Sermon Snippets – Christmas Characters – The Magi

“After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi[a] from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. “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 shepherd my people Israel.’[b]

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 search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”

After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 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, frankincense and myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.” Matthew 2:1-12

The wise men. The Magi. The kings from afar. These characters of Christmas are so often portrayed in portraits and Christmas plays as having been there at the birth of Jesus. But when we look at scripture, the wise men, these magi come later, after the birth of Jesus. Scripture says they ask where is the one who was born king of the Jews, so that would tell me they weren’t there for the actual birth. I remember the year someone called me out for placing my wise men near the manger in my yard display. I have since placed them away from the manger.

Our pastor has been doing a sermon series titled ‘The Characters of Christmas.’ The Magi are a part of the Christmas story.

Pastor Joel shared the following observations with us about the Magi Matthew records in the passages above.

“Did you ever notice they are not mentioned any other time in Scripture? 

There is no mention in Scripture of there being three Magi or three wise men. Maybe it is assumed there were three because there were three gifts – gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And there is no mention that they were kings.

The star is mentioned in the narrative about the wise men but not mentioned any other time.

The timing is different than what is portrayed in plays and pictures. The wise men, these Magi are looking for Jesus and when they find him, he is in a house, not a manger.

Matthew is writing to the Jews about the king of the Jews.

This was during the time of King Herod. Bible commentary says Herod was a non-jew, an Idumean. He was a ruthless man, murdering his wife, three of his sons, mother-in-law, brother-in-law, uncle, and many others he suspected of treachery – not to mention all the babies two years and younger in Bethlehem in hopes he would kill this newborn king.

When we look at King Herod in the passages above, we see that he asks the chief priests and teachers of the law where this Messiah is to be born. They respond with a prophecy from Micah 5:2-4. Seven hundred years earlier, before the birth of Jesus, the prophet Micah prophesied a ruler would come out of Bethlehem and shepherd the people, Israel.

Another prophecy from the prophet Isaiah came true. This prophecy was also written more than 700 years before the birth of Jesus.

Isaiah 9:6, For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace, there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.” 

What was Matthew saying? Prophecies had been fulfilled before their eyes. The long-awaited Messiah had arrived. He was here! The promises of God had been fulfilled!

About those Magi

The Magi saw a star.

How did they respond?

They went to Jerusalem and asked where the one who has been born king of the Jews was so they could worship him. 

Herod calls them in secretly and asks about the star they had seen. He sent them to Bethlehem to search for the child and report back their findings. 

So they left and the star appeared to them again. They followed the star and found the child.

What did the Magi bring to Jesus?

They brought their worship.

Scripture says they were overjoyed. On coming to the house where Jesus was, they bowed down and worshipped him.

The Magi brought gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

The Magi also listened to the angel of the Lord who warned them to stay away from Herod. 

Do we bring our joy to worship?

We should be overjoyed in worship to God.

The Magi brought themselves – they didn’t care how far they had to travel. They bowed down and gave up their plans, and their lives to worship the King.

Are we willing to give up our plans? To bow down before the King of kings and Lord of lords?

If we are bowing down to anyone or anything else other than Jesus, we are missing the point.

The gifts:

Gold – The kingship of Jesus

Frankincense – Priesthood of Jesus

Myrrh – Humanity of Jesus

The Magi didn’t come empty-handed.

How often do we come empty-handed wanting something from the Lord?

We should be bringing all that we are and all that we have and lay it down at the feet of Jesus.

Bring your worship in this season and every season to Jesus!

Seek the Lord. Search for him like the Magi did and be amazed at who Jesus is – the King of kings, and Lord of lords, the promised Messiah who has come into the world to save us. This wasn’t an ordinary baby.

“O come let us adore him, O come let us adore him, Christ, the Lord.”


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Bible Gateway 

Sermon Snippets: Christmas Characters – Joseph 

Sermon Snippets: Christmas Characters – Mary 



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