Sermon delivered December 25, 1999

by Pastor Donald J Gettys

McDonald Road Seventh-day Adventist Church

McDonald, Tennessee

Biblical quotations are from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.

Camel Riders Visit Baby

And it came to pass in those days that there went out a decree from the media czars that all Americans should go shopping. And behold all went forth, every one to his own mall. And a Christian also went up from his subdivision to the mall of his hometown. His pregnant wife was great with stress because it was Christmas eve and they were not ready. And so it was that while they were there they found many expensive presents: transformers that turn into dolls; video games; and bright shiny things. Finally she brought forth her presents and wrapped them in swatches of paper and laid them in a crowded corner of the den because there was no room for them under the tree.

Behold there came wise men to the party the next day. They came from the east part of the land, following a freeway. And behold when they saw the scene they laid their three expensive gifts on the large pile of packages. Finally when it was all over they were warned about the traffic and departed to their own country another way. The Christian and his wife went to bed glorifying and praising each other for all the wonderful things they had gotten.

Is that what Christmas means? For the majority of Americans the unfortunate answer to this Question is "Yes!" They miss the most valuable gift of all, Jesus our Savior. Their behavior aborts the Christ child who wants to be born in their hearts.

Let's go to Matthew 2 and the story of the real wise men. Matthew 2:1 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."

The Greek language uses a present participle which means a continual action. They asked and kept asking whoever they met. They must have been shocked when no one seemed to know what they were talking about.

The Eastern "Einsteins" saw a new star in the east. Not in the Eastern sky but viewed from the Eastern lands. The star was in the western sky towards the Holy Land. They were scholars who researched the starry cosmos seeking understanding of celestial mysteries. They had observed the appearance of this star the same night it had appeared to the shepherds. (See Desire of Ages, p. 60).

This super nova was actually a group of shining angels. The wise men studied this object for several days. God sent them a dream by night informing them that if they would follow the star it would lead them to the location of a new born baby prince. Like Abraham of old, they went out not knowing whether they went. See Hebrews 11:8.

It took time to prepare for the long journey. When you come to worship the Savior you never want to come empty handed. They gathered some of the richest gifts of the land to be given as an offering. Wise men today still bring gifts don't they? Give your Tithe, your offering, your heart, and your life.

Question: How many wise men were there? Three? Seven? Who says three? Not the Bible. There may have been a dozen in the delegation. Many servants and guards must have traveled with them. Some may even have been kings! Isaiah 60:3 (KJV) And Gentiles shall come to thy light, and Kings to the brightness of thy rising. Imagine the King of Mongolia, India and China coming to worship the King child.

Their trip was long and hard. Possibly from five hundred to over a thousand miles. All across desolate land on the back of a swaying camel. They came hundreds of miles to see Jesus. Some today can't even come across town to be in church. The local residents of Bethlehem slept while the wise worshiped their king. How much different are we than the town-folk of Bethlehem? Do you sleep in bed when you should be worshiping at church?

We get to drive to church in the convenience of our heated automobiles. The wise men traveled by camel caravan and couldn't even travel with the blessing of the sunshine. Stars can't be seen in the day you know. So the trip was slow. Camels don't have bright shining red noses like Rudolph.

In the day time they slept and studied the prophecies. They traveled for weeks by starlight. The Star led them every step of the way... Leading the camel caravan over the very best way, routing them around bandits and trouble of every kind. If you set out to find Jesus, you can be sure our kind God will help you reach your goal. The gentle star led them only as fast as they could travel. Finally the star stopped, over what town? Not Bethlehem. Jerusalem!

Matthew 2:3 When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. I wonder if the wise men thought they might not get to see the new born king because of the crowds of people waiting in line.

When all these wise men and their entourage came into town asking where the new king was, it created quite a stir. Murderer Herod interpreted their visit as a plot to overthrow his own sovereignty. The arrival of the camel riders brought trouble.

Have you ever seen firemen in their turnout gear, riding camels? Aren't we told that the three wise men were firemen? It says they had just come from A FAR! (A Tennesse joke.)

Matthew 2:4 speaks of Herod... When he had called together all the people's chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. Old Herod did not know where Jesus would be born. Herod did not know the prophecies. Herod lived in the Bible lands but the Bible did not live in Herod. He had zero knowledge of its vast treasures. If you were born in a Christian home, that does not guarantee that you will be a Christian. Just because you have a praying mother, you will not automatically be a person of prayer.

Verse 5,6. "In Bethlehem in Judea," they replied, "for this is what the prophet has written: 'But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.'" Micah 5:2 is Quoted! And notice that the priests miss-quote the Scripture! That last line is not in the manuscripts.

