"Gifts for the King Who Has Everything"
Delivered at the International Center of the Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod, 6 January 2017.
The Magi came all the way from Persia (modern-day Iraq). Perhaps they learned of the coming Messiah from Daniel and other exiles over five centuries before Christ came. Perhaps they figured out the coming of the Bright Morning Star from studying the stars themselves. But come they did. They came specifically to worship the Newborn King. Once in the house with the Virgin and the Child, they gave their gifts. We sing of the gold, and frankincense, and myrrh, but let’s not forget the worship. First, “they fell down and worshiped Him,” and then they opened “their treasures.”
What do you get for the King who has everything? Gifts that honor who He is, of course. After all, He is God and Man in one Person. Incense is a gift for God. It speaks of the gifts of faith and prayer ascending to God in response to His goodness. Myrrh is a gift for a Man. This gift looks ahead to the death of Jesus, true God and true Man, on the cross and His proper burial. And gold—it’s the gift fit for a king. Some say that this gold may have supplied the needs of the humble Holy Family for many years.
But the Magi offered much more than material gifts; they offered their faith and their worship. The incense, the myrrh, and the gold were simply the first fruits of that faith. The Magi fell down and worshiped Him. You see, they trusted in the promise of God’s Savior who would come into the world to restore all humanity to God Himself. Physically, the Magi saw a humble infant in “such mean estate.” But their eyes of faith saw beyond the lowliness. They saw the God who came to make all people rich in His mercy.
The Magi saw in this humble Child “the Sun of righteousness” Who rises “with healing in His wings” (Mal. 4:2). This holy Infant would heal all people from the wounds, the sores, and the scars of their sins. The warmth of His mercy and forgiveness would radiate out for all to enjoy. He would heal the breach between Jew and Gentile; He would make them one nation in His Church.
When the Magi looked at this holy Son of Mary, they saw “His glory from the rising of the sun” (Is. 59:19). Their eyes of faith could see that God “has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6). And why did He come? “To give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death” (Lk. 1:78-79, NKJV). Even as you face the darkness of death—in ill-health or time of sorrow, in anxiety or depression, in conflict or disappointment—the dawn of a new day has come. This holy Child brings the new day of life with God and resurrection from the dead. This holy Child is your “bright morning star” (Rev. 22:16).
The best gift the Magi bring to this King of the universe in humble guise is their faith. So, what will you give to the King who has everything, the Child who radiates God’s boundless mercy and gives you peace with God? What will you give to the Word made Flesh who heals you from the sores of your sins and your disease of death?
You could offer Him gold, the gift befitting a King. But all wealth and all things already belong to Him. Your Lord bids you to give Him gold by giving it to the poor. As Jesus will say, when you feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, visit the sick and imprisoned, you do it to Him. What better way to give your gold to your King than to the poor in your own midst, in His family, the Church.
You could still give incense, both literally and figuratively. As we sing in Evening Prayer, “Let my prayer rise before you as incense.” Offer your prayers to the God who promises to hear you and answer you, because He identifies with you and with your troubles in this world. The Son of God enjoys the sweet fragrance that accompanies your prayers. That’s why we offer up to our God and Savior prayers on behalf of the Church, the world, and all sorts of needs.
As for myrrh, that’s definitely not necessary. The myrrh was for His crucifixion and burial. And since “we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Heb. 10:10), He does not need to die again. “The death He died He died to sin, once for all, but the life He lives, He lives to God” (Rom. 6:10). And because of Jesus’ one-time sacrifice, you get to “consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 6:11).
What can you give to the King who has everything? Most of all, give Him your faith and your worship, just as the Magi did. Just as they left their country in the East, you can leave the country of your self-serving desires and sinful ways. Just as they endured the arduous journey, you can endure the trials of your journey through life, learning to trust your Savior. And just as they bowed down to the Almighty King when they saw Him in humble guise, you can bow down to your God who still comes to you in humble ways.
Behind the humble water, you can see God’s life-changing washing of forgiveness and life. Behind the humble words from your pastor’s mouth—in sermons and in the Absolution—you can hear and recognize the voice of your Savior who heals you from all sins and enables you to live with God again. And behind the humble bread and wine, you can see Jesus coming to you in the Body and Blood that He assumed from His Virgin Mother—the same Body broken in suffering and the same Blood shed from a cross, the same Body and Blood that are now the “medicine of immortality.”
Just as the Wise Men saw the Child Jesus sitting on His Mother’s lap, we get to see Jesus in the bosom of His Church, our mother in the faith and life with God. So, the best thing you can give to this King is … yourself, your faith, your worship, your whole life. After all, that’s what He has done for you. “For Christ goes with us all the way—Today, tomorrow, ev’ry day! His love is never ending!” (LSB 395:5). Amen.