John 1 and gold, frankincense and myrrh, December 24th 2023

John 1 and gold, frankincense and myrrh, December 24th 2023

John 1:1-14 (and the gifts of the magi, Matthew 2), December 24th 2023 – Carols and Lessons homily.

Jesus is the central event in the history of the earth…

Not long after Jesus was born, a group of highly intelligent philosophers, wise men, or magi, thought he was worth bothering with. They stopped everything to bring him three symbolic gifts. They travelled for weeks to present these gifts…

The first was gold, a present fit for a king.

The child in the manger was the King of kings and Lord of Lords.

‘The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.’

God himself had come to live as part of our world.

Too often Jesus has been obscured by Christmas!

One man wrote in a newspaper: ‘Sir, failing to find any religious books in the bookshop I asked an assistant for help. She showed me a handful of bibles and prayer books, saying: “ we have had to move them down to the bottom shelf because of Christmas.”

But the point of Christmas is Jesus Christ, At Christmas we celebrate the birthday of the most important person who ever lived.

John followed Jesus, knew him, listened to him, saw all he did and how he lived and died, he later wrote what we will hear: In the Beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.’ … The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.”

The wise men were right – nothing less than gold would be suitable for such a child, a King laid in a manger.

Yet, even if Jesus was who he said he was, why do we need him over 2000 years later? 

The second gift the wise men bought was frankincense, which was used in the temple as a symbol of prayer and pointed to a relationship with God.

Relationships are exciting and are the most important aspect of our lives. We value our relationships highly.

Christianity is first and foremost about relationships, than rules. It is about the most important relationship of all – our relationship with God who made us. John says: ”Through Him all things were made and nothing was made that has been made.”v3.

The Christmas event  shows the value God places on a relationship between us and him. He didn’t just create us, and let us get on with it, like a clock maker who creates and sets the clock running.

Jesus entered the world at Christmas in order to restore our relationship with God: ”Yet to all who received him – Jesus – to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” So the wise men gave a gift about relationship.

The third present the wise men gave was – Myrrh. Myrrh was used to embalm the bodies of the dead. It reminds us of suffering and death. Perhaps not the most likely gift, you’d expect to be given!

We mentioned relationships. As heard at the start of our service, over time humanity’s relationship with God the Creator has got messed up and there was a need to sort it out, you could say, a barrier had come up.

When Jesus is born – the plan is to sort out that problem, Jesus came to save the world.

He was the way to make us fit to be in his presence.

God didn’t smile and bear it, he wanted to remove the barrier.

To achieve that meant suffering and death for Jesus. The wise men could see the future plan for Jesus.

Jesus is the only man who has ever chosen to be born, and he is one of the few who has chosen to die. He said that the whole reason for his coming was to die for us. To remove the barrier, to restore the relationship, to dispel darkness. That is why angel told Joseph to call the baby ‘Jesus – The LORD GOD saves’


There was a woman who in a rush went to shopping centre, and bought 50 Christmas cards, without looking at the message inside. She quickly signed and addressed all but one and dropped them in her local post box.

Later, she glanced inside the one unmailed card and read these words: “This card is just to say, a little gift is on the way.”

No doubt there were 49 people wondering what happened to their presents!

Christmas. A gift was on the way and arrived. At this time of year, when within many of our countries, individuals give each other gifts, this gift giving -is to remind us of God’s gift to us – the gift of his Son – the most valuable and expensive gift ever given.

The wise men in their gifts could see that Jesus was someone special.  The Wise men saw he was no ordinary baby born – he was a gift they and everyone needed very much.

Gold – a king came; frankinsence, he became flesh to restore a relationship; myrrh, the word became flesh, yet that word would be hung on a cross for us to clear the way….

So let’s listen now to our final reading from John’s Gospel.

Shall we stand for this reading…

(thanks in this sermon to ideas developed by Revd Nicky Gumbel in his booklet ‘Why Christmas”)

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