"Joy of Gifts"
1. My mother was born and grew up in England where the Christmas tradition is to open
presents on Christmas morning. Even though I have a Swedish last name, my
mothers English Christmas tradition prevailed in my family. In fact, it is still our
own family tradition today. So, every December 25th of my life has begun with everyone
gathered to exchange gifts.
2. While the date of gift giving has not changed, my perspective has. As I reflect
back on my childhood I can only remember the presents I received. I dont recall one
gift I ever gave to any member of my family. Now it is almost the opposite. As an adult, I
can barely remember any gifts I have received but better remember the gifts I gave.
3. The change didnt happen all at once. It took time. But there was one
Christmas when the transformation seemed to permanently take hold. It was my first
Christmas as a father. As never before, I didnt care what I got because I was so
totally wrapped up in what I gave. We had a four month old daughter and I wanted to give
to her everything in the world.
4. Changing from a getter to a giver is one of the most wonderful things that can
happen to a person. Only when it happens do you truly understand the words of Jesus in
Acts 20:35 that "it is more blessed to give than to receive."
> > > > > > It is the wonderful joy of gifts . . . giving them more
than receiving them.
5. To better understand we return to the story of the first recorded Christmas gift
givers - - - in Matthew 2:1-13.
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."
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 Christ 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 be the shepherd of my people
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."
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. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his
mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshipped him. Then they opened their treasures and
presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. And having been warned in a
dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.
When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. "Get
up," he said, "take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there
until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him."
I. Christmas gifts Matthew 2:1-13
A. First gifts first
1. The first four words of this story may be the most neglected even though they
are among the most important: "After Jesus was born . . . ."
Jesus came first. He was the #1 gift!
2. Isaiah 9:6 is one of many Old Testament prophecies predicting the coming of the
Messiah. ". . . 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."
Those words are beautiful poetry but also profound theology. The Son of God is eternal
- - - never beginning; always existing. He was given by God the Father and sent to
earth to become human. It is called the "incarnation" or "into flesh."
When he was conceived and born, the Son of God became human and was given a human name,
So the terminology is very specific: "to us a child is born, to us a son
3. Without the gift of Jesus, there would be no Christmas, no Magi, no
salvation, no joy, no reason to celebrate or to give. Which makes a most important
point - - - to experience the joy of Christmas first requires the receiving of the gift of
Jesus. Otherwise, Christmas is no more than a commercial holiday one week before the end
of each year.
4. If you have not received Gods Christmas gift, now is the time. This is the
place! Gods offer still stands. Receive Jesus Christ as Gods personal gift
to you. Trust him as your Savior from sin. Accept him as the Leader of your life.
Dont even wait till the end of my talking or this program. Pray right this minute,
telling God "Yes, I accept Jesus as my Christ, my Lord. Right now. Right here.
Thank you God for the #1 gift!"
5. Only those who have received can ever truly know the joy of giving!
B. The after-Christmas Christmas story
1. The rest of the Magi story is really "the after-Christmas Christmas
story." Even though our Christmas cards show wise men on camels or standing by
the manger, the Bible indicates that Magi didnt arrive until long after that first
2. Matthew 2:11 says that "on coming to the house, they saw the child with
his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshipped him." Jesus wasnt
living in a stable; he was living in a house. No manger is mentioned. Jesus wasnt a
baby; he was a young child. When King Herod wanted him dead he ordered the execution of
all children under the age of two, not just newborn babies.
3. Every indication is that the Wise Men started their journey to Jesus on Christmas
and it took them up to 24 months to arrive.
C. Wise guys called Magi
1. We call them "Wise Men" although the technical name is Magi.
They were astrologers, magicians, pagan priests from Persia to the east.
2. These men spent their lives studying the stars and believing that they could read
a persons destiny. In todays culture, they would be the authors of the
daily horoscopes in newspapers around the world.
3. Somehow, in their study of the stars, they saw something unusual and interpreted
it as historic and beckoning. They probably were caught up in the world wide
expectation of a coming leader who would rule the world. They decided to follow the star
in search of a king.
4. I find an amazing insight into Gods attitude toward true seekers. God
doesnt require a person to have all the right knowledge and beliefs to come to Him.
Those who seek the truth, those who honestly desire God, will be led to Jesus. Their route
may be strange but the destination is what counts.
D. Worshiping the boy Jesus
1. When the Magi finally arrived at the house of Joseph, Mary and Jesus, they
immediately bowed down and worshipped Jesus. This report is nothing short of amazing.
2. Remember that this is written by a Jew. Matthew knew well the words of the
Hebrew law in Exodus 34:14 "Do not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose
names is Jealous, is a jealous God." Every Jew knew the rules inside and out - -
no idols, no images, nothing that even appears to be worship of anything or anyone except
the one true God of heaven and earth. Yet, Matthew approvingly reports the worship of a
less than two-year-old boy named Jesus.
3. There is only one conclusion - - Jesus must be God! Non-Christian religions
and most cults balk at the notion that Jesus is truly and fully God but there is no doubt
what the Bible teaches or what these Magi thought or what Matthew believed. Jesus is God
in human form!
E. Gifts for a king: gold, incense and myrrh
1. They worshipped Jesus as God and gave gifts to Jesus as a king. These
were gifts they had carried on a very long journey. All of them were very expensive and
the type of gift given to royalty.
The symbolism and significance is not explained, but we cant help but wonder.
2. Gold was the most royal gift of all. Worth a lot then and worth a lot today.
It is the king of precious metals. This may have been the first and last time in the
family of Joseph and Mary that they ever had gold of their own.
