Speaker: Tim Bollinger
Scripture: Matthew 2:1-23

Kings with Bling…yep it’s a thing! This Christmas season explore some of your favorite Christmas carols (this week it’s We Three Kings) and investigate the true story behind the tune. It all points to one amazing event, the birth of Jesus, and the life changing power of the greatest story of them all.

From the series Sounds of Christmas

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Additional Resources
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Christmas Dig Deeper Questions Download

Full Sermon Transcript

Well, Merry Christmas. It’s good to see all of you here today. Those of you that are joining us online, I know I already met some people on the way. And this is your first time here. We’re so glad that you have joined us today. And if there’s anything you can do, please do not hesitate to reach out and let us know. We are starting our Christmas sermon series, a series of messages today called The Sounds of Christmas. And today, as you’ve already heard from Ashley, we are focusing in on the We three King song. Which can I ask you this?

Those of us that love Christmas and we love December, and when you come to church, you expect to sing Christmas songs, correct? In fact, if you came and we hadn’t sung a Christmas song up to this point, some of you would already be emailing the office, wouldn’t you? You’d already be like, What is going on? You know, you just don’t tolerate it. But can I ask you this as well? Do you ever think that sometimes we seen Christmas songs and we don’t actually even know what we’re singing?

No one wants to admit it. So pride is something we need to address today, right? Think of what you just sang with three three Kings. Do you use all the words in that song on a normal basis? Where did the song come from? Who wrote it and how accurate is it? And we’re going to be we’re going to be having some fun with that this week. But before we get into that, I do want to address one thing, because this is what I know. I know this to be true. And I bet you there are some people that are watching online.

You had every intention of being here today and life just overwhelmed you and you just couldn’t make it in. But you’re thankful that you’re able to watch online. But really, there’s two options. When we enter the month of December, you can either have seasonal joy or seasonal fatigue. Now, I’m wondering, this will be the second time opportunity for you, to be honest this morning. How many of you came in this morning you’re watching online and you have seasonal fatigue, Right. And you’re hoping this worship service lifts you up and just helps, you know, encourage you, motivate you to face this month. And I’ll be honest with you, I used to get so stressed out in the month of December.

And you can imagine, obviously, with the things that we have to do here at the church and family obligations and all of that. And I just decided about five years ago I just wasn’t going to do it anymore. And part of that was, is that did you know that December comes around every single year?It’s crazy. And a year from now, it’s going to be December 20, 24, and two years from now be December 2025. And I have said to myself, Aren’t I in control of my own emotions?

Why do I have to buy into this? And so I came up with an easy three step process. And I want to encourage you that this morning before we really dive into the text, because I really think this is going to set some people free. Do you want to hear my three step, you know, kind of idea? All right. The first one is this. You ready? It’s that you actually examine the Christmas account found in the Bible. Now, if you’ve never done this before, it’s really easy. It’s only in two of the four gospels, Matthew and Luke, and it’s really only the first couple of chapters.

So overall, there’s not really a ton of text that you have to dive into. It’s not like going through, you know, a huge book of the Bible or anything. And I would just encourage you to find that time to open the Bible and to read it for yourself, because this is what I know to be true. You will actually be surprised by what you read. You will actually be surprised at how many times that you’ve heard the story, how many sermons you’ve heard, how many times you’ve seen movies. But yet there’s parts that are in the text that maybe you didn’t even know existed.

There’s parts in the text that maybe you never even knew were part of the Christmas account. And so I encourage you to do that because as you do that, I believe that God speaks to us as we read his word that God actually has words of comfort and hope for us as we open the Bible. The other reason I would tell you is this if you look at the statistics across the United States, we’re actually losing ground as churches. Church attendance, if you didn’t know, is in decline in America. And, you know, it’s already happened in Europe. It’s happened in Canada, and now we’re seeing it here in the U.S. And I believe two of the reasons that the next generations, in particular the millennials and Gen Z, as we’re seeing this drop off, is for two reasons.

