First Baptist Church
It was a few days after Christmas. A family was busy cleaning up and putting away the Christmas decorations. As they took down the Christmas tree, the son asked “what are you doing?” The parents said, “We’re putting all our Christmas stuff away.”
The boy asked, “Why are you doing that?” The mom answered, “So everything will be back to normal again and the house will be clean, Christmas only lasts a few weeks.” The boy responded, “I don’t want things to get back to normal again.”
On this first Sunday after Christmas, many of us have that thought too. Christmas is over — let’s pack everything up and bring out our Valentine’s decorations. After all, the stores have already done that. Christmas items are 50-75% off – Valentine’s Day items are out in force.
Sometimes, I think we rush away from Christmas too quickly, we do too good a job at cleaning up after Christmas, and quite possibly – – we run the risk of removing it from our lives.
What if after Christmas we could keep life from getting back to normal again? What if we could really hang onto Christmas and take it with us into 2018?
Maybe we can do that. Not that everything will be perfect, or always go our way. Nor do I mean we can escape the same routine, the same schedule, the same responsibilities, we’ve had to struggle with before. Nor do we need to keep our Christmas decorations up year round.
But, I wonder if there is that happy medium, maybe even more than that, because there should be something different about us, because we’ve been able to see a star of wonder, to hear the angels sing, to hear the cry of a babe, and have our hearts strangely warmed because God came to us AND has never left us.
Today, I want to look at the story of the visit of the Magi, a visit of some Wise Men from the east – – – who came searching for Jesus.
Listen now to the words of Matthew ~
1 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 in the east 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 Christ 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 be the shepherd of 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 make a careful search 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,
a the star they had seen in the east 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. – Matthew 2:1-12
These men came into Jerusalem looking for a king, but they met another king who immediately felt threatened when he found out what they were doing. Herod became suspicious of them and this king began to plot the death of any who would threaten his kingdom. The Wise Men came to give their devotion to the new king and wouldn’t be turned aside.
Now, one thing to note about this passage, it never says how many wise men there were. People often depict them as 3 men, because there were 3 gifts. But in reality, we really don’t know how many wise men there were.
In our world, there’s still a lot of suspicion and skepticism. It can poison relationships, goals, noble-endeavors, groups, and ideals. In that darkness, we can’t allow the light of Christ to be extinguished.
Hang onto the light of Christ as we move further away from Christmas.
So, as you put the Christmas decorations away, maybe take a little longer and hold onto the memories. Usually we don’t think about the memories so soon after Christmas, but take the time to remember. Maybe write them down, take them out as the year moves on. Maybe read the Christmas story in June.
Send a note to someone who made a difference in your life this past Christmas. Let them know how they made a difference and how grateful you were for them.
Let the memory of this past season continue to live in your heart. Remember we need to keep Christ as the object of our devotion.
In these wise men, we see a devotion to Jesus. They came from far away, presumably riding camels, just to bring gifts to a child they didn’t know and parents they wouldn’t have recognized walking down the street. You see, Jesus was the object of their devotion. Is He the object of your devotion?
The Magi came from the east to Jerusalem. They had one question on their minds, Where is the One who has been born king of the Jews? We saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.”
The point is clear. They came all that way for one reason and one reason only, to worship Him, Jesus was their sole purpose, He was the point. The person who they were would worship.
This is one of those things we must recognize and hold onto. If we don’t see this, we don’t see Christmas. If we don’t see it and understand it, then all of the hoopla, the songs, the gifts, the food, the parties, then none of this will make sense. It becomes just another thing to put on our calendars, one more thing to be busy with . . . . and if that is our reality, then the hope and power of Christmas quickly fades into the darkness.
We will lose the deeper meaning of Christmas. It wasn’t about all the presents you received or gave away. As noble as that was. It wasn’t about all the parties, the food, and egg nog. When we lose sight of who Jesus really is, we run into trouble! He is THE One and only Son of God. The God who loves us so much that He sent Jesus here, right here, in this crazy, sin-filled world . . . for you and I, so that we could experience His presence, His promise, His strength, courage and the power of His love and grace.
If we lose sight of all this, then our weekly worship attendance is quite possibly not worth much. Our acts of service mean nothing. These become another item on our calendar. Instead, we should approach Sunday the way we might approach a really important ball game we are about to attend. We attend with expectancy, with passion, with excitement. Is this how we approach our worship? Even our daily life in Christ? Or is it one of those, UGH! I guess I better go!
When you’re participating in a sporting event, don’t you get yourself ready, you try to get your teammates ready. You get psyched, you get intense, you get focused. Watch how a couple of football teams get ready for a game.
When you go to any event, you get excited about it. Go to the newest Star Wars movie, or Jumanji, Pitch Perfect. Whatever movie it is, you start to think about it and get excited. I know those are special events, but so is worship.
Imagine if before every worship, we, the participants, got ourselves all excited about what we were just about to do ~ worship Jesus. Can you imagine the passion that would spill over afterwards. The excitement that might continue throughout the week? That’s what I’m talking about.
What about the excitement some of you had when you were out all night Black Friday shopping!? I’m not against it, I’m just saying . . . what if?
I’m sure the Magi had roadblocks along the way, but they didn’t let that stop them. They continued until the met the King of kings. Herod didn’t want them to succeed, all of Jerusalem was disturbed and didn’t want them to succeed, as well. Nobody wanted them there. The king, the governor, the Jewish council wanted them to fail, or at the minimum . .. Find Jesus for them, so they could kill Him.
Take this with you into this new year. If you want your life to be better in the new year, keep Christ as the object of your devotion.
As Jesus is the object of your devotion, give Him the best you have.
Because the Magi, came and worshiped Jesus and gave Him gifts, so should we. Gold was a gift fit for a king. It was costly, treasured, and sought after.
Frankincense was an expensive fragrance, representing a personal treasure. It was a fine perfume.
Myrrh was a precious ointment used in the preparation for death. It was tinged with sadness. All of these gifts were expensive treasures in that day and in that part of the world. These gifts were given to Jesus. It was part of their worship. It was a sign of their dedication.
Would you give the best you have, and if you did, what might that be? What might you give to the King during 2018? Will you give Him the best you have.
Henry Van Dyke was a pastor in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. He wrote these words about Christmas ~
Are you willing to forget what you have done for other people, and remember what other people have done for you; to ignore what the world owes you, and think what you owe the world; to put your rights in the background, and your duties in the foreground; to own that probably the only good reason for your existence is not what you are going to get out of life, but what you are going to give life; to close your book of complaints against the management of the universe, and look around you for a place where you can sow a few seeds of happiness; are you willing to do these things even for a day? Then you can keep Christmas.1
You can keep Christmas and you can take a new direction. You can carry with you into this new year the greatest blessings of this season.
Its love can live in our lives, and we can share it.
Its hope can hold us up, and give us patience.
Its joy can fill our hearts, and overflow into all our relationships.
Its peace can soothe our fragile spirits, and keep us calm within.
Its light can brighten our paths, and help us find our way.
A pastor went to see a couple in his church. It was early March. As he sat talking with them, he noticed a Christmas ornament hanging from a bookshelf. The lady saw him look at it and she said, “No, we didn’t forget. Every year when I put all the decorations away, I choose one to leave behind on purpose to remind me that Christmas is not just one day, or one season. For me, Christmas is a lifetime. That ornament is a reminder that Jesus walks with me every day.”
What a great reminder. Maybe if you’ve put all your decorations away, you can take one out and remind you and your family; and any visitors, that the Christ of Christmas has not been forgotten about, that He is alive and well and lives with us