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THE FIRST CHRISTMAS GIFTS

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Christmas Eve, December 24, 2003


"And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh" (Matthew 2:11).


The wise men came from the East, most probably from Babylonia. Six hundred years earlier the prophet Daniel had been appointed "chief of the governors over all the wise men of Babylon" (Daniel 2:48). They probably knew of Daniel's prophecy concerning the coming Jewish Messiah, in Daniel 9:24-26. Keeping a record, from that prophecy, they would have known that the time had come for the Messiah to be born. Then they saw a special star and came to Jerusalem to worship the newborn Christ.

We three kings of Orient are; Bearing gifts we traverse afar,
Field and fountain, moor and mountain, Following yonder star.
      ("We Three Kings of Orient Are," stanza 1, by John H. Hopkins, 19th century)

The Bible tells us that they brought presents to Jesus, "they opened their treasures" (Matthew 2:11). These were expensive presents, and meaningful presents. These presents show us the thoughtfulness of the wise men, and they have a very deep meaning.

I. First, they brought Him gold.

William Hendrickson asks,

What justification did Origen (and many after him) have for saying that the magi brought "gold, as to a king; myrrh, as to one who was mortal; and incense, as to God"? Does not this representation amount to oversimplification? On the surface it would seem that it does. However, another look at the entire list of passages in which these three items are mentioned proves that, to say the least, there is an important element of truth in Origen's observation. To begin with gold, it is striking how often in Scripture this precious metal is indeed associated with royalty: with the king, the queen, the vice-gerent, and the prince (William Hendrickson, New Testament Commentary, Baker, 1973, The Gospel According to Matthew, p. 172).

Dr. Hendrickson gives a list of Old Testament passages that connect gold with royalty. Then he says, "We see, therefore, that to anyone acquainted with the books of the Old Testament gold would almost immediately suggest royalty" (ibid., p. 173).

The wise men came to Jerusalem and asked, "Where is he that is born King of the Jews?" (Matthew 2:2). Thirty-three years later, the Roman governor Pilate asked Him,

"Art thou the king of the Jews?" (John 18:33).

"Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world"
    (John 18:36).

During this present dispensation, Jesus rules over the hearts of those who know Him. But some day soon, He will come again as "King of Kings, and Lord of Lords" (Revelation 19:16). He will return from the sky to the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, and

"The kingdoms of this world [will] become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever" (Revelation 11:15).

Gold was a fitting tribute for the newborn King of Kings.

Born a King on Bethlehem's plain, Gold I bring to crown Him again,
King forever, ceasing never, Over us all to reign.
      ("We Three Kings of Orient Are," stanza 2)

II. Second, they brought Him frankincense.

Dr. Hendrickson says,

As to frankincense, in by far the most cases in which this word occurs in the Old Testament it is mentioned in connection with the service of Jehovah [God]… The fragrant smoke rising heavenward was symbolic of the prayers and thanksgivings of the people…The incense was definitely an offering made to God (ibid., p. 173).

In the Book of Revelation we read,

"And the smoke of the incense, which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God…" (Revelation 8:4).

Dr. John R. Rice said,

Frankincense was the second gift offered by the wise men to the baby Jesus…The frankincense indicates the deity of Jesus Christ…These wise men from the East, by faith and spiritual perception, recognized that Jesus, King of the Jews, was literally the Son of God (Dr. John R. Rice, The Birth of the Saviour, Sword of the Lord, 1955, p. 53).

This gift of frankincense shows that the wise men knew that Jesus was more than a king - He was God the Son, God incarnate. As Charles Wesley put it in his great Christmas hymn,

Christ, by highest heaven adored; Christ, the Everlasting Lord!
    Late in time behold Him come, Offspring of the Virgin's womb:
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see; Hail th' incarnate Deity,
    Pleased as man with men to dwell, Jesus, our Emmanuel.
Hark! the herald angels sing, "Glory to the newborn King."
    ("Hark, the Herald Angels Sing" by Charles Wesley, 1707-1788).

By their gift of frankincense, the wise men acknowledged the deity of Christ, and worshipped Him as the Second Person of the Trinity.

Frankincense to offer have I; Incense owns a Deity nigh;
Prayer and praising, voices raising, Worshipping God on high.
    ("We Three Kings of Orient Are," stanza 3)

III. Third, they brought Him myrrh.

"They presented unto him gifts; gold, frankincense, and myrrh"
     (Matthew 2:11).

Myrrh was an ingredient used for embalming dead bodies. It was also mixed with wine as an anaesthetic (Hendrickson, ibid,. p. 172).

Myrrh is mentioned twice in connection with the death of Christ. When Jesus was dying on the Cross,

"They gave him to drink wine mingled with myrrh: but he received it not" (Mark 15:23).

The myrrh and wine would have dulled the pain, but Jesus refused it. The prophet Isaiah foretold "the travail of his soul" on the Cross (Isaiah 53:11). Christ's rejection of the wine and myrrh show that He bore the full travail of pain to pay the penalty for our sins.

The second mention of myrrh was at Christ's burial. When Jesus was dead, a man named Nicodemus

"…brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight. Then took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury" (John 19:39-40).

Dr. Rice said,

…the myrrh pictured the sufferings of our Saviour, vicarious suffering, the innocent one [Jesus] atoning for the guilty (ibid., page 56).

The prophet Isaiah said,

"The Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all" (Isaiah 53:6).

Myrrh is mine, its bitter perfume Breathes a life of gathering gloom;
Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying, Sealed in the stone cold tomb.
    ("We Three Kings of Orient Are," stanza 4)

And the Apostle Paul said,

"Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures"
    (I Corinthians 15:3).

"And when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh" (Matthew 2:11).

When you hear about these gifts, think of Christ! Gold - for the King. Incense for God the Son. Myrrh for Him who would die on the Cross for our sins.

But Christ did not stay in the grave. He arose from the dead!

Glorious now behold Him arise, King and God and sacrifice;
Alleluia, Alleluia! Sounds through the earth and skies.
      ("We Three Kings of Orient Are," stanza 5)

Put your trust in the Son of God, and He will save you for all time - and for all eternity.


(END OF SERMON)
You can read Dr. Hymers' sermons each week on the Internet
at www.realconversion.com. Click on "Sermon Manuscripts."


Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: Matthew 2:1-12.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:

"We Three Kings of Orient Are" (by John H. Hopkins, 19th century).


THE OUTLINE OF

THE FIRST CHRISTMAS GIFTS

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.


"And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh" (Matthew 2:11).

(Daniel 2:48; 9:24-26)

I.   They brought Him gold, Matthew 2:2; John 18:33, 36;
Revelation 19:16; 11:15.

II.  They brought Him frankincense, Revelation 8:4.

III. They brought Him myrrh, Mark 15:23; Isaiah 53:11;
John 19:39-40; Isaiah 53:6; I Corinthians 15:3.