The Gentile’s Christmas

January 07, 2018

Pastor Mark F. Bartels

Old Testament Lesson; Isaiah 60:1-6

Gospel Lesson; Matthew 2:1-12

Epistle Lesson; Ephesians 3:2-12

Sermon Text; Matthew 2:1-12

The text we will look at for today is taken from Matthew, chapter two, verses 1 through 12. This is the only place this is recorded in scripture. This is in Jesus' name:

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, when Herod was king, Wise Men from the east came to Jerusalem. They asked, 2“Where is he who has been born King of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” 3When King Herod heard this, he was alarmed, and all Jerusalem with him. 4He gathered together all the people’s chief priests and experts in the law. He asked them where the Christ was to be born. 5They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, because this was written through the prophet:

6You, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are certainly not least among the rulers of Judah: because out of you will come a ruler, who will shepherd my people, Israel.”

7Then Herod secretly summoned the Wise Men and found out from them exactly when the star had appeared. 8He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. When you find him, report to me, so that I may also go and worship him.”

9After listening to the king, they went on their way. Then the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them, until it stood still over the place where the child was. 10When they saw the star, they rejoiced with overwhelming joy. 11After they went into the house and saw the child with Mary, his mother, they bowed down and worshipped him. Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12Since they had been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they went back to their own country by another route.

These are your words, Heavenly Father. Lead us in the way of truth. Your Word is truth.


There is a lot of folklore mixed in with Biblical truth, when it comes to our picture of the Wise Men. Because of all of the Christmas cards that have beautiful paintings of the Wise Men visiting the baby Jesus in the manger, because of artistic scenes that have the Wise Men visiting the baby Jesus at the manger, because of Christmas Pageants we put on, because of songs like “We Three Kings of Orient Are” there is really, a lot of folklore mixed in with Biblical truths. And so, let's just talk a little bit about what we know that is true, and what do we know is pious folklore about the Wise Men.

First, we often refer to the Three Wise Men. However we don't know how many Wise Men there were. We know there was more than one, because the Bible uses the plural term 'Magi'. So that means more than one, and there could have been two, or three, or could have been twenty two.

Why, traditionally do we think there were three? It is because of the three gifts that were brought – gold, frankincense, and myrrh. But, that does not limit the number of Wise Men that were actually there.

Number two, were they kings? In many paintings, and pageants you see them with crowns. But, we don't know if they were kings, because the Bible never says they were kings. Tradition says they were kings. That may be a fine, pious opinion, but the Bible simply calls them 'Magi'.

You get the word 'magic' from the word 'Magi'. It is very possible that these were men who were from the East, were possibly from Persia, or modern day Iraq. Back 500 years B.C., before Christ was born, the Children of Israel had been held in captivity in that area. The great prophet Daniel was actually the head of the 'Magi' in Babylon. It is very possible that these men were from the school of the 'Magi' that existed back at the time of Daniel, and were trained in the scholarly matters of the day. They possibly had had the teaching of Daniel, and the coming Messiah passed to them down through the centuries.

And, we don't know if they were at the manger the night Jesus was born. A lot of art depicts it that way, but we don't know that. They could have been there that night. Tradition says they came on January sixth. But, we don't know that, either. It could have been the same night Jesus was born, but it could have been the eighth, or a couple months later, or even a couple years later.

Remember when Herod decided to kill the little babies who were born in Bethlehem? It says he decided to kill the babies who were two years old, and younger according to the time the Wise Men told him. So, it could have been up to two years before they came to visit the baby Jesus.

And, it very likely was not in the manger, because you’ll notice our text says they came to the house where Mary was with Jesus. So, by that time they had probably moved out of the manger, and were in a house.

So, there is a lot of tradition, and truth mixed in with our view of the Wise Men.

But, here is something to really ponder today. January Sixth is one of the higher festivals of the Church Year. It is considered The Gentile's Christmas. It is called Epiphany. The word

'epiphany' comes from the Greek “epi” which is “upon”, and “phanos” which means 'shine'. So it is 'the shining upon, or making something manifest'.

Now that we have gone through the twelve days of Christmas, and we have worshiped the little baby Jesus, now it is the time, during this part of the Church Year, Epiphany, where a light gets shined on Jesus. We are going to shine a light on who He is. And so, during Epiphany, the scripture passages are going to show us who is that baby that was born in the manger.

The first thing the Church really likes to focus on is the fact that the little baby born in the manger was not just for one specific group of people. He wasn't just for the Jewish people, even though He came from the Jewish race.

He is the Savior of all people.

He is the Savior of Jews, and anyone who is not a Jew (which would be Gentiles). Epiphany is called, “The Gentile's Christmas”.

One thing we do know about those Wise Men, in all likelihood, they were not Jewish people. They were Gentiles.

