Written Sermons & Bible Studies

We Three Kings: The Gift of the Spirit

When I was in Junior high, I learned to play the song, “We Three Kings of Orient Are.” It was the only song I ever learned on the piano. I learned to play it at my grandmother’s during the Christmas season. It has been a story that has piqued my curiosity for years. Why would these wise men, these scholars, astrologers, and mathematicians, visit the baby Jesus?  

The wise men were people of significant wealth, power, and influence from far off. Jesus was born in a back water town of no significance.  Bethlehem on the world stage was no more significant than Canyon, Texas. Why would these men put together a caravan of camels and set out across the desert on a dangerous journey?

The wise men were Magi, meaning they had the status of priestly kings. They likely came from Persia, Babylonia or Arabia. During the time of the birth of Jesus, none of these areas were ruled by Rome, although Rome traded with them. The Romans did try to gain Persia and Babylonia, but they failed. The Three Kings were important figures in these non-Roman territories.  Why would these significant men care about the newborn King of the Jews? At the time, the reigning Jewish king Herod was nothing more than a client of Rome, a King of a defeated people. Herod held no real importance within the Roman Empire. If Herod wasn’t politically important, why would the Magi care?

Why would they care about the baby Jesus, even if he was the Son of God? The Jewish God was not their God. The Jewish God held no importance to Persia, Babylonia or Arabia. Why would they make a pilgrimage to see the Jewish God’s Son and carry precious gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh with them?

The Magi had no social, political or religious reason to make the journey. Yet they came and worshipped Jesus. These wise men came and worshipped Jesus and brought him gifts.

Let’s read the story.

Matthew 2:1-12

In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, 2 asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising and have come to pay him homage.” 3 When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; 4 and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. 5 They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet: 6 ‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.’ ” 7 Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. 8 Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.” 9 When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. 11 On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.

As we look at the story of the three kings, we see the story of the Gospel of Christ. The story is a prelude to the whole life of Jesus and to God’s plan for humanity.
In the story, we encounter the world and its power structure. We see its rebellion against God in King Herod and the rulers of Jerusalem. Ponder for a moment a group of Jewish leaders who are set out to kill their Messiah. This is the Messiah that the Jewish people have been waiting for 1,000 years. The Jewish people had been especially hopeful for their Messiah after Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem in 650 BC, and it was top of mind for a people occupied by the Romans. Even so, Herod was frightened, and all Jerusalem was with him. From the very beginning, Jesus frightened the world. The world wanted to kill Jesus, even as a little baby. Even as a baby, Jesus stood against the rule of Satan in the world and the evil of men of power. These men of power chose to live under the power of death. They chose Satan and the “Way of Death” over the new life offered in Jesus.

The world of power and death was self-centered. The world of power and death was focused solely on their loss or gain. They crushed anyone who stood in their way or threatened their power. Herod was concerned with his own power and status as the Jewish king. The Jerusalem elite focused on maintaining their influence and authority. This self-centeredness led them to oppose God’s plan. They resisted God’s Revelation: Herod and the Jerusalem elite heard about the birth of Jesus and resisted the idea of a Messiah. They did not accept God’s revelation. Herod and the elite in Jerusalem feared God’s plan and chose to take control with their own plan. They took drastic action intending to do harm. Herod and the Jerusalem elite missed the opportunity to embrace the Messiah and be transformed by divine grace. Instead, they clung to their earthly ways.

In contrast, the wise men sought God with Open Hearts. They were curious seekers. They saw a sign in the sky and took it seriously. They were open to the possibility of something greater. The wise men recognized God’s Revelation: When they found Jesus, they recognized this baby had a special and divine presence. They offered Jesus gifts and worshiped Him.

Contemporary Analogy

As I was examining the story of the Three Kings this week, I thought about what that would look like in today’s world. How can we understand the significance, sheer magnitude and surprising aspects of the story? I came up with a contemporary story that is somewhat playful but communicates the underlying seriousness of the profound encounter that took place.

Once upon a time, there was a technology executive in Silicon Valley. He owned stock worth millions, maybe even billions. He played with the company’s Artificial Intelligence. For this executive, the Artificial Intelligence was his Star in the East. One day, it suddenly says, “Go and see the new baby boy in Canyon, Texas.” With its vast storehouse of knowledge, Artificial Intelligence computed that the baby may have a special destiny that will change the world. It tells the executive, “The baby is the one those Texans have been waiting for since the Alamo.” 

The executive grabbed two other super smart technology executives. He told them what his Artificial Intelligence told him, and they said, “Yeah, it told us the same thing. We must go and check it out. Let’s grab the company jet.”