Jesus fulfilled this great prophecy by being born in the right place. In fact Jesus fulfilled 333 messianic prophecies. What are the odds of anyone fulfilling just 8 prophecies? The chance would be one in 10 to the seventeenth power, or one in 100,000,000,000,000,000. Take 10 to the seventeenth silver dollars and lay them on the face of Texas. They will cover all of the state two feet deep. Now mark one of these silver dollars and stir the whole mass thoroughly, all over the state. Blindfold a man and tell him that he can travel as far as he wishes, but he must pick up one silver dollar and say that is the right one. What chance would he have of getting the right one? Just the same chance that the prophets would have had of writing these eight prophecies and having them all come true in any one man, from their day to the present time. Amazingly, 333 prophecies were fulfilled in Jesus! -- (Ralph Winter et. al., The Amazing Countdown Facts, US Center for World Missions, Pasadena, CA, 1992, p. 4.)

Herod was worried. Recent events including rumors that Zacharias had received a vision (Luke 1:22) and the reports of visiting shepherds and the Prophecy of Simeon just the week before were hints that a new king was coming. Herod must act quickly. His motive in seeking Jesus was murder. What is your motive?

Verse 7,8. Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, "Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him."

If Herod lived in Tennessee today he would undoubtedly be a member of some church. He tried to convince others that he wanted to worship Jesus.

Herod had an ulterior motive for being interested in the Christmas Child. He wanted to destroy the Christ child. Emperor Augustus once said: "It is safer to be Herod's pig than Herod's son." No wonder everybody was upset when Herod learned about Jesus' birth. Herod wanted to kill at Christmas. We still have many Herods. Terrorists at Christmas time wanting to kill, bomb, blow up as many as possible. Herod was a hated Edomite, a descendent of Esau, not Jacob. Herod ruled with an iron hand.

Herod was much like the money merchants of the modern mall. He wanted to personally gain from the situation. If you have been down to the mall area, you have experienced major traffic jams. Everybody wants to cash in on Christmas. We wonder how long it will be before they put up Christmas lights and begin to sell Christmas goodies on the fifth day of July!

If you really want to profit from Christmas, then Give!

Matthew 2:9,10 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.

Who saw the star? They did. I believe that the wise men were the only ones to see the big bright beings beaming brightly over the Bethlehem Baby. Had every one else noticed it, there would have been a gathering crowd. If this was the case, why didn't others see the angels?

Jeremiah 29:13 has the answer... And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart. Two people can sit together in the same pew. One can be filled with rich spiritual blessings and the other can go home unchanged. One comes and finds the strength of Jesus and the other remains empty. You get what you look for.

Matthew 2:11 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.

Notice where they found Jesus. Not in the manger or stable. Not in a barn but in a house! Mary and Joseph had a house now. It had been many weeks since Jesus' birth. Jesus was no longer a newborn baby but is called a "Child" in verse 11.

Immediately these Lordly Kings fell down and worshiped the little baby. They were not too proud or too busy to give great honor to Jesus. We are not told how long they stayed there, but surely not over a few hours if not just a few minutes. If you count their travel time both ways, they gave much more in time than in money. They would not be home for several more weeks retracing the long journey back. Their physical gifts were valuable. Their time was costly. They gave generously to Jesus.

GOLD- How fitting that the king of metals was given to the King of Kings! This amounted to the financial underwriting of Jesus first two years of life. Notice that their gifts were not cheap. All these gifts were undoubtedly the most valuable commodities of that time. Acquired at great cost from the far off Arabian desert in the lands of Ophir and Sheba.

FRANKINCENSE- this was tantamount to expensive anointing oil. Every king of Israel was anointed. However no representative from the temple came to anoint baby Jesus. God took the matter in His own hands by sending these "Heathen" emissaries to anoint Jesus King.

MYRRH- was from Arabia. This was a nice smelling gum from a small thorny tree. It was used as a perfume and in burial preparation. The great spiritual significance of this was that not only was Jesus' Myrrh presented to Jesus at His birth, but it was also offered to Him with wine at the cross and He was wrapped with it in the tomb. Christ was born to die. What an appropriate gift.

So the wise men brought gifts at the first Christmas. Wise folk still bring gifts to Jesus. Their gifts were the most precious that could be found. Perfume and Gold are unusual presents for a baby shower. But this was a very unusual Baby.

The wise men did not stop with these three gifts. I believe they also gave their hearts to Jesus. The most important gift that you can give at Christmas time is your heart to the Savior.

Matthew 2:12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

They were changed by the Baby. Once you touch the Christ Child you cannot live the same again. They returned another way. We will not go the same old way. We will be new persons. Jesus gives new life. The old ways are past. Jesus said: And he that sat upon the throne said, "Behold, I make all things new," Revelation 21:5.

The camel riders went home a different way geographically and a different way spiritually. Does Christmas change you? Some sigh with exhausted relief when it is over. Others experience intensely satisfying joy from Christmas. One major difference is whether or not we do it in selfish pleasure or in honor to Jesus. Have you really worshiped Him this Christmas?

I fully anticipate seeing the wise men in Heaven.

The Herods are many and the Pharisees are numerous but there wise men are so few. If we are wise we too will worship the Christ child this Christmas. Because Jesus is the way the truth and the life. Merry Christmas!

Opening Hymn: #135, O Little Town of Bethlehem
Scripture: Matthew 2:1-13
Closing song: #137, We three Kings

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