Be Wise This Christmas

19 12 2007

by Pastor Norman S. Lao

Introduction

I have been preaching on Christmas for 15 years and I have preached on almost all the subjects pertaining to Christmas. I have preached on Christ, on Mary, on Herod, on God’s love, on the Incarnation, on the meaning of Christmas, on X-mas, etc. But as I was studying the Christmas story again in Matthew my attention was caught by the Magi or the wise men.

They are one of the most mysterious characters in the Christmas story.

(a) The Bible does not mention what country they came from, only that they came from “the east.”

(b) The Bible does not even tell us how many there were. Tradition has placed their number at three based on the three gifts they offered the infant Jesus.

(c) We do not even know their names, but tradition in the 8th century gave them names: Bithisarea, Melichior, Gathaspa. The common names that we know are Balthazar, Melchor, and Gaspar.

(d) The Bible does not even say exactly what they were: kings, wise men, sorcerers, magicians, philosophers, astrologers, whatever.

(e) The Bible does not also say how they came to know that the King of Israel was born.

These are very mysterious characters indeed.

However, this morning I don’t want to focus so much on the mysteriousness of these wise men, intriguing as it is. I want us to focus on why they are called wise men. I will use the term “wise men” for our purpose

What does “wise” mean? The English dictionary tells us that a wise man is characterized by wisdom, marked by deep understanding, keen discernment, and a capacity for sound judgment. Someone has said that intelligence is knowing what to do while wisdom is doing it.

In this short message this morning I would like to share with you from our text the reasons why we believe these wise men were truly wise in the context of the first Christmas.

1. They were wise because they knew that Christ was the reason for the season.

They left their homeland for Christ. They traveled great distances for Christ. If you read the story between the lines you will find out that they traveled at least a year. (a) Jesus was not an infant anymore, but a child, v. 11 (b) Mary and Jesus were not in a barn anymore, but in a house. (c) Herod murdered children “two years old and under” (v.16) showing us that the wise men saw the star two years before.

They were wiser than the Priests and the Scribes. The priests and the scribes knew that the Messiah was to be born, but they were not excited about it. According to the Bible they were disturbed (as all Jerusalem was). There are some people who are “disturbed” when Christmastime comes.

Many people do not know that Christ is the reason for the season. They do not celebrate Christmas. What they are actually celebrating is X-mas. What is X-mas?

X- stands for unknown.

X is an unknown quantity or variable. 1 + x = x + 2.

X is an unknown brand. Brand X.

X is an unknown person. Mr. X.

So, in X-mas “X” has replaced Christ or Christ is crossed-out. This implies that Christ is a mistake (for x stands for error). X-mas implies the following:

1. The celebration must go on even without Christ. It is like celebrating a Birthday without the Celebrant. For many people the celebration is more important than the Person to whom the celebration is for. Many people celebrate a Christmas where Christ is absent.

2. X-mas means that Christ is not important in Christmas. For some people what is important is what they can get out of Christmas. The common understanding of X-mas is getting. The true meaning of Christmas is giving. X-mas makes people selfish, self-centered. “Where’s my gift?” [“Paskua ko?”] is the common greeting.

3. X-mas means anything can replace Christ in Christmas. Sta. Claus, shopping, Christmas trees, Christmas decorations, drinking, partying, eating, etc.

4. It could also be a deliberate attempt to remove Christ from Christmas. Just like what Herod of old wanted to do. Santa Claus has removed Christ from many Christmases.

The true meaning of Christmas is many times buried in the non-essential elements of the celebration. The meaning of Christmas is lost in X-mas. The question is WHAT ARE YOU CELEBRATING EVERY DECEMBER? CHRISTMAS OR X-MAS?

They were wise because they knew that Jesus was the Reason for the Season, Christ is Christmas.

2. They were wise because they came seeking Christ.

Secondly, I believe they were wise because it was Christ they were looking for (v.2). They were not looking for worldy riches, but for the salvation of their souls! Matthew 16:26 tells us: “What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and lose his soul?”

