Topical Scripture: Matthew 2.2
What do you give a King who has everything?
The nation of Brunei sits on the northwest coast of the island of Indonesia in Southeast Asia. It occupies just over 2,200 square miles, about the size of Delaware, or the Dallas-Ft. Worth Metroplex. 358,098 people live there, including one of the richest men in the world, the Sultan of Brunei. He inherited $40 billion from his father, and his lifestyle shows it.
His palace boasts 1,788 rooms, the world’s largest palace still in use, with 388 more rooms than the Vatican. His royal banquet hall can seat 4,000 guests. He owns 400 cars, a sports complex and a polo field. His many horses are stabled in air-conditioned quarters, of course.
The nation is allowed into his palace on his birthday, July 15. In 1979, I happened to be a summer missionary on the island of Borneo and the country of Brunei on his birthday. And so I saw his palace. I’ve never seen anything like it. Gold-plated door knobs and hinges, diamond chandeliers made of real diamonds. He has everything his country can offer, except the affection of his people. That they must choose to give. And most do not.
How the wise men became wise
“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'” (Mt 2.1-2).
Here is what we know, and don’t know, about them.
We know that these “magi” were priests in Persia, modern-day Iraq. They specialized in magic, astrology, and the interpretation of dreams. We typically translate “magi” as “wise men.”
We don’t know their number. They usually traveled in groups of twelve. Tradition identifies them as three, but that’s only because they brought three gifts.
We don’t know their names, though by the 6th century they were given the names Balthasar, Caspar, and Melchior.
We don’t know that they were kings, though the medieval church erroneously identified them as the kings of Arabia, India, and Persia.
We don’t know where they died, though their bones were supposedly discovered in the fourth century and moved in 1162 to Cologne, Germany where they reside today.
But we know that they were wise men. They were wise enough to know that the King of Kings had been born, and they must find him and make him their King. They must give him the one thing he doesn’t yet have—their hearts. How can we be that wise?
How we become wise
Go to the Child by faith, personally.
They came personally. They didn’t send representatives or ambassadors or emissaries. They had to come to crown this King themselves.
It’s not enough that your parents have come to him—you must go yourself. No one can get married for you, or go to the doctor for you, or go to Christ for you. You alone must crown him your King. Ask his forgiveness for the mistakes of your past, and surrender your present and future to his will. Put him on the throne of your heart and life.
Worship him with your heart.
They traveled more than 500 miles across two years, risking their fortunes and their lives, so they could “come to worship him.”
Worship him each day in your heart, and each week with your faith family.
Give him your best.
They gave him gold, the gift to a king; frankincense, the gift to a priest; and myrrh, the gift to a sacrifice.
Make him your king, your priest, and your Savior by giving him your best. Not just your worship attendance on the eve of his birth, but your service and commitment each day of each year.
This is how you crown the fourth King your King. And it is how you can become wise this year.
Take a Christmas trip with me. Climb down a dozen steps into the cavern below. Watch your step—the stone is narrow, worn with the centuries. The walls are clammy and covered with moss. The smell is pungent and a bit rancid.
At the bottom of the steps, turn to your left. You’re in a cave now. Maybe ten feet from side to side, perhaps twenty to its back. At its center, it’s tall enough for us to stand. But it slopes quickly to the rounded walls, so watch your head. The dank, musty smell is even sharper here. The only light comes from electric bulbs strung overhead.
Imagine it by the light of a flickering fire. Smell the burning wood; feel the sting of the smoke in your eyes. Cough if you must. Hear the snorts of the animals. Sense the field hands crowded next to you; see the dirt caking their hands, the sweat running from their streaked faces onto their stained, rough burlap shirts.
Turn to what they’re watching. It’s a baby—a newborn, helpless infant. Cradled by a very young adolescent girl, her eyes dark circles, her face still marked with the pain of her delivery. Half sheltering, half protecting her is a rough peasant, more than twice her age, his gnarled hands testimony to his life’s labor.
See in their eyes something glimmering, some spark inexplicable in the gloom of their circumstances. Turn to the rough field hands attending his birth in wonder. Listen to the angels in their songs of triumphant worship. What have they given to him? The same gift which is in your hands and heart this moment.
Bulgaria was allied with Nazi Germany during World War II, but not a single Bulgarian Jew died in a concentration camp, largely because of the stand that Bulgarian Christians took against the persecution of Jews by the SS. Here is one example.
One day the Nazis rounded up hundreds of Jews and imprisoned them behind barbed-wire enclosures at the train station in Sophia. Soon the train would arrive, and they would be sardined into boxcars and shipped to Auschwitz and almost certain death.
As the panicked Jews waited, many sobbing hysterically, a strange image appeared out of the mist-filled night. It was Metropolitan Kyril, head of the Orthodox church in Bulgaria. He was already tall, but the miter on his head made him look like a giant. His flowing white beard hung over his black robe. He walked so quickly that others had to hustle to keep up with him.
He stormed to the entrance of the barbed-wire enclosure. The SS guards raised their machine guns and shouted, “Father, you cannot go in there!” Metropolitan Kyril defiantly laughed at them, brushed aside their guns, and marched into the midst of the Jewish prisoners. They gathered around him, wondering what a Christian leader would say in such a desperate hour. With arms upraised, Metropolitan Kyril recited a single verse from the book of Ruth: “Whithersoever you go, I will go! Your people will be my people! Your God will be my God!”
With these words, the frightened Jews were transformed into an emboldened mob. They cheered their Christian friend. Christians outside the barbed-wire enclosure cheered them, and they became one. Responding to the noise at the train station, the townspeople came out of their houses and joined the crowd.
The SS troops decided that discretion was the better part of valor. When the train arrived, they boarded it without their prisoners and left town.
At Christmas, the King himself invaded our barbed-wire prison, and won’t leave until we go with him. He has everything but your heart, tonight. What will you give such a King as this?