Theme: Three Great Gifts
In this week’s lessons, we look at the three gifts brought to Jesus by the wise men.
Scripture: Matthew 2:1-2
In the second chapter of Matthew, we read that some time after the birth of Jesus Christ, perhaps as much as two years after the event, wise men came from the east to worship him. This simple story has always figured largely in most celebrations of Christmas, both in this and in other countries, because it’s an event upon which the imagination may easily take hold. It has been used widely, both in literature and in art.
From the Bible story we know very little about the wise men. On millions of Christmas cards, they show three kings presenting gifts to a tiny child in a manger. We also sing, “We Three Kings of Orient Are,” but we do not know if there were three who brought the gifts, nor are we told that they were kings or even when they arrived in Bethlehem. It’s likely, in view of their long journey and of Herod’s command that all children under two years of age were to be killed, that they arrived when Jesus was no longer an infant, but had already become a young child.
Our passage reads: “After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, ‘Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.’” We are then told how the wise men inquired of Herod and how afterward they were led by the star to where the child was. Then, when they came into the house, they saw the young child with Mary, his mother, and fell down and worshiped him. They presented to Jesus gifts they had brought—gold, frankincense and myrrh. And because they had been warned by God in a dream not to return to Herod, they went back to their own country by another route.
The fact that we’re given so little information about the wise men shows clearly that Matthew’s interest was not focused upon the wise men themselves. Rather, he’s interested in the fact that Gentiles came to worship the Jewish Messiah, and he’s also interested, perhaps above all, in the gifts that they bore. They occur at the very end of the story after the child has been found, and they occupy a place of special prominence. Now let’s see what this means, and what it means to you and me personally.
Why did the wise men return to their own country by another way, rather than going back to see Herod again?
Why is it suggested that we are not given much information about the wise men in Scripture?
Application: Rather than focusing on Christ, with what other themes does the world preoccupy itself around Christmas? How can you make sure that you do not lose your own focus on the meaning of the season, and not become caught up with other things that distract you from Christ?