Iban nga tawo ang ila ginapangita regalo, sale, bonus, galastohon, maninoy. December is Maninoy-Hunting Season. We should rather be looking for Christ. We should be looking for the Salvation of our Souls and those of our loved ones.

What are you looking for this Christmas?

3. The wise men were wise because they knew that Christmas is a time of worship.

During Christmas we renew family bonds by going to each other’s homes and eating together. This is good and this must be so. But many people think that eating together is Christmas. Far from it. Christmas is not a time of eating, it is not a time for buying gifts, it is not a time for getting drunk, it is not a time for sexual immorality, it is not a time for gluttony. It is a time of worship! The wise men are wiser than many Christians in this regard.

Christmas is a time to Honor the Savior, to thank Him for the Salvation that He has provided. It is ironical that many people celebrate not only a Christless Christmas, but many times a sinful Christmas.

4. They were wise because they knew whom to worship.

a. They did not worship the star.

Many Christians worship the props of Christmas rather than the Person of Christmas.

b. They did not worship Herod.

That’s the difference with Christ. When the president comes in people stand up, when Christ comes in people will fall on their knees.

c. They did not worship Mary.

I don’t want to offend anybody, and I know that Mary had a special and unique role in the Salvation Story as the vessel by whom God sent His One and Only Son into the World. As special as Mary was, she was not the central figure of Christmas – Jesus was! We do not worship the wrapper (Mary). We worship God’s gift, Jesus Christ.

Do you know whom to worship?

5. They were wise because they knew to whom they should give their gifts.

  • They did not give any gift to King Herod.
  • They did not give any gift to Mary the Mother of Jesus.
  • They did not give gifts to each other.
  • They only gave gifts to Jesus.

The problem with our Christmas today is that we give gifts to everybody except Christ!

Suppose it were your birthday

And all your friends would come

And gather round your fireplace

There in your happy home.

They come with smiles and gladness,

And bring their presents, too.

But when they start to share them,

There’s not a one for you.

They give them to each other,

A grand and costly lot.

But for the guest of honor,

They somehow just forgot.

You say such things don’t happen,

Nor should it ever be;

It seems too crude and cruel,

For folks like you and me.

But friend, have you considered

Just this is what men do?

Not, of course, to humans,

But of our Lord, it’s true.

We celebrate His birthday

With all our pomp and style;

But give to one another

And grieve Him all the while.

‘Tis Christ we claim to honor

At this glad Christmastime;

Don’t spend on friends the dollars

And give Him just a dime.

To give to one another

Indeed is very nice;

But best of all to Jesus,

For Him let’s sacrifice.

His cause too long has suffered

By thoughtless, selfish men.

Let’s bring to Christ the firstfruits,

And give our best to Him.

—–Fred D. Jarvis

Some Bible scholars say that the gave gifts they gave speak of Jesus’ deity (frankincense), Jesus kingship (Gold), and Jesus’ humanity (Myrrh). This may be so. But the gifts they gave were the things that were precious in their country. They were their treasures. In other words, we give the most precious gift to Jesus on Christmas. And what gift is better than ourselves? It is time to stop sinning. It is time to stop rebelling. It is time to get right with God.

There is a song that goes like this…

What gift can I give Christ?

If I were a shepherd, I will give him a lamb,

If I were a wise man, I will do my part,

But what can a poor man like me give?

I can give him my heart.

Give your heart to Jesus this Christmas.

6. They were wise because they tried to preserve Christ in Christmas.

Herod was only pretending to celebrate Christmas, but he had something else in mind. Herod wanted to remove Christ from Christmas for his own personal gain. The wise men were wise because they did not cooperate with Herod. It is not only Herod who wants to remove Christ from Christmas. Many of us celebrate a Christless Christmas.

Sta. Claus has removed Christ from Christmas.

Department stores do not want simplicity in our Christmas celebration because simplicity means loss of profit.

San Miguel beer does not want to put Christ in Christmas because if they did their sales will go down.

Conclusion: Are you going to be wise this Christmas?

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