One, we do not talk about faith enough in our homes, and we’ve been trying to figure out how to combat that here at Shepherd’s Gate and give parents the resources to have those faith conversations. Number two and this is what I believe as well, is that oftentimes what we do is we sugarcoat scripture and we don’t give the people that are coming up our kids, our grandkids, the whole account of what’s actually in the Bible. And so when they go off to university or they talk to others and people begin to pick apart things that they grew up learning, they’re not able to defend it because they don’t know the entirety of scripture. And so if you’re new to Shepherd, that’s really our commitment as a church.

We love going through books of the Bible. We love going through major texts of Scripture and preaching all of it, so that, you know, in our equipped and you can see who God is and how we fall in relation to that. Does that make sense? All right. The second one is this entertain family and friends. Now, I want to specifically say this one. Entertain family and friends who are believers in Jesus, who share your faith. See, most of us, we’re going to get together with family members who have walked away from faith or have different faith. Or maybe they’re hostile to the Christian faith.

There is nothing wrong with you carving out time to spend with people that you love who also share your faith. So I want to give you permission to do that this December. Okay. And the last thing is just to enjoy life. Don’t get stressed out. Be in control of your emotions and live at peace. And this isn’t, you know, like we’re not you know, I’m not trying to create some, you know, false world. I mean, it’s obviously this real world that we live in. But again, it goes back to how we approach things. And I just as we start December and specifically this year, I want to encourage you and that is that sound good? All right. So here we go.

This is the sermon series were on Sounds of Christmas. You can see there’s some of the other Christmas songs that we’re going to be highlighting until we get to our Christmas service, where we’ll be talking about Silent Night. And I’ll just give you a little teaser because the very first Christmas when Jesus was born was anything but silent. Okay, so there’s your teaser. So as we look at We Three Kings, as you saw on the screen, it was written by this really cool looking guy, right?

Who’s this guy look like? mixed reviews out there. Some said Santa. Some said of Wiseman. The song was actually called Three Kings of Orient, written in 1857. He was one of 12 kids, never married. Wrote it for some of his nieces and nephews because they were in a play in New York City. He was a pastor and he circulated it amongst his family. And wouldn’t you know, it grew in such popularity that that’s when he published it. And after he published it is when it went worldwide and this is actually the first Christmas song that was written and produced in America that then went global, kind of went viral. It’s kind of interesting as you dig into it, but as we look at his lyrics, as we sing the words, we also compare that to Scripture and say, okay, God, what is it that’s in your word, in as you used him to write the song God, what is it that you speak to us in your word today?

So we’re going to do that in Matthew’s gospel this morning. And as I said to gospel writers with the Christmas account, Matthew in Luke, Matthew actually opens his his book this way in verse one. He says, This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah. So make no mistake, everything that Matthew writes about is to point to the fact that Jews as the Messiah, he’s the son of David. And for those of you that have been around the last couple of months, isn’t this really cool? He’s the son of who. Hey, hey. And see how important this is. Very first sentence. He connects Jesus the Messiah with Father Abraham. He goes through the genealogy.

He ends in verse 17 by saying thus, 14 generations from Abraham to David, 14 from David to the exile in Babylon. Remember that? Because I’m going to talk about that in a moment. And then 14 from the exile to the Messiah. And so he bookends this first chapter by making sure that we understand who he’s connected to and how important, honestly, the Old Testament scriptures are to our faith and why Here at Shepherds Gate, we are not afraid to preach the Old Testament and dive deep into the words, because you will see all throughout the New Testament, every one of the writers will go back to the Old Testament and they will point out the Scriptures as a form fulfillment of Scripture of who Jesus is.

So you’re ready for this. We Three Kings Part one Buckle your Seatbelts. The wise men are only found in Matthew’s account and we learn about them in chapter two, where it says, After Jesus was born in Bethlehem, in Judea, during the time of King Herod, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, Where is the one who’s been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him. And I guarantee you, whether you grew up in the church or not, you have some semblance of these two verses that, you know, a little bit of the account. And the reason is, is because most of us have these cool looking guys in our manger scenes, right? And you’re like, well, who?

