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Love
12/28/2008
Scripture: Lamentations 1:12; Acts 2:41-47; Matthew...
Track 4 of 4 in the Illuminating the Light of the World series
The story of the wise men is a story about love. The wise men is not the usual example preachers or people use to explain love but Matthew uses these men and their worship to make a clear path to the understanding of true love. The definition of the wise mens love is the love used throughout the New Testament. In fact, if their love is not demonstrated, then the true love of Christ is not present.



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Mike Nobis Speaker: Mike Nobis
Sunday School Teacher, Former Elder at Madison Park Christian Church. Mike is President of JK Creative Printers & Mailing in Quincy, IL. He is married to Pam and has three children, Tom, Tyler and Jennifer. Mike has three grandchildren: Ryne, Ivy and Alicia.

View all sermons by this speaker.


Illuminating the Light of the World
Love: Matthew 2: 1-18

Our last lesson is going to deal with the topic of Love. However, the scriptures we will study are verses we already dealt with, the arrival of the wise men or magi. But what does the story of the magi have to do with the topic of Love in the Christmas or Advent story? At first glance, this story does not appear to be a story of LOVE, but sometimes you’ve got to look deeper to discover the hidden meaning of something. I hope by now we all know the right answers to the questions concerning the magi who came to worship Jesus:

• How many kings came to visit the baby Jesus?
• Where were these travelers from?
• Did they follow a star to Jerusalem?
• Why did they travel to Jerusalem in the first place if they didn’t follow a star?
• What does the star have to do with this story in the first place?
• What was Herod’s reaction that a new king was born to be worshiped?
• From what department store did the wise men buy their gifts? Did they pay cash or use their credit cards?

What is fascinating to me about this story of love is that no sooner after Jesus was born, we see men forming into three groups. These groups are typical in their reactions to the news about Jesus. It was true back in the days of Herod and it hasn’t changed all the way into the 21st century. Man still reacts to Jesus in one of three ways:

Reaction #1: Herod

We will see as we continue our study today, his reaction was one of hatred and hostility; not only to Jesus himself but also to anyone associated with him, directly or indirectly. Herod was afraid that this little child was going to interfere with his life, his place, his power, his influence and therefore his first instinct is to destroy the child.

Today, there are those who would love to destroy Jesus because they see him as being someone who will destroy their live of lifestyle. The world wants to do as they please. They see Jesus as an end to their endless pursuit of self and evil pleasures. The man who has desires to do as he pleases has no use for Jesus.

Is this a true statement? Do we see this hostility toward Jesus today? How does the world play this hostility out?

Reaction #2: Complete Indifference

This was the reaction by the scribes and chief priests. It did not make the slightest difference to them that a new king was born. It did concern them that the wise men showed up and spoke with Herod. They knew full well what Herod was capable in doing and they wanted to make sure they weren’t in the path of Herod’s destruction when he acted upon the news. But the news of a new king; the possible messiah, so what, no big deal. What was the child to them? They had their life and they had their power under Herod. No way were they going to mess that up for some new born baby king.

Today, there are still those who are so interested in their own affairs that Jesus means nothing to them. Sadly, some Christians act the same way. The prophets asked the same question many years ago about the people’s indifference:

Lamentations 1:12 “Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by?

What about our generation today? Are we a people who have the nature in being indifferent to the events going on around us? I think it is true until the events affect us. Then the indifference goes away and things get personal and real.

What about our attitudes with God? Does crisis have to get personal before we search out God? For many, He is out of mind until a crisis strikes and then we come running t o God for help; for help that rescues me or someone I personally care for.

Reaction #3: Adoring Worship

This was the reaction of the wise men when they realized that something big had happened. They longed to worship what they knew to be true and no distance, no amount of effort and inconvenience was going to stop them for worshiping the king they knew was born. Not only did they come to worship the new born king, they also came to lay at his feet gifts which only they could bring. Their worship produced a deep desire to give gifts.

It is true as we see examples in the scriptures, a man who realizes the love of God in Jesus, he too should be lost in wonder, love and praise. The natural outpouring of that love for Jesus is to give.

Acts 2:41-47 Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day. They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

The story of the wise men is a story about love. The wise men is not the usual example preachers or people use to explain love but Matthew uses these men and their worship to make a clear path to the understanding of true love. The definition of the wise men’s love is the love used throughout the New Testament. In fact, if their love is not demonstrated, then the true love of Christ is not present.

What is the definition of love in the context of the love we find in the Christmas story about Jesus? What does it mean and what does it look like?

Love: active virtues that flow from the mind (connected to a person’s will), and not the emotions. God’s terms of love are “action oriented”, not “feelings oriented”. God’s love requires you to get your feelings under control in order to “take action”.