The book of Matthew, was clearly written to a Jewish audience. The book of Matthew (more than any other Gospel) quotes Old Testament passages, and talks about Old Testament customs. These were Jewish people who understood, and clung to The Old Testament. The book of Matthew begins by showing people in chapter one that Jesus comes from the Jewish line. He comes from the line of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob. He comes from the line of David. The angel appears to Joseph in Matthew, chapter one, and says, “Joseph, son of David, don't be afraid to take Mary as your wife.” Then he quotes an Old Testament passage, which the Jewish people certainly would have known, “The virgin will conceive, and give birth to a Son.” And so, Matthew lays it out that the little, baby Jesus came from the Jewish line.

But then comes Matthew, chapter two. Immediately, immediately Matthew begins to, under divine inspiration, show everybody that this child, even though He comes from the Jewish line, did not just come for the Jewish people.

He is the Savior of all people.

So, the first people we find coming to worship Him are these Gentiles from afar. This is to fulfill Old Testament prophesy. The Old Testament made it very, very clear, (although many Jewish people had totally lost this vision, and forgotten this, but the Bible made it very clear) that when the Messiah came, He was going to come, not just for the Jewish people, but He would be the Savior of the Gentiles, as well.

I want to read you some passages from The Old Testament that so clearly, clearly foretold that Jesus would be the Savior of the world. We go way back to the promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. There God told them, “All nations would be blessed”, not just the Jewish nation. All nations would be blessed through that little child.

We go on in the Psalms, God promises to send His Son, and it says, “He shall give Him the inheritance of the Gentiles. He shall be a leader among the Gentiles.”

In Psalm 18, verse 44 it says, “All of the descendents of the Gentiles will worship Him.”

In Psalm 22, verse 28 it says, “All of the Gentiles shall praise the Lord God.”

In Psalm 117, and also in Isaiah, chapter 2, it says, “In the last days the Gentiles will run to the mountain of the Lord.”
In Isaiah, chapter 11 it says, “All of the Gentiles will enquirer about the root of Jesse (that is Jesus) who stands as the banner for all nations.”
In Isaiah, chapter 42 it says, “The righteous servant of God, (that is Christ) will bring justice among the Gentiles.”

In Isaiah, 49 it says, “Christ has been made a light to the Gentiles, and He is bringing salvation to the ends of the earth.”

In Isaiah, chapter 60, verse 3 it says, “Gentiles will walk in the light of the Messiah.”

And so, here all of these Old Testament prophesies now come to fulfillment, when the Gentiles come, and worship the baby Jesus. I am guessing if we were all to go to, right now, and if we did a DNA test to see what our ancestry was, the vast majority of us probably have no Jewish ancestry, whatsoever. And yet, God in His mercy, has saved us, just like in His mercy led these men. There was nothing special about them, but in His mercy, sinners that they were, He led them to find their Savior.

There is nothing special about you and me, but in His mercy, Gentiles that we are, God has led you and me to see the light of our Savior, Gentile sinners that we are. And, we have come to believe in Jesus, as our Savior.

Thank God, thank God, Jesus is also for the Gentiles.

He is for all people.

And, thank God about this. Thank God, somebody, somewhere along the line in your family, whether it was this generation, or twenty generations ago, someone showed someone in your family the light of the Gospel, showing your family the Savior came for you, and for all Gentiles, as well.

Maybe your ancestors were some of the barbarians of northern Europe. Or, maybe they were Goths. Or maybe they were Vikings. All of whom were pagans. Someone, somewhere along the line did mission work, and brought the light of the Gospel in the darkness of that world to your ancestors. Someone told you about Jesus. Someone brought you out of the darkness of your own sin, to the light of the Gospel, to the light of the forgiveness of sins, in Christ.

I was reading a sermon the other day from a pastor who had just moved to the United States, from Germany, back in the 1850's. He was a pastor out in Missouri. He was preaching to his congregation on Epiphany Sunday. He said, “Everyone of us, everyone of us, all Christians, aught to be missionaries. Everyone of us who have been brought to the light of the Gospel should see this great mission field. There are so many people yet, who don't know Jesus, who have not seen the light of Jesus.”

Brothers and Sisters, here at Holy Cross, if there is anybody who should be missionaries, (and I am not just talking about us as a whole), each one of us should be missionaries for Jesus. It is people, like us, who have come to see the light, know our own Savior, and know what He has done for us. The mission fields are ripe, here in the United States of America. Did you know in the past twenty-five years the number of people who claim to be Christians in the United States has dropped by 10%? It used to be 85% of Americans claim to be Christians. Now it is down to 75%. Did you know the biggest growing number of people in the United States are the following:

-People who claim to be Atheist. That is someone who says, “I don't believe there is a god.” and

-people who claim to be Agnostics. That is somebody who says “I don't know if there is a god.” and


Talk about a growing mission field. Talk about an opportunity to reach out with the Gospel.

