Two young boys were spending the night at their grandparents’ house. At bedtime they knelt down beside the bed to say their prayers when the youngest one began praying at the top of his lungs. “I PRAY FOR A NEW BICYCLE. I WANT A NEW COMPUTER GAME. I PRAY FOR A NEW BASKETBALL. . . .”
The older brother leaned over and nudged him. “Why are you shouting your prayer? God is not deaf!”
To which the little brother replied, “No, but grandma is, and she hasn’t done her Christmas shopping yet.” The little boy was just trying to help his grandma out with her shopping. He knows how grandparents delight in giving their grandchildren what they want.
As you know, there is a big emphasis on giving and receiving gifts during Christmas. It can be a fun and delightful experience as gifts are exchanged between loved ones. We’ll open gifts at my home this evening and a little bit tomorrow morning as well. I’m sure many of you are doing the same thing.
The question I have is, Are we missing something? I’d like to invite you to use your imagination with me for a few seconds. Imagine a birthday party being held in your honor. All your friends show up with gifts in hands. They say, “happy birthday” to you as they come in the door, and they even sing it to you later on. But then they give their presents to one another — not to you. I wonder how that would feel. Yet this is what we do at Christmas. We give gifts to everyone but Jesus! But it’s not too late for us to consider what the birthday Boy might like to receive for His birthday.
When my children were young, we’d bake a cake and sing happy birthday to Jesus on Christmas Eve. Then we would have a devotion, but we never took it beyond that. We never got around to putting a gift of some sort under the tree for Him. Looking back, I wish we had.
Yet Jesus did receive gifts on His first birthday. Great gifts! Gifts fit for a King! Lavish, extravagant gifts. He was honored and treated like royalty. Why? Because He was and He is royalty. He deserved the special attention He received from the Wise Men, and He still does. After all, look at the gift He’s given us and what He’s done for us!
Jesus, the Son of God, entered our world leaving behind the majesty and glory of heaven and became one of us in order to rescue us. He is God’s gift to you and me. John 3:16 says it so well, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” You see, humanity was lost in our sinfulness with no way out. We were separated from God by our disobedience. The wages of sin is death, and there was not a blasted thing we can do to save ourselves. We were, as John says, perishing.
But while we were still sinners, Jesus stepped into our world. He humbled Himself being born as a human being, a helpless little baby. He grew up and in adulthood He emptied Himself out totally for us, ultimately giving His life to save us. He laid down His life to redeem us from our sin and give us eternal life. At the cross, our sin was paid for by Jesus, the Son of God. When He cried out in His last breath, “It is finished,” it was not a cry of resignation but a cry of Mission Accomplished! meaning paid in full. Jesus Christ has paid for sin in full. God raised Him up from the dead conquering death.
Jesus was exalted as well. He sits at the right hand of God the Father. Listen to this reading from John MacArthur:
The Lord Jesus Christ, whom we exalt at Christmas, is not just a baby in a manger. He is not a character in a children’s story. He’s far more.
✯ The first time He came, He was veiled in the form of a child. The next time He comes – and we believe it will be soon – He will come unveiled. It will be abundantly and immediately clear to all the world just who He really is.
✯ The first time He came, a star marked His arrival. The next time He comes, the whole heavens will roll up like a scroll. All the stars will fall out of the sky, and He Himself will light it.
✯ The first time He came, Wise Men and shepherds brought Him gifts. The next time He comes, He will bring gifts, rewards for His own.
✯ The first time He came, there was no room for Him. The next time He comes, the whole world will not be able to contain His glory.
✯ The first time He came, only a few attended His arrival – some shepherds and some Wise Men. The next time He comes, every eye shall see Him.
✯ The first time He came as a baby, soon He will come again as sovereign King and Lord.
Because of what Jesus has done for us, the door to an eternal, saving, personal relationship with God was opened up to us. Amazing grace happened that first Christmas when Jesus was born. This was the beginning of a rescue mission. I hope you know that you and I have been loved big time! I also hope you have received the gift of salvation, you have held out those empty hands of yours and received what God wants you to have – eternal life, and you taste of His precious grace and experience a new life. And when you have tasted of His grace in your life, a question will arise within your grateful heart: What can I give to Jesus who gave His all for me?
So what do we give the One who has it all? You might be wondering what we mean by has it all. Scripture tells us God has placed all things under Jesus’ feet. The image is taken from when kings of old would have a footstool made with the symbols of conquered enemies engraved on it. All things placed under His feet.
These Wise Men from the east help us out with the question What do you give? We don’t know much about them. Matthew refers to them as Magi, which could have been pagan astrologers or political officials from the courts of Parthia, Armenian, regions east of Judea. It doesn’t really matter, I guess. It’s what they did in response to the birth of Jesus Christ – they came to Him.
When Jesus was born, they observed this mysterious star shining brightly, and as they began to study it, they came to the conclusion that it was a sign the Jewish Messiah – the King – was born. They wanted to pay homage to Him, to honor Him, so they came. They took the journey following the star for many months. It took a year or maybe even longer.
Finally, they ended up in Judea and stopped in Jerusalem on their search for this newborn King. There they discovered a prophecy from the book of Micah that the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem a few miles down the road from Jerusalem. So they hit the road again. The star reappeared and led them right to the spot where Jesus was. And as they entered, they knew how to act when they got there. They knew they were in the presence of royalty, a King. So they bowed before Him in worship and gave Him their best, not just some token leftovers. They gave gifts fit for a King – gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
Some scholars have pointed out that gold was, of course, a very precious, valuable gift that only royalty could possess. Frankincense was an incense that was burned on the altar for the divine. Myrrh was used for embalming. It was a perfume. Maybe these were signs already of what was to come, of who Jesus was. He was a King. He was divine. He was going to be the perfect sacrifice for humanity’s sin. The Wise Men couldn’t have known that, but they gave Him their best.
What does one today give this King? The best thing you can give Him is you. He came for you, “To YOU is born this day in the city of David a Savior.” Give Him your repentance, which simply means turning around from what you’ve been doing and surrendering yourself to His kingship. It means recognizing you’re a sinner who can’t make it in this life or the next without Christ. It means to come under His leadership and follow Him instead of your own way.
Don’t just give Him your repentance, give Him your trust as well, your belief. When Jesus announced in His first sermon, “The kingdom of God is at hand,” He is pointing to Himself. He says, “Repent and believe the good news.” Believe He is the Son of God who laid down His life to rescue you. Know that if you were the only person whoever existed in His creation, He came and gave His life for you! Believe His promises that heaven is a sure thing for the believer in Jesus Christ. Trust that He will always be with you and lean upon Him. He says “I will be with you always to the end of the age.” Know in your heart of hearts that Jesus knows what makes for an abundant life.
How about giving Him your devotion? Place Him at the center of your whole life – not on the fringe. Play out your daily life for an audience of One – Jesus Christ. Study and obey His word. Continue in it and make it your aim to please Him by living life His way – not to get Him to love you, but because He loves you already and you love Him.
How about your treasures? Your time, which is so precious. Your financial resources, your energies, your skills. You can give Him these as well. Like the hymn says, this could be your prayer: “Take my life and let it be, consecrated Lord to thee.”
Finally, give Him your worship. The Wise Men gave this King from heaven His worth. That is what worship is – giving Him His worth.
How about you? Will you join me today right now in giving Him His worth?
“O come let us adore Him.
O come let us adore Him,
O come let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.
“For He alone is worthy,
for He alone is worthy,
for He alone is worthy,
Christ the Lord.”
Happy birthday, Jesus! We’re so glad you were born. We’d be lost without you! Amen.
Pastor Steve Kramer