3. Incense was what a priest used. It was required to burn incense throughout
the day at the temple in Jerusalem. It was called a sweet fragrance to God. Incense always
reminded Jewish people of the connection with God.
4. Myrrh was the strangest gift of the three. Also, expensive and also a spice,
myrrh was a resin used for embalming. It was externally applied to the body prior to
What an unusual gift for a baby - - unless that baby was born to die. In this
first Christmas gift, the death of Jesus on the cross was not too subtly hinted. Jesus
came to atone for human sin.
F. Financing the family trip
1. Suddenly the holy family was rich. The Magi gave their expensive gifts
and left. But, what ever happened to the money? What was done with the gifts?
2. While not directly told, the story immediately reports their flight into Egypt
where Joseph, Mary and Jesus became refugees hiding out in Africa. How did they live?
Where did they stay? What did they eat? How did they survive for the next couple of years
until it was safe to return home to Nazareth?
3. The obvious answer is that they financed the family trip and supported themselves
with the gifts of the Magi. What was given as an act of worship was used in most
practical ways to keep Jesus alive and safe. It is often that way - - -that gifts to God
are wonderfully used to accomplish Gods greater purposes on earth.
4. Now, what do we learn from this after-Christmas Christmas story? We learn a
lot about Christian giving from Magi who were themselves not even Christians.
II. Christian giving Acts 20:35
A. Getting before giving
1. Even though Jesus said "it is more blessed to give than to
receive," the truth is that the bedrock of everything Christian is getting before
The Magi first met Jesus and then gave to Jesus. The order could not and cannot be
2. No one can be a Christian without first getting. No one can give away
anything as a Christian without first receiving from God.
3. All of Christianity is based on God as the first and greatest giver. God gave
his one and only Son who left heaven, became human, sacrificed his life and loved us all
the way. God offers us Jesus. There is no greater or better gift.
4. Anything and everything that a Christian gives flows out of Gods generosity
to us. Whether it is giving worship or money to God, helping the poor with time, our
money, or opening up our homes, or any other giving of love or possessions - - - we must
5. It is out of order to first ask people to give anything. First things first -
- -always ask people to receive from God. Those who fully receive Christs salvation
and blessing will be motivated to give. Those who have not received Jesus and his
blessings should never even try to give.
6. Always always always receive from God first. Take him at his word. Accept his
salvation. Receive his love. Get his goodness. Receive receive receive from God. God is an
outrageously generous giver.
B. Giving after getting
1. The second principle is to give out of what we have received. As God has
loved us, let us love others. As God has forgiven us, let us forgive others. As God treats
us kindly, let us treat others kindly. As God has blessed us, let us bless others.
2. Whether giving a present at Christmas, an offering at church, or an act of
kindness to a stranger - - - always give because you have received. Be the agent of
God. Let him fill your cup and then let your cup overflow to others to make room for more
blessings from God to give away.
3. When I hear about people with critical spirits, with harsh treatment of others,
with stinginess instead of generosity - - - I feel sorry for them. I assume that they
have never received from God or that they are somehow trying to hoard Gods love and
generosity for fear that God might run out and theyll get no more.
C. The good of giving
1. The bottom line is that giving is good. Giving is Christian. Giving is a
blessing. Not just Christmas gift giving. Not just church giving. All giving that is in
the name and truth of Jesus Christ. To be a Christian is to be a giver.
2. Ive thought long and hard about this statement from Jesus that "it
is more blessed to give than to receive." It is interesting that the
statement is quoted by St. Paul as spoken by Jesus yet there is no place in the
biographies of Jesus where it is ever mentioned. My guess is that everyone knew what Jesus
said so that there seemed to be no need to write it into his biography.
3. But why is it happier to give than to receive? The answers are multiple:
First of all, only a Christian will ever understand this truth. You have to
first be a disciple of Jesus or youll never get what he means.
It is happier to give than to receive because givers are like God. And what can
be happier than to be God-like? Every time we generously give and bless others, we are
behaving like God and that is what makes a Christian truly happy.
It is happier to give than to receive because we have received so much.
Christian are keenly aware that every good and perfect gift comes from God.
There isnt anything good we have that God didnt give to us. The more we
realize Gods generosity the more we are motivated to be generous to others.
It is happier to give than to receive because of the wonderful satisfaction of
blessing others. Frankly it feels good! It feels good to give away. It feels
good to help others. It feels good to worship God with something that costs something. It
feels good to be generous. It feels good to sacrifice. It feels good to make a difference
in Jesus name.
1. Imagine yourself taking a Christmas journey. It is to a far away place called
the year to come. There you will meet a poor family with a young child. There you will see
people threatened by powerful and ruthless leaders. There you will encounter 10,000
2. Youre not sure you want to go into tomorrow. There is so much uncertainty.
There are so many risks. But you feel compelled. You feel drawn. It is like following a
bright star that God himself has set into your sky.
3. Before you leave on this journey you must pack up whatever you will need. And
you must pack up whatever you will give. What will you pack? What will you take? What will
4. This Christmas begins a journey into tomorrow. I challenge you to go as a giver.
Give encouragement to those who are down.
Give support to those who are criticized.
Give love to those who are hated.
Give help to those who are poor.
Give the Gospel to those who are spiritually lost.
Give time to those who are lonely.
Give generously. Give royally. Give sacrificially. Give significantly.
Give . . . because you have received.
Give . . . because you are a Christian.
Give . . . because it is "happier to give than to receive."
December 12-13, 1998, ©Coyright, Leith Anderson.