Refresh: Open with prayer. Ask for the Holy Spirit to open your heart to new understanding and for God’s character to be revealed.
Read: Matthew 2:1-12 in the New International Version (NIV). Note 1–3 insights or questions.
Reflect: Each gift that the wise men brought carried its own unique value. We will look at the first two gifts (gold and frankincense) today. Gold is the gift for a king. Seneca, the Roman philosopher, tells us that in Parthia it was the custom that no one could ever approach the king without a gift. And gold, the king of metals, is the fit gift for a king. William Barclay, in his commentary on Matthew, writes:
We do well to remember that Jesus Christ is King. We can never meet Jesus on equal terms. We must always meet him on terms of complete submission. ( p. 91)
There is a story told of Lord Nelson, the British admiral, who always treated his vanquished opponents with the greatest kindness and courtesy. After one of his naval victories, the defeated admiral was brought aboard Nelson’s flagship and on to Nelson’s quarterdeck. Knowing Nelson’s reputation for courtesy, and thinking to trade upon it, he advanced across the quarterdeck with hand outstretched as if he was advancing to shake hands with an equal. Nelson’s hand remained by his side. "Your sword first," he said, "and then your hand." Before we can be friends with Christ, we must submit to Christ. Don’t confuse this with Jesus’s desire to reach out to us constantly, but we do not save Jesus. He saves us.
Frankincense is a gift for a priest. It was in the Temple worship and at the Temple sacrifices that the sweet perfume of frankincense was used. I wish, honestly, that our church was scented with something sweet, that our encounter with Jesus week by week involved as many of our senses as possible. The significance of the frankincense was to show that Jesus is our High Priest. He received the gift traditionally given to priests. He was the one to bridge the chasm. He was the one to reflect the character of God, the Father. He was the one to hold us together. Frankincense was a gift of acknowledgment.
Recalibrate: When you give gifts to your friends and family, what do they mean to you?
Respond: Pray for the foresight to understand the needs of others.
Research: What was Jesus buried in? Are there any connections to these gifts?
Live Wonder (ages 0–3)
What is the best gift you have ever given your child? Ask them what their favorite gift has been and why. The wise men brought gifts to Jesus. Why do you think they brought him gifts?
Live Adventure (ages 4–11)
What is one present you really want to get for your birthday or Christmas? What is so special about that gift? Do you think a little tiny baby would enjoy that gift as much as you would? Why do you think the wise men brought baby Jesus presents?
Live Purpose (ages 12–16)
Do you like getting or giving gifts? Why? What does it mean when someone goes out of their way to get you something special? What do you think it meant for Jesus and his family that the wise men went out of their way to bring Jesus gifts?