How come there’s always three of them? And how come they always got really cool clothes and cool puffy hats and they’re always on camels? Here’s the reality. The wise men actually aren’t kings. They’re pagan astrologers. They’re essentially first century sorcerers, and they come from a pagan country. And the only reason that they would even know about Jesus and Jesus being the king of the Jews are this fulfillment of prophecy is because when God allowed his people to be exiled to Babylon, there was a guy named Daniel who wrote his own book in the Old Testament, and Daniel, being so faithful to God, actually rose to prominence to the point of Daniel actually became the leader of all of the wise men during that time.

Isn’t that interesting? And those of you that have been around, you know, we’ve already done the Book of Daniel here at Shepherds Gate. And so they would have found out from the Jewish people that they live with them at the time. And so you hear you have these wise men, which, by the way, nowhere in scripture does it tell us how many of them there were. And the reason oftentimes we say three is because you’re going to see in a few moments there were three gifts. In fact, it’s more likely that there were dozens, if not hundreds. Some even believed thousands of people. That journey from afar, the journey from an east. And they came to the capital. They came to Jerusalem looking for King Jesus. But when, you know, there was another king at the time that his name was Herod, and when he heard this, he was disturbed.

And all Jerusalem with him. What’s so intriguing is there’s been so much written about King Herod. I mean, you could do a deep dive because of some first century historians and the account of his life and all of the things that he was known for In fact, the things that he was most known for was being a brutal, brutal dictator. And aren’t you thankful we don’t have any of those in our day and age, Right? This guy worked his way up the ladder by stealing and by murdering and by doing all sorts of awful evil things. In fact, he became king at 25 years old after he watched his father being poisoned. And after his father died, he gathered all of his father’s top officials. He threw a party and then he killed them all.

Makes sense, doesn’t he? And then went and found his own group of people that he would then empower to run the country. This is what’s also interesting, is Rome at the time was actually over. King Herod and Rome actually gave King Herod the title King of the Jews. So you have all these foreigners that are coming into your land. You got this whole entourage of people. And when it says that all of Jerusalem is disturbed, they’re disturbed for two different reasons. One, there’s all these people that came out of nowhere that all of a sudden are causing this big commotion. And number two, they know King Herod is ruthless. They know that he’s just crazy and that he’ll stop at nothing to make sure that he stays in power.

Fact, he’s 70 years old at the time that this is all taking place. And so what does he do? He calls together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law. So he calls together all the Jewish scholars that are living in Jerusalem at the time. And he says, what is going on here? Where is the messiah to be born? Look at what they do. They go back to the Old Testament. They go to the Book of Micah and they say, Well, this is what it says. You, Bethlehem, the Land of Judah, are by no means amongst the rulers of Judah. Four out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people. Israel Hey, guess what? The Old Testament said he’s going to be born in Bethlehem.

We’re pretty certain that this is actually the Messiah, that He would come out of Bethlehem. So what is Herod do? He calls the wise men secretly, and he found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. Now, side note, the star is gone. At this point, the star is nowhere to be found. In fact, the star led him to, as far as it did. And for some reason now, of course, that we’d go to the capital, they would go where they would expect the king to be. And this whole transaction is taking place. Which side note is kind of interesting, because we know that God is sovereign and we know God is the one that put the star in the sky.

And God could have certainly just allowed that star to go around Jerusalem and straight to Bethlehem. But he didn’t. Look what happens next.Herod sends them to Bethlehem and says, 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.How many of you believeKing Herod at this point? A 70 years old, Right. And you want somebody else to take over his throne? No. Again, he’s so crazy that right before he died, he actually killed one of his sons that he thought was going to replace him. Craziness.

So after the wise men had heard the king, they went on their way. And the star they had seen where it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place. So Star reappears where the child was. And when they saw the star, of course, they’re overjoyed. God’s continuing to leave and guide them. And he’s continuing to orchestrate the events of human history to lead them exactly where he wants them to be. Now, this next verse is super important, especially maybe you didn’t grow up in church, you didn’t get the opportunity to go through a Sunday school program, or maybe somebody just didn’t tell you the actual reality of what Scripture says.

But I want us to look at this together. This is so important. Verse 11, it says this I’m coming to the what? So without a manger, right. Notice it doesn’t say a mean. They saw the light. So he’s not a baby anymore. At what point do you become a child, Parents? At what point do you tell your kids, Stop acting like a baby, right? They come to the house. They see the child with his mother. Mary, this is so cool. They bow down and they worship him. And you’re going to see in a few moments why scholars believe that this was at least a year and a half, if not two years after Jesus had been born.

