We recorded this video to be watched on December 25th, or anytime Christmas week. We hope you will enjoy joining us for this special service!
Christmas Morning Joy
I bet that if each of us shared a memorable Christmas morning of our childhood, most of us would mention a toy we received. We’d ooze with the joy that came when we finally got that red sled, that doll, the new game system or bike we always dreamed of.
For me it was a black scooter. I had longed to have this one particular scooter for months, yet I had grown convinced that I would never get it. Times were tight for our family with four kids and a scooter seemed out of the question. But that morning, when I came down the stairs—I can still picture it—there is was sitting by the Christmas tree in all its glory. I was overwhelmed with joy and excitement!
The joy I felt that morning pails in comparison to the joy of the first real Christmas morning. The King of the world was being given as a gift to human kind. Yet there weren’t any bows or wrapping paper. No sparkling lights or evergreen trees. Just a small child in a dusty inconspicuous middle eastern town called Bethlehem.
Let’s look at the story as recounted by Matthew 2:1-12. Turn with me there. Let me summarize the first part of Matthew chapter 2 for you. Then, let’s look at the moment when God said, let there be light. In the form a star, to point the way to His son.
The Gospel of Matthew is the most Jewish of all the gospels. It was written to those who were raised Jewish and believed that the messiah was for them and for them alone. The book starts with a verse like verse 2 that says, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews?” It was the words of the Magi—not Jews themselves, recorded as saying, “where is your king?” to the Jewish audience of Matthew.
The Jews believed that the Christ was for them and them alone. The Jews had obeyed God and longed for the fulfillment of Old Testament promises that a great gift would come from God; a Messiah would be sent to save them. The book begins looking for a king of the Jews, but by the end of Matthew we see that Jesus was for all people. We are told in the last verses, “Go and make disciples of all nations” not just the Jewish nations. You see, The Bible was a way of making a point here that Jesus was a gift for us all!
God kept everyone of His promises to the Jewish people—including that he would give them a messiah, AND specifically that their Messiah would come from Bethlehem. Sure enough, in verse 1 it says, “after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king.” This statement of location was to say that God fulfilled the prophesy of a prophet spoken hundreds of years before. Matthew quotes this prophesy in verse 6, “And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.” That sleepy little shepherd’s town experienced the greatest Christmas morning that would ever happen. God has always been in the business of given His great presence to the least of these.
The fact God was keeping His promise was not only great news for the Jews, but it was great news for all man kind. To be honest, there aren’t even any Jews in Matthew chapter 2. This was about God giving His Promised Messiah to everyone.
The wise men from the east, they were not Jews, yet God called them come to Jesus. If they were from the east, they would have been from what is modern day Jordan or Iraq. Maybe they were from Babylon of that day. Wise men are not people endowed with wisdom in general, but students of the stars; Persian or Babylonian wise men or priest were expert in astrology, interpretation of dreams and had other various other secret arts. They didn’t know God, yet God sought them out to tell them he had a messiah, a king, who was being born.
They were not Godly men with a deep conviction that God loved them and was sending His son for them. They were pagan men being drawn to a gracious savior. And notice that they didn’t ask a who question in verse 2, they asked a where question. By whatever wonders of God they had seen in lights of the sky, they were already convinced that God has sent the who—a King to save all man kind. They just wanted to know where he was.
Who did they ask? Another godless man, not a Jew but and Edomite who had no idea what God was up to. They asked Herod, the man who thought he already was the king of the Jews where the new King of the Jews was residing. Herod was sure, at least in his head, that he was the top dog over the Jewish people. In 40 B.C. he was even named “king of Judea” by the Jewish people. He was a great builder and was responsible for rebuilding the temple in Jerusalem. So the Jews loved and appreciated his leadership. Then these three wise guys show up and ask where the real king resides. You can almost feel his hostility—As a convenient cover up, he acts as if he too is going to worship, but really he conniving how he would take out anyone threatening His power.
You see, God said let there be light—to the least of all cities, to the wisest of all men, to the most powerful in the land. Yet not everyone embraced the light; many rejected it.
The Light. Let’s talk about light for a minute. The light in this story is not first seen as Jesus, but as a star. At the end of verse 2 the wise men say we are here because of “his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” A star? Really? You and have seen stars—the wise men have seen star. They aren’t close. And they don’t move. How can it be that this star led them? Even Herod struggled with the star and the story of a new King “summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared (vs. 7).”
Herod was a terrified man, plagued with anxiety. If his thrown was threatened, He wanted to know by whom. He was going to get what information He could to stop what he would later learn was an unstoppable King. Yet, the wise men were getting wise to Herod’s ways. They decided to leave quietly and follow the magical star.
They had already followed the star from the east. Perhaps the star was not at first specific enough for them to know where to go. Or perhaps it was all by God’s plan that they would run into the hostile King Herod. Nonetheless, they moved five miles south to the town of Bethlehem. Matthew speaks of Bethlehem 5 times, but Luke (twice) and John (once) are the only other New Testament writers to refer to it. Who would have thought a king would be there. Yet, the star led them and now fell over the place where the child was (vs. 9). Wow! Did you catch that? A light leads the way to the light!
Now, listen, we should not be so preoccupied—as some are—about how the star worked. You can read all sorts of articles about how this star could have been a comet, or supernova, or explained by some kind of astronomical phenomenon. People try to explain God all the time when it may be impossible to do so:
How did a man live in the belly of a whale? How was the bush on fire but not burring? How did the manna actually come down from the sky? What were the wind patterns like that split the red sea?
Listen, when we get caught on small issues of insignificance, we steal the joy of simple faith. I don’t know how the star worked. I have seen stars. They are far up there. I don’t know how close it got to where Jesus was and how that was even clear, but I trust that there was something that looked like a star it and it led people to find Jesus. But here is what I am convinced of: God can use all sorts of things and circumstances to get people to find salvation in His Son, all according to his own pleasure and for their greater joy.
Look at verse 10: “When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.” God gave them a light that gave them extreme joy. This start was just a smaller light giving way to a greater light—the light of the word. Here’s a truth for us this Christmas: When We See His Star We Are Filled with Joy. Jesus was sent to give us more joy than anything in this world has to offer.
Because they were overwhelmed with joy, look at how they responded. The beginning of verse 11 says, “And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him.” Their hearts were full but their knees were weak. They didn’t stand, but they fell. They didn’t hold back. They willingly worship a small child. Herod said he was going to do the same thing, but we all know that was probably not true.
Listen, there are two people mentioned in these verses as wanting to worship:
- The willing wise men—who actually did what they had come to do, worship.
- The hostile Herod—who didn’t follow through bc he never meant it in first place.
It begs the question of us—are we willing or hostile toward Jesus? Are we willingly worshipping him because we believe He is the light of life given to us by God? Or are we hostile toward Jesus—perhaps blatantly because we feel like Jesus isn’t given us what we thought He would. Or maybe more subtly as we try to king of our own world and don’t want Jesus to be our King, we just want him to help us be king.
A willing worshiper, who see Jesus and Christmas as the gift that God has given to us will be willing to give to God sacrificially. Verse 11 finishes by saying, “Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.”
They opened a small box or keeper of what was most precious and valuable to them and then gave it willingly to a small child. Truth be told, When We See His Star [Christ] We Offer Him Our Gifts.
So what if Christmas isn’t about what you receive, but what you give? And I don’t mean to another person, but to God. This is a holiday that demands your worship and dedication. It is an open door for your heart to run through with the same joy and excitement the wise men felt when they walked into that home and saw Jesus for the first time. He is our joy; so today and everyday let’s respond with joyful praise.