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Extra - Matthew 2.1-2, 11

Extra Lesson - " What Christmas Says about Worshipping" - Matthew 2:1-2, 11

In his short story called "The Gift of the Magi," O. Henry tells a bittersweet tale about Della and Jim, a newly-wedded couple who barely eked out a living but wanted to give each other something special for Christmas.

Della, who has beautiful long hair, has most of her hair cut off to sell to a wigmaker to get the money she needs to buy Jim a gold watch chain on which he can hang the gold pocket watch that had been his father's and grandfather's.

But Jim, without knowing what Della had done, had sold his watch to buy Della a set of tortoise shell combs with jeweled rims for her beautiful hair, combs she had always wanted but knew she could never afford.

  • Della sacrificed her hair to buy a watch chain to hold a watch that Jim had sacrificed to buy her present. 
  • Jim sacrificed his watch to buy a set of ornate combs for hair that Della had sacrificed to buy his present.

O. Henry concludes the story saying that, by all appearances (human standards) Della and Jim had acted foolishly.  But, says Henry, Although Jim and Della are left with gifts that they cannot use, they realize how far they are willing to go to show their love for each other and how priceless their love really is-far more valuable than any kind of present.  "Of all who give gifts [Della and Jim] are the wisest.... They are the magi."

"The Gift of the Magi," by O. Henry

Matthew tells us that, like Della and Jim, the real Magi were also on a "whatever it takes" mission, a mission to worship the newborn king of Israel.  


Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, 2 "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."

FOCUS:   These three Magi are "exhibit A" of what Christmas says about worshipping! Here's what we need to learn from them:


  • While Matthew only says the wise men came from the east (where Iraq is today), scholars say this would Have been at least a 900-mile journey, a trip of about 120 days! 
  • These men left their homeland and livelihood and took great risks to get to Bethlehem, all because they were searching
  •  Like these magi, in order to truly experience God in worship, we must hunger to seek Him-truly experience Him.

Like the writer of Psalm 63.1, who cries out:

"O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you , my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water. (Ps. 63:1)

  • "Earnestly I seek you," says the psalmist.  "Earnestly" means vigorously and That takes work!
    We think of the word "liturgy" as a written script or program of worship that followed in some churches, but in the original Greek the word really means the work of the people.   And there are two types of work:

  1. There is the work of preparation.  God loves to reveal His glory in our worship, but we limit the extent He reveals His glory when we don't prepare to worship before we come into His house.

  2. Then there is the work of participation.  When we are here in this moment, we need to listen, speak, and sing as if God's direction for this day will be the most important we'll ever receive!  Worship is not a spectator sport!  It's something that actively engages and moves us or it's nothing. 
  • If it's true that "wise men still seek Him," let us search for Him, too!
    We will not truly worship unless we do.

  • The Magi also teach us that ...



And after they came into the house, they saw the Child with His mother Mary; and they fell down and worshiped Him.

  • It's possible to bow before someone but not really mean it - to pretend submission while really just guarding your pride and image.
  • But the Greek word Matthew uses in this verse literally means to fall or cast oneself down before the one being worshipped, as an act of complete surrender.
  • All the different things we put in our orders of worship have no life unless they lead us to surrender ourselves to Jesus.

TRUTH:  Life-changing worship requires not only that we seek the Lord but that we also surrender all of ourselves to Him.  And when we do, we will see that ...



Then they opened their treasures and presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

  • Their three gifts were symbols of Jesus' life and death:

    1. The first gift was gold.
      • Gold symbolized who Jesus was:  a King

      • Gold represented royalty, the only gift worthy of a great king.

                   - So, what is our "gold?" (It's what we treasure most)
                   - Does Jesus own what is most precious to us?

        TRUTH:  If we make Jesus our king, then we will gladly give Him our gold in worship.

    2. The second gift was frankincense,

      • Frankincense symbolized what He came to do - to be our priest 

      • Frankincense was a costly substance that came from trees grown in Arabia and India.  The bark of each tree had to be pulled off and then deep incisions made in the tree to get the resin flowing.  When burned, that resin gave a wonderful fragrance, and God called for it to be burned daily in the Temple as an offering.

      • It symbolized that Jesus would be our priest, sacrificing Himself at the cross and then offering prayers of intercession for us before the Father.

        And then the magi gave Jesus:

    3. The third gift of myrrh

      • Myrrh symbolized the ultimate sacrifice of death.

      • Like frankincense, myrrh also came from a small tree and was also fragrant when burned.  But the main use of myrrh was for preparing a body for burial. 

      • In John 19.38, John says that after Jesus died, a man named Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate if he could have Jesus' body to bury him.  In v.39, Nicodemus joins Joseph of Arimathea, and together they "brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes" to prepare Him for burial.

      • So, the Magi's gifts represent to us:
                    - gold for the king
                    - frankincense for the priest
                    - myrrh for the lamb which would be slain

        TRUTH:  This teaches us that true worship involves sacrificing our best.

Why does God want our worship?

He wants our worship because we're going to worship something or someone, and He is the only One who is worthy to be worshiped. 

And to genuinely worship we must follow the example of the Magi.

  • Search for Him
  • Surrender to Him
  • Sacrifice our best for Him

OVERALL TRUTH WE LEARN FROM THE MAGI:  Worshipping the Son of the Living God is our greatest privilege! One that brings everlasting satisfaction!

PRAYER - next page
ENDING PRAYER:  Please bow with me-Dear God, our heavenly Father, we admit and confess that we are completely powerless to do anything to save ourselves.  And we thank You for sending Your only Son into this world to save us-for sending send Him into this sinful world as a helpless infant so that He could grow up and sacrifice His life on the cross at Calvary for sinners like us so that we may be forgiven of our sin and spend eternity with You.   I pray, Lord, that we will be convicted today by the great example of worship shown by these three Magi-(1) how they searched for Jesus, (2) how, when they found, they completely surrendered their hearts and minds to Him, and (3) how they made sacrifices of their very best for Him.  We declare-O God-right here and now that worshipping Jesus, Your Son, is our greatest privilege any of us have in this life, and we give you all the honor, glory, and praise for giving it to us this incredible privilege.  In the powerful name of Jesus Christ, our wonderful Savior, I pray, AMEN.