The wise men show up on the scene. Now, I told you, we all love manger scenes, right? How you got your manger scenes out at your house? Right. And you love to put the little figurines. This is actually from J.J., our executive director, the guy who was playing the piano today. I didn’t know this before this morning, but this has been in his family for four generations, so I’m gonna try really hard to not break this. Okay, so this is one of the traditions that we have at the Ballinger house. And parents, I’m just going to ask you forgiveness right now because we’re teaching your kids this very thing in our kids program. So you can you can blame me if later on they do this in your house.

One of the things because I just can’t help myself, I just I just really believe that we have to teach the next generation to be biblically accurate is we never put the wise men in the nativity scene at our house. In fact, what we do is we move them to ¬†another room of the house. And this guy. So I don’t don’t fall. Don’t worry, J.J., I got them. I always thought this would be fun to do to churches, outdoor things as well. But then I realize that would be really weird. In the news, Pastor moves wise men from such and such church. You got the shepherds. We’ll look at them next week. But this is actually biblically accurate. And don’t you want a biblically accurate home? So again, if your kids move the wise men to the dining room, please do not yell at them or take their presence away or ground them. It is completely my fault.

This is important. It’s important to know this. It’s important to know the actual real account and where it says here. When they came and they bowed down and they worshiped a toddler. That word is so important because that word is used by Matthew and it’s a word that is reserved. The worship form of that word is reserved for those with deity that they would come and they would acknowledge Jesus is king and Lord. Now we know this as well, that they brought these treasures and they presented them with gold and frankincense and myrrh. And culturally, at the time, the gold was actually a royal symbol that represented kingship, frankincense, representing purity and godliness.

Remember, you sung about this in the song and myrrh is kind of fascinating because it’s anointing oil used for embalming the dead. So why would why would they bring these gifts? Why is it that God would be orchestrating the events at this time for all these things to take place? And why would Matthew write these things to his audience 2000 years ago, and why would we still be reading them today? Those are the questions you got to keep asking yourself. Well, look at what it says next. After being warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, the wise men returned to their country by another route. So clearly they could have gotten to Bethlehem by another route because they were able to return to their country by another route.

And I think it’s probably safe to say that if they would have gone through Jerusalem and Herod would have seen them, he would have just killed them all. He would have done something awful. And that’s the part of the story we like. And then we all sing another song. We have a Christmas cookie and we get on with our day. Amen. Here’s the reality. That’s only part one of the account. That’s only half of what actually takes place in Matthew’s gospel. There’s another whole side to why this is important and why he includes these words and what’s actually taking place in this moment.

In this time. Let’s go there this morning. Verse 13, when they had gone an angel, the Lord appeared to Joseph of Jesus’s dad, right. And he said, get up, 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. And what is he going to do to Jesus? Wait a second. It doesn’t sound very Christmasy. Now all of a sudden there’s a death warrant on top of Jesus. Now all of a sudden there’s a mad man who thinks he’s the ruler, who thinks he has everything under control, who thinks he calls all the shots, and all of a sudden his anger and his rage and really the devil that’s inside of him is just causing him to want to go and to find Jesus and to wipe them off the face of the earth and is it an interesting that God would be the one to orchestrate the events to get Jesus out of there?

He says that he took the child’s mother during the night and he left for Egypt. They stayed there until her dad died. And of course it was all Phil, yet another Old Testament prophecy, verse 16 When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the wise men, he was furious. Anyone surprised by this? And he gives orders. This is the hard part to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its entire vicinity just to make sure that he gets everybody who were two years old and under in accordance with the time he had learned from the wise man. Wait, time out.

I don’t know if I like this part of the Christmas story. Why did this have to happen with the omniscient Almighty sovereign God of the universe sends his son, his one and only son to this earth, and in a relatively short period of time, because of that incredible miracle that the world turns upside down, the innocent lives are lost. Why would God allow this to happen? Matthew actually points back to Jeremiah and the fulfillment of yet another prophecy, and he said, Well, the Jeremiah told us that there’s going to be weeping and mourning and there would be weeping for children and refusing mothers, refusing to be comforted because their kids are no more.

