From the Pastor’s Heart
The first Christmas presents were just right for Jesus.
Have you ever been delighted and surprised when someone chose the perfect present just for you?
It’s wonderful to receive such a gift. One that I recall arrived at my door years ago in a big box marked “Fragile – Glass!” I couldn’t imagine what it was. When I opened it, I was amazed. The giver had picked something I would value very highly, and it was a tremendous blessing.
It’s also enjoyable to give a gift like this, isn’t it?
That’s part of what we love about Christmas. It’s the birth of our Savior, the best gift ever. And in response, we share our joy by searching out special items for others. Hearing them say “It’s perfect!” brings us great happiness.
Jesus received the first Christmas presents ever, and they were just right for Him.
If our Lord could have spoken, I think when the magi offered Him their gifts He too would have said, “These are perfect!” Gold, frankincense, and myrrh may not seem suitable for a baby, but Jesus was no ordinary child.
This story from His life has much to tell us. I invite you to look with me now at the wonderful account of the magi and their Christmas gifts (Matt. 2:1-16).
First, let’s consider the characters in this story.
The magi were political, priestly leaders from the East—probably Babylon (v.1). They could have been descendants of those who had learned from Daniel about the God of Israel and the promised Messiah.
After seeing the star in their homeland, the magi made the long journey to Israel. Upon entering Jerusalem, they asked, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him” (v. 2).
Their question caused quite a stir.
King Herod was troubled by the travelers and their strange announcement (v. 3). He considered himself to be the king of the Jews, and from an earthly perspective, he was. Herod’s main concern was to make sure this Jewish baby would not come between him and his throne.
Herod gathered the chief priests and scribes together to determine where the Christ was to be born (vv. 4-6). They informed him that the Scriptures said the Messiah would come from Bethlehem.
Instead of being excited to join the search for their King, these religious experts must have been content with their spiritual lives, because Scripture records no further action from them.
In contrast, the magi’s actions were unselfishly focused on exalting the newborn King of the Jews. When they arrived at the house where Jesus was, in awe and humility, “they fell down and worshiped Him” (v. 11). Then they presented Him with their gifts fit for a king.
Second, consider the gifts they chose (v. 11).
Although it’s doubtful the magi understood the ultimate significance of these presents, each one was appropriate and prophetic for the Son of God:
- Myrrh was a perfume used primarily for burial and spoke prophetically of Jesus’ death and His role as our Redeemer.
- Frankincense was burned on the golden altar in the Jewish temple by the priests and symbolized Jesus’ role as our high priest and mediator with God.
- Gold showed high honor and was a fitting gift for a king—exactly what Jesus is.
Finally, let’s compare the responses of the characters.
That will help us consider how we’re reacting to Christ right now. Like the characters in the story, each one of us is currently responding to Jesus in one of three ways.
Herod was hostile toward Christ because he saw Him as a threat (v. 16).
This attitude is still prevalent today. Some people reject Jesus because they want to rule their own lives. To acknowledge Him as King would be too costly since it would require submitting to Him.
The Jewish religious leaders were indifferent toward their Messiah (vv. 4-6).
They knew the scriptures but were content to worship God in the same way they always had. Such complacency still characterizes some believers today. Even though they attend church, they have no desire to know Christ more deeply. For all practical purposes, He has no place in their everyday lives.
The wise men came to worship the King, humbly bowing before Him (v. 11).
If you follow their example, you too can celebrate and enjoy the wonder of God’s perfect gift to us (John 3:16). When you acknowledge Jesus as your King, you discover the joys and unfathomable riches of being part of His marvelous kingdom.
That’s the perfect gift He wants from you—your willingness to walk closely with Him, now and forever after into eternity. What a loving God!
Charles F. Stanley
P.S. I pray you and your family will have a spiritually rich celebration of our Savior’s birth.
With every gift you give and receive, I hope you’ll remember with joy the story of the magi. May it help you worship and honor Jesus as your beloved King.