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Christmas Gifts

Matthew 2:1-12 
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 Let me begin by saying, “Merry Christmas” to each of you.  This morning our text is Matthew 2:1-12, the passage of scripture that describes the wise men's search for the Messiah so they could worship Him and give Him gifts. 

 "Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, [2] 'Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east, and have come to worship Him.' [3] And when Herod the king heard it, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. [4] And gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he began to inquire of them where the Christ was to be born. [5] And they said to him, 'In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it has been written by the prophet, [6] And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, Are by no means least among the leaders of Judah; For out of you shall come forth a Ruler, Who will SHEPHERD My people Israel.' [7] Then Herod secretly called the magi, and ascertained from them the time the star appeared. [8] And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, 'Go and make careful search for the Child; and when you have found Him, report to me, that I too may come and worship Him.' [9] And having heard the king, they went their way; and lo, the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them, until it came and stood over where the Child was. [10] And when they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. [11] And they came into the house and saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell down and worshiped Him; and opening their treasures they presented to Him gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh. [12] And having been warned by God in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for their own country by another way." 

 When I read this text, the first question that comes to my mind is, "How did these wise men know to seek Jesus?" In a minute, we will explore that question together, but before we do, I want us to ponder another question: "Why did God warn the wise men not to accept Herod's invitation to return?" The obvious answer lies in what Herod did after Jesus was born, Look at Matthew 2:16: "Then when Herod saw that he had been tricked by the magi, he became very enraged, and sent and slew all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its environs, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had ascertained from the magi."

 What kind of man was Herod? Was the slaughter of innocent children we just read about his only act of atrocity, or were there others?

 By and large, Herod was an evil man, but he did have his moments of kindness. During the famine of 25 B.C., Herod melted down a gold plate he owned to use to purchase corn to feed the starving people. (Barclay, p. 19)   Good for him. Unfortunately, that just goes to prove that even an evil man can rise to an occasion and do the right thing.

 Unfortunately, evil ran in the family.  Remember, it was Herod's son that killed John the Baptist at the request of his niece. Why did his niece want John killed? Because her mother, who was the wife of Herod's brother, was involved in a scandalous affair with King Herod, asked her to make the request of the king. Why would the King honor such a dark request? He was cornered. After she danced for him, he pledged to do whatever she wanted because she pleased him. (Matthew 14: 1-12)

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