And I don’t know about you, but sometimes when I read something like this, I ask the question, Why would God allow this? Why is it here? We’re 2000 years later and innocent lives are still being shed on our planet. Why is it that in parts of the world there’s ruthless dictators that are somehow allowed to be in positions of leadership and power and they have no regard for human life and they have no regard for innocent human life. Why is it that we live in a country that we don’t actually have regard for innocent human life? And how many kids have we lost over the last just short period of time where kids have been murdered?

God, why does nothing ever get better? Why do things continue to be dark? When did things begin to turn around? And then again, I would say that this is part of the next generation’s questions. It’s great to have the stories, it’s great to have the traditions, it’s great to have even the songs. But God, where are you in all of this? How come I can’t see you were here? You are? No, You were crushed. You. Or maybe if we flipped the script. Maybe if we look at it instead of asking Why would God allow this? What if we ask the question? Why would God even bother going to the world?

I mean, think about it. Those of you that have been here since the beginning of the year when we started Genesis and we looked at God creating Adam and Eve and they have two sons. And wouldn’t you know, one ends up killing the other one. I mean, that’s how mankind started out. And then it got to a point where mankind got so evil that God took Noah and just his family and put him on an ark, and he completely destroys everybody else and he resets planet Earth. And in a relatively short period of time after the Earth begins to get repopulated, don’t you know that people go right back to doing awful evil things?

That there’s wars and there’s murder and there’s all sorts of hardship offs that take place in their time, just as there’s wars and hardship and frustrations and things that we deal with today. But yet we have a God who look down from heaven and one of the darkest periods in human history and said, I’m going to do something about that. I’m going to send my one and only son at just the right time. And there’s a purpose and a plan behind all of this. And at times when it may not seem that I’m in control and it may seem that I’m distant or that I’ve given up on my creation, no, in fact, I know exactly what I’m doing and I know exactly the orchestration of things that are unfolding and I know exactly who each and every one of you are.

I know your lives, I know your hardships. I know the things that you’re facing and I care for you. And I love you. And I want a relationship with you. Look what happens. Herod dies and an angel comes and he appears to a dream in Joseph, and he says, Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel. For those who are trying to take the child’s life or dead. So he gets up, he takes the child, his mother, and he goes back to Israel, same place God called Abraham to over and over again. Israel. See, I see these words and I read the text and it and I begin to digest like really, truly what happened 2000 years ago.

And I look at all the people that are surrounding just this short text as it involves the Weismann and Heron and Joseph and Mary and Jesus. As we look at the real Christmas account, I think there’s different responses to it. As you hear these words and as you read Scripture and as you understand what it is that God has done for us, does it call you to obedience and does it call you to leave your life of sin instead of realize the magnitude of our God and how much He loves you, how much the path that you have, your cell phone is actually destructive and you keep making decisions outside of his will and you keep doing things outside of his will.

And each and every time he’s calling you back to himself, calling you back to himself, calling you back to himself and say, I have a better way. I have a better plan, man. Just look at Joseph for a moment. He never actually had an angel appear to him in person. You know that every single time it was in a dream and every single time he had to be obedient to what God was calling him to do was Joseph’s life’s easy, absolutely non. What about excitement? Someone steal that joy for you this Christmas season? I mean, isn’t this what we love about having kids and grandkids around at Christmas? Because there’s a sparkle in their eye and there’s this sense of just peace within them, right? Amen.

How many of you are excited about that? Some of you. You don’t have kids, right? If you want some kids, I’ll let you borrow my kids. Okay. Promise me you’ll buy him a gift, right. But why? Why do we want the kids and the grandkids? Because they have this trust in this faith in us as the adults, that we’re the protectors, that we’re the ones that are to put our arms around him and tell him everything’s going to be okay. Everything’s going to be okay. Everything’s going to be okay. What about reverence again? I want the Wiseman and their ability to live beyond themselves, to leave the safety and comfort of their country, to spend their own money traveling to Jerusalem.