Before they boarded the plane, they decided to check with executives at another technology company in the Bay Area, to see what their Artifical Intelligence told them. They arranged a virtual conference call. As they joined the call, the executive realized that the other company’s executives also knew about the baby in Canyon, Texas.  But they were not excited, they were afraid that this baby would somehow take over their digital empire. You see, they wanted people’s lives to be organized under a system dominated by their Artificial Intelligence. They didn’t want a human being with the divine presence galvanizing the people to live for God. They thought to themselves, “If our Artificial Intelligence thinks this baby is divine, we have a problem. We could lose all our influence, wealth and control. Who cares if the baby is the Son of God, we need to cancel him. Even if he is born to an insignificant family in the middle of nowhere Texas.” They asked the wise men and women to go and see the baby and then report back to them.  
The executives began to plan their trip to Canyon, Texas. Like the wise men of old that had to mount camels and cross the desert, these wise men and women would have to land in Amarillo and board a gas-powered rental car. The indignity of it was all they could stomach, but they needed to see this baby that their Star in the East, had spoken of. 
They entered Canyon, Texas and went up to the house. There were cows in the pasture, some chickens running around the yard and a heavily used pickup truck in the driveway. Mary invited them into their humble home. They were clearly not locals, but she could sense that God had something to do with them being there. They walked into the small house to see the baby. As the technology executive entered, he noticed that they did not have internet. They didn’t have computers. Yet, his Artificial Intelligence had told him this was the place, so he kept going. As he looked on the baby boy, he knew in his heart and in his spirit that his Artificial Intelligence was right. This is the Son of God. This baby boy is indeed the Messiah. He is Divine. No worldly signal or computer program could have convinced him of this. He had to go and encounter the baby himself, and in his Spirit, he sensed God’s revelation. He sensed that this baby boy was God’s gift to the world. This baby was God’s answer to all the world’s problems.

Have you ever known that God was present with you. Right there next to you? Did you know in your spirit that Christ’s presence was more powerful than the problems you faced? That God was truly in control? Did it give you peace and joy? The technology executive with all his wealth, power and prestige was humbled by the baby.He and his colleagues had a newfound perspective in that moment. How vastly beyond Artificial Intelligence is God’s wisdom, they thought. They were overwhelmed with deep joy.

The technology executive was used to others giving him honor and homage, but he was compelled to kneel and worship the child. It felt weird, he did not even know what worship looked like or felt like, but he knew that he needed to worship this baby. He was moved to give gifts to the baby. Like Gold, he gave him a crypto key to a treasure of bitcoin.Like Frankincense, he gave him a special access login to his Artificial Intelligence programming, a precious license to speak directly to the AI. Only God could wisely use AI. Like Myrrh, he gave him a lifetime supply of laptops and sent Google fiber from Amarillo to Canyon, Texas.

 As he left the house, the technology executive knew the struggle that the baby would face. The other company only cared about power and wanted to get rid of the baby. Others will surely feel the same. Then, his Artificial Intelligence knocked on his phone and told him not to return to Silicon Valley. He and his fellow executives decided to move their company to San Antonio. They vowed never to speak of their encounter with the baby with anyone in the technology world.

The technology executive left with a flood of emotions: hope for the world now that the baby had arrived; dread for the life the child would lead in a hostile world; and a deep commitment to the life of faith the child had awakened in him. He and his colleagues now seemed wiser. The three of them chose to follow the path of faith and to trust in God’s leading even when things were not easy or clear. Their encounter with the baby transformed their lives. They had accepted the Spirit of the baby, the Spirit of God into their hearts. Transformed by God’s grace, they devoted themselves to live in a way that reflected God’s love and purpose.

Like our technology executives, the Magi interpreted the signs of God in the heavens and travelled to see the baby Jesus. They went to discover God’s new design for humanity. The Magi were of high status and means. They were also Gentiles, considered by Jews to be unclean. They were from distant lands. God had already begun reaching out to the Gentiles and all people of the world in the story of the Magi.

What can we gain from the story of the Magi. How can we draw closer to this child king?

When we follow the teachings offered in our story of the three wise kings, we are led to the baby Jesus to worship the Son of God and follow the way of life that our Lord and Savior brings through his Holy Spirit.

Reject Power and Control.  Followers of Christ choose humility and compassion instead. Consider the contrast between Herod’s thirst for power and the three kings’ humble approach to a child king. Jesus taught us to serve, care for the marginalized, and show compassion to all. We all have self-serving ambitions. This is power and control. Instead, let us embrace humility and compassion.

Seek True Wisdom: The Magi pursued genuine wisdom by searching for the newborn King. In contrast, Herod and the elite cared only for self-preservation and worldly power, lacking true wisdom. They symbolized the pursuit of worldly status. Followers of Christ pursue wisdom through reliance on faith, the teachings of Jesus and the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Be Strong and Resilient: The wise men gave myrrh to Jesus, a precious but bitter gift that symbolized life’s challenges and hardships. It served as a reminder that difficulties and even rejection were inevitable parts of life’s journey. Despite life’s hardships, we can find strength and resilience by allowing ourselves to be transformed from fearful to faithful. Jesus himself lived with unwavering strength in the face of opposition and adversity. Guided by the power of faith, Jesus taught us the transformative power of faith, showing that our belief and trust in God can help us navigate life’s trials with grace and endurance.

This Christmas, we reflect on the story of the wise men and encounter the baby Jesus with humility and awe. We reject power and control, seek true wisdom and remain strong and resilient in our faith.

Let’s pray:

 In the story of the three wise kings, we are reminded of the journey they undertook to find and worship the infant Jesus. Like them, we come before you today with open hearts and curious minds.

The faith and wisdom of the Magi humble us. They followed the signs you placed in the heavens to discover the King of Kings, even from distant lands. May we, too, seek you with humility and compassion, choosing the path of service over power and control.

Grant us the gift of genuine wisdom and understanding, rooted in faith and guided by the teachings of Jesus. May we always discern the way of life and follow in Christ’s footsteps.

May we be transformed and resilient in the face of life’s challenges. Strengthen our faith so that we may navigate trials with grace and endurance.

Lord, we accept the gift of your Holy Spirit through Christ. May we walk in your light, guided by your grace, and live a life that reflects your love and purpose. In Jesus’ name, we pray.

Amen.

About Pastor Tim

Tim Holmes

Senior Pastor

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