We’ve posted our sins, and they stick to us like lint on Velcro. But because of what he did, we have the opportunity to post them on Jesus. He was nailed to a post, and posted our sins, giving us an opportunity to post him on our lives. We either post our sins or he does. But it always goes back to the Post-It note.