Think of this, folks, to actually take what they had produce with their own hands, because remember, they’re pagans here and that they would actually present Jesus with a gift, which, by the way, a lot of theologians would tell you the reason one of the gifts was gold was because that’s how Mary and Joseph were able to fund going to Egypt before returning to Israel. And that interesting God always takes care of his people on. And yet they bowed down in God, produce faith in their heart, and God allowed them to be kind of these Gentiles that were able to worship at the feet of Jesus. Or is it contempt?

Come on, be honest this morning, are some of you in here and you’re not really excited about Christmas fact you’re mad at God. You don’t really feel like putting up a Christmas tree, don’t really feel like singing a Christmas song. Things are not okay in your life. Things are not okay in your family. Things are not okay in your world and you’re holding on by a thread. I tell you this morning, God knows he saved you. He knows the hardship that you’re under. Maybe this has been one of the worst years of your life. Maybe things have been thrown at you that other people don’t actually comprehend. And yet, somehow, in the midst of your darkness, in the midst of your pain, there is a loving Heavenly Father that’s calling out to you that wants to bring you in close, that maybe all your prayers aren’t going to get answered the way that you want.

But I can guarantee you this He will never leave you. He will never forsake you. He will never stop loving you and he will never stop working out his purpose and his plan for your life. Here’s the truth of Christmas. It hurts and it’s painful and it’s dark. And yet in all of that, man, this is what’s so cool. God has Jesus come in the form of a baby to break through that darkness and to have light shine the brightest in some of the darkest moments in human history, in some of the darkest moments in our own personal lives. Yeah. I want to go back to the song that we sang, because I know some of you weren’t even in here because you came in late, but that’s okay. We love you.

Some of you. You saying the words because that’s just what we do. But you don’t really know what you were singing. Look at these words frankincense to offer. Have I incense the 89 prayer and praising all men raising worship him God most high. That’s our response. God worship you. We worship you even in the midst of the storm, even in the midst of the difficult, even amidst of the darkness. God, we will worship you. Look at this next verse. You know, most times they take this verse out, including our worship team. They didn’t sing this verse this morning.

I actually this is my favorite verse of the whole song. I think it’s so beautiful. Look at these words. Myrrh is mine. It’s bitter. Perfume breathes a life of gathering gloom, sorrowing, sighing, bleating, dying, sealed in the stone cold tomb. That does not sound like Christmas, does it? Now, why do we skip this verse? Here’s the reality. You cannot have baby Jesus without bloody Jesus. Make no mistake, he was born to be put on a cross to have his human flesh nailed to a piece of wood, that his blood would flow down, that our sins would be placed upon his shoulders.

Think of this for a moment, and that by his stripes, generation after generation after generation of human beings would be healed. And this is where this guy got it right. This is where he got it right, that the last verse of the song goes this glorious Now behold him arise King and God and sacrifice. Alleluia, exclamation point, Alleluia, Exclamation point heals through the earth and skies again. So awesome. God shining through the darkness and reminding us again today he is here. He is with us. Never leave us. You will never stop working in our lives and working out his plan for each and every person that are called according to his will and his purpose, because he works all things out for the good who love him to those who are called according to his purpose man Hey man, at this time we’re going to actually prepare our hearts to receive Holy Communion.

And I know that God has already been speaking to us through His word today. And so if you’re here, maybe you’re new to Shepherd’s game, you’re new to Holy Communion. Our communion guidelines are on the screen. If you are a believer in Jesus, you’ve been baptized. You believe that Christ is present in Holy Communion. You are more than welcome to join us. Those of you that are watching online, you do not have to tune out. You too can confess your sins and receive God’s grace and forgiveness.

Today. But as is our custom here at Shepherds Gate, well, you just follow your head. You close your eyes with me for a moment this morning. And the reason we do this is this is for you to have this time with God to pause in the business of the Christmas season and to give you an opportunity to lay at his feet. Is that is the wise men laid their gifts at his feet. It’s our opportunity to lay our sins that Jesus’s feet. So, Heavenly Father, we do pray. Your Holy Spirit now, in this moment, gives us the courage, the boldness and the strength to confess our sins to you. And so we pause to do that. Right now.