There is a growing group of people who are called The “Nones.” Those are people who have no church affiliation, no church they go to. So, Brothers and Sisters, Jesus came for all people. And, during Epiphany we think about that mission message. He came for the whole world, and we have the opportunity to be missionaries.

I am going to ask you, personally, individually, to think about people you know who don't know Jesus, or are falling away from the faith. Maybe you know somebody in your own family. Maybe you know somebody in your neighborhood Maybe you know somebody at work. If you don't pray for them, who will? If you don't ask the Lord for opportunities to show them the light of Jesus, who is going to ask the Lord for that? If you don't be the star that guides them to The Word, who will?
So, this year 2018, let's make it a year, as God's people, where we strive to be outreach minded, because we have this massive treasure the Lord has given us.

“God so loved...”


“God so loved the world

that He gave His one and only Son.”

The second thing I want to talk about is this. The Wise Men… Actually, was it the star that led them to Bethlehem, or was it something else? The star was the circumstance God used. He used the star. We don't know whether that star was a miraculous star, or some constellations they recognized. All we know is the Lord used that star.

And, He led them, where? He led them to Jerusalem. When they got to Jerusalem, they asked Herod, who was the king at the time, “Where is He who is born King of the Jews? We have seen His star in the east, and we have come to worship Him.”

Herod did not know where the King had been born. So, who did he call? He called in the spiritual leaders of the day, and asked them, “Where is the One who was born King of the Jews?”
What did the religious leaders do? They went to the Bible. They went to the Bible, they opened it up, and said, “It says right here in the book of Micah, 'But you Bethlehem, Ephratha, though you are small among the tribes of Judah, yet out of you shall He come forth who shall be ruler over my people, Israel, whose origins are from of old, from everlasting.'

Right here in the Bible was a prophesy, hundreds of years before Jesus was born, that He would be born in Bethlehem. It was The Word that ultimately led those men to Bethlehem.

But, I want you to think about The Word that was spoken, there in Jerusalem, that day. People reacted differently to The Word.

-Herod heard the same word that the Wise Men heard, the exact same word of scripture. And, how did he react to it? He, evilly thought, “I do not want what God's Word said to come to pass.” And then, he went about trying to get rid of the baby Jesus.

-The people who are the most stunning to me are the Teachers of the Law. They read that Bible passage, and they knew Jesus was to be born in Bethlehem. They knew it. But, they didn't go to Bethlehem. They treated the Bible like Trivial Pursuit. “I know the right answer. I know the right answer!” But, it didn't affect their lives.

-The Wise Men heard the Word of God, and it impacted their lives, and they followed, and they found the baby Jesus. They found their Savior.

Brothers and Sisters, at Holy Cross we have The Word of God. Do you believe what the Bible says about itself? Here is what scripture says.

“Prophesy never had its origin in the will of men,

but men spoke from God,

as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”

Do you believe this word is The Word, not of any human being, but this is The Word of God, the Holy Spirit. Do you really believe that? Do you really believe the passage that says this?

“All scripture

(not just some of it)

all scripture is God breathed,

and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting,

and training in righteousness.”

Do you believe what Jesus said, when He said this about all of scripture?

“God's Word is truth.”

Do you believe what scripture says?

“The Word of God is living and active.

It is sharper than any two edged sword.”

Do you believe what Jesus said?

“Whoever hears these words of mine (and not just hears them) hears these words of mine, AND puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on a rock. The winds came, and blew, and beat against that house, but that house stood firm, (not because the house was strong), because it was built on the rock.”

It was built on the foundation of The Word.

Jesus said this,

“Whoever hears these words of mine, (hears them) but doesn't put them into practice is like a fool who built his house on sand. The winds came, and blew, and beat against that house, and it fell in a great collapse, because it was built on sand.”

Let this be a year, where we, as God's people, want to reach out as missionaries, with The Word of God. Let it be a year, when we, as God's people, want to build our own lives more, and more on the foundation of The Word of God, committing ourselves to a study of The Word of God, a personal study of The Word of God in our own homes, in our own private lives. And, when The Word of God is offered as study, coming to church, and hearing The Word, because that is where our life is.

Lastly, consider this. Those Wise Men, when we think about the gold, frankincense, and myrrh they brought, those Wise Men did 'homage' to Jesus. 'Homage' means they 'paid public respect', and 'reverence to Christ'. Think about how they did that. We don't know how far they traveled, but they traveled a long, long ways. Talk about paying public respect to the Christ child. Grown men that they were, bowed down, and worshiped a little baby, because they recognized that baby was the Son of God. Talk about public 'homage'. And, they gave of their treasures to show what a great treasure He was to them.

In 2018, how can each of us pay public 'homage' to Jesus? We pay 'homage' by the way we walk, talk, and use our treasures. Jesus came for all people, including Gentiles. What an honor He came for us. Let’s honor Him with our lives.