Christmas sermon series: God's Greatest Gift
Many songs we sing at Christmas are reminders that Christmastime is supposed to be happy. Songs like "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year," "Have a Holly Jolly Christmas," "Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire," "Jingle Bells," and "Walking in a Winter Wonderland" all communicate that Christmas time is to be a joyous, trouble-free season.
But let me ask you honestly: Is that what you are experiencing this season? Probably not. For some of you, personal problems are keeping you from experiencing the joy of the season. For others, you feel like one crisis after another has run you over. With such an avalanche of problems it is hard to have a holly-jolly Christmas.
Some of you are so busy and working so hard that there is no time for sitting around a fire roasting chestnuts. Or, maybe there is not anything really wrong, but for some reason you are just not enjoying Christmas. It is not providing the emotional lift that you expected. In fact, it is almost depressing. The world does not look like a winter wonderland. It just looks like winter.
Disillusionment at Christmas is not an unusual thing. We get so hyped up with expectations about what Christmas is supposed to be that often the real thing doesn't measure up, and we are disappointed.
What can you do this Christmas to avoid disillusionment? How can you improve your level of joy this Christmas? The answer is found in the story of the magi in Matthew 2. Magi, wise men from the East, saw a star that indicated the birth of a new king in Israel. Wanting to honor Him with gifts, they set out on a journey following the star to find this newborn King. From the attitudes of these wise men and the events that surrounded their journey, we see how we can raise our level of joy at Christmas.
There are three lessons we learn from this story.
I. What do you seek?
Your level of joy at Christmas is directly related to what it is you seek.
Ask the question: What is it I want to get out of Christmas? What is it that would make your Christmas wonderful and satisfying? Snow? All the family together and happy? A feeling you define as the holiday spirit? Finding the right present to give? Getting the present you have been hoping for? The problem with all these is that they can leave us disappointed.
Have you ever had that kind of experience - when you were disappointed by Christmas because it did not deliver what you thought it would? The problem is not Christmas. It is in our expectations. We are looking for the wrong thing.
The magi show us how to increase our level of joy at Christmas by looking for the right thing. What was it they were looking for? Verse 2 tells us. They came to Jerusalem and said, "Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him." They were looking for Jesus. Christmas for them was an opportunity to worship Jesus.
That is what we need to be looking for and expecting this Christmas - an experience of worship, a fresh glimpse of He who was born King of the Jews. If our goal this Christmas is to worship Jesus, then I doubt very seriously we will be dissatisfied with our experience.
II. Where do you look?
Your level of joy at Christmas is directly related to where you look.
We learn from the magi that there are wrong and right places to look for Christmas. They started by looking in the wrong place. They looked where their own human reasoning said they should look. The star indicated the birth of a new king in Israel. The magi went where kings should be born - to the palace of Herod the Great in the capital city of Jerusalem. But what a mistake that was! When Herod heard of the birth of a new king, he jealousy sought to destroy him.
We, too, are tempted to look for joy at Christmas in the wrong places. We think by getting or giving the right gift we will be satisfied. We imagine that being with family will be joyful. All these can easily disappoint us. You may not be able to afford the right gift for a loved one. Family members may be missing from your holiday celebration. If you are looking to these things for joy, you may be left with a feeling of disillusionment.
The magi looked in the right place when they looked to God. The trip to Jerusalem was not a total loss. While there they discovered where they should have looked in the first place: the Bible. The scribes in Jerusalem said that, according to the prophet Micah, the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem. With this new information, they looked again at the star and followed it to Bethlehem until it stood over the house where the child Jesus lived.
III. What do you give?
Your level of joy at Christmas is directly related to what you give.
The magi came to Jesus' house bearing gifts. The gifts they gave were entirely appropriate. They gave gold, gift for a king. By giving it they acknowledged that Jesus was and is the King. They gave frankincense, a gift for a priest. This was incense the priests used in Temple. By giving it they acknowledged that Jesus was a priest - the One who would bring us to God. They gave myrrh, gift for the dead. This was a fragrant ointment used to anoint a body before burial. By giving it they acknowledged that Jesus had come to die for the sins of the world.
We ought to give appropriate gifts this Christmas as well. Don't get me wrong, I'm not talking about material gifts. I am talking about more important things. We ought to give the gift of our love and kindness to our friends and family. We ought to give the gift of our help to those who are hurting. We ought to give the gift of forgiveness to those who have hurt us. Giving these kinds of gifts will result in a joyous and meaningful Christmas.
What are you giving for Christmas this year? Why not consider giving yourself? Give your time to your family. Give your compassion to the hurting. Give your forgiveness to the isolated. And give your heart to Jesus? I promise you, when you look for the right thing, look in the right places, and give the right gift, you will have joy at Christmas.