Our reading this Epiphany comes from Matthew’s account of the three wise men and their journey to see the babe lying in a manger. Instead of a GPS system, they depended upon a star to guide them to where the babe was to be found. It is a curious way to travel, is it not? Any way, I guess the star quit moving for a time. Maybe God wanted Herod and the Temple elite to know He was moving in the world again (he had been silent in the time between Micah and John the Baptizer). Maybe the wise men were just confused, expecting to see the child portended in the skies living in a nice palace. No matter the reason, they recognize that they have come to the place that should recognize the baby Jesus best. So they ask a simple question, “Where is the child born king of the Jews?”
Predictably, everyone is upset. Herod thinks there is somebody trying to steal his throne. Probably the Temple leaders were worried that a civil war was looming which would cause Rome to crack down, once again. Roman crackdowns were never a good thing. So they go looking for the prophesy of Jesus’ birth in what you and I call the Old Testament. It is there that they discover the significance of the town of Bethlehem in God’s plan. Amazingly, when the magi hear this and set out for Bethlehem, the star continued ahead of them, stopping once it was over the place where the child was.
Now, when they entered the place where Jesus and Mary were, they were overcome with joy, knealt down, worshipped Him, and gave Him gifts. That’s part of the reason we give and receive gifts a Christmas. Does anybody remember what the magi gave Jesus and Mary? Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh. Anybody know what those gifts represent? Well, only kings and the very rich ever saw gold in those days. So by giving Jesus gold, they acknowledge that He is a king. Why do we sometimes use incense when we worship? Yes, it makes the church smell better, but the smoke also reminds us that our prayers should be rising continually to God. Who swings the incense? That’s right, the acolyte and the priest. In a way, the frankincense teaches us that the magi understood Jesus to be a priest. Here’s the toughest question: what is myrrh? That’s right, it is a perfume. When is it used? Well, when people die, their bodies start to decay. Does everyone understand the word decay? Well, with that decay come some bad smells. Has anyone ever heard of the phrase “the stink of death”? Myrrh gets rid of that stink and replaces it with a pleasant aroma. Can we think of why death might be important in Jesus’ ministry here on earth? That’s right. He will die for us on Good Friday. So the magi understood Jesus to be a Savior. King, Priest, and Savior – these magi must be pretty smart to have all that figured out, huh?
Well, if we were bringing gifts to Jesus today, what do you think they might look like? I brought some presents to see if they might work and get your opinion. Here, you open the first one. What is it? A heart. Why is a heart important? Yes, it pumps blood. Why does it signify? Love. Do you think love is important to Jesus? How do we know? That’s true, He loved us enough to die for us, even when we did not know or love Him. Can we wrap up love and keep it in a present or box? No? Then how do we best show love? That’s right, by loving God and loving people we meet, and worshipping Him and serving them in His name.
You open the second box. What is in there? Praying hands. I wonder what they are most like? The frankincense? Why do you say that? True, praying hands are praying. Yes, we do that in church or in home. And what do we call our work? Anybody remember the word liturgy? What does it mean? How about the work of the people? So maybe the praying hands are to remind us that we are supposed to be worshipping and praying all the time--that's your and my work.
You open the last gift. What is it? A cloth. Yes, that’s true. But what kind of cloth? It’s called a handkerchief. Anyone here know what a handkerchief is for? Yes, blowing your nose. When are they used? Right, when someone is sick or someone is upset. That’s true, to stop the spread of germs, we should not share handkerchiefs. But we should give them to people when they are sad and crying, right? Well, of course, only if we are carrying them. If I said the word compassionate, would anyone know what it means? That’s right, we feel sorry for people who are hurting and we try to help them, either by doing things for them or by reminding them that God loves them if we can’t do things for them. What’s another word for that helping? That’s right, ministry. So what do you think? Would Jesus like these gifts? Do you think He likes them only on this day, but on every day? Do you think maybe we can all try to remember to give these gifts to Him every day? That’s right, it can be our resolution. We adults might say it’s part of our Covenant with Him. Thank you all for your help today.