In our last three lessons, we talked about the gifts of Hope, Peace and Joy that comes from the Christmas story. Explain to me what these three mean in order. How do they flow from one to the other and how do they connect to Christmas?

What is Love’s connection then with theses three gifts?

Matthew 2:9-12 After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

Christmas is a season that is all about gifts. In our society today, we have lost the true meaning and intent on giving gifts. We have turned the whole process into an economic money machine. The news today has nothing to do with the gifts that came from God to mankind, Jesus, it is all about how much we are or aren’t spending to help the economy recover. Somewhere buried in the whole commercial mess of Christmas is the idea and spiritual gift of Love.

Tom and I were standing in a line trying to return a gift he received from one of Whitney’s family members. It was very interesting watching the people as they worked at returning a gift they didn’t want. I especially was interested in a young girl with her mom returning a whole bunch of stuff. It was obvious that mom guessed wrong on what her daughter would like. What was sad was the statement the mom made as they walked away from the line after several minutes of hearing her child ridicule her for the selections, “Next year I’ll just get you a gift card and you can pick out what you want.”

What is the number one rule every woman knows when it comes to giving gifts? Keep the receipt! Why? What does that rule tell us about our modern understanding of gift giving and receiving? Evaluate your efforts in buying gifts for those you love. What goes through your mind as you seek to pick out the gifts you give?

It is interesting to consider the gifts that were given to Jesus. What do you give someone who has everything? I love that statement because we all have probably said or thought that question. But think about the gifts given to Jesus from the wise men. They knew who they were seeking. They also planned to give gifts. But what do you give as a gift to God? What is it that he needs that you can give? It isn’t the gift that is given that catches God’s attention? It is the thought and intention that counts. God needs nothing from us but he does want us to give and measures our love for Him by how we give and what we give.

Look at the gifts that were given.

Gold: Gold is the gift for a king. Seneca tells us that in Parhia, it was the custom that no one could ever approach the king without a gift. The wise men knew who they were approaching and looking for. Jesus was not just a baby, he was a king.
Gold is considered the king of metals and it is gold that is reserved as a gift for a king. But does man today realize who Jesus is as they approach him? Do Christians realize who Jesus is as they approach him? Too often, because of our experience with grace, we forget who Jesus is and fail to respect His person.

Frankincense: This is a gift that is given to a priest. It was in the Temple where one will find frankincense. It has a sweat perfume smell. If you attend a Catholic mass or an Episcopal mass, you most likely will smell frankincense. Its use symbolizes his divine name and is an emblem of prayer before God.

Malachi 1:11 My name will be great among the nations, from the rising to the setting of the sun. In every place incense and pure offerings will be brought to my name, because my name will be great among the nations,” says the LORD Almighty.

Myrrh: It is the gift for one who is to die. Can you imagine the expression of your spouse or loved one if you gave them myrrh? Kids would ask what myrrh was and when you tell them, their reaction would probably be, ohhhhhh, yuck. It was used primarily for embalming and for a perfume. To give this as a gift was considered really nice. It was expensive and something everyone would eventually need.

This gift pointed to more than just a man’s appointed death. It foretold the death of Jesus and what that death would bring. Jesus came into the world to live for men, and, in the end, to die for men. He came to give men his life and death.

So, what is more important, the giving of gifts or receiving of gifts? Which is harder for you to do gracefully, to give gifts or to receive gifts? How does the Spirit filled gift of love affect both giving and receiving gifts?

It is fascinating to look at the concept of gifts found in the Bible. They were used as gratuity to secure a favor, to offer thanks, to secure and obligation, to bribe, to show favor and love toward someone. They were even used to buy a wife. What is important about gifts was not necessarily the intent, but how they were given and received. The refusal of a present was regarded as a high indignity. To return a gift or to exchange a gift given for something else would have been unthinkable. Jesus even used this concept in one of his parables.

In Matthew 22, Jesus told a parable of a king who invited guests to come to his son’s wedding. Some had something else to do; others didn’t pay attention to the invitation while others killed the servants. The king was enraged and had his army kill those who refused to come. Then the king did the following:

Matthew 22:8-14 Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. Go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’ So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, both good and bad, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.“But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. ‘Friend,’ he asked, ‘how did you get in here without wedding clothes?’ The man was speechless. “Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ “For many are invited, but few are chosen.”

What did the man do to deserve to be thrown out of the banquet? Why such harsh treatment? A gift was given, the wedding garments were given to wear to the wedding by the king but he refused the gift. Think about the gifts Jesus has given us. Can you name all the gifts that were given? First of all, how did you receive them? Second, how have you used them?