Happy Holidays! Advent season is upon us. The following is an Advent Youth Group lesson that I'm doing with the Unalakleet youth this week. How are you waiting for Jesus?
What do you do when you wait?
You can wait passively: doing nothing, or you can wait proactively in anticipation: preparing.
How do you wait for Christmas?
Passively, or proactively? What does your family do to get ready?
Advent is a season observed in many Western Christian churches as a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus at Christmas.
Today we are talking about advent…and about the 3 wise men.
Why talk about wise men during advent?
They waited proactively – they waited expectantly and prepared.
When did they leave their home?
They traditionally would have left BEFORE Christmas
(Traditionally, they arrive between Dec 25 (Western Christmas) and Jan 6th - Orthodox Christmas Eve)
Let’s look at their story in Matthew 2
2 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod,Magi from the east came to Jerusalem 2 and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” 3 When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.4 When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. 5 “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written: 6 “‘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 shepherd my people Israel.’”
7 Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. 8 He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “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.” 9 After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with giftsof gold, frankincense and myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.
13 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.” 14 So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, 15 where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.” 16 When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi.
The term “Magi” comes from the Greek Magoi.
Magi is the plural of magus, from which we get the word for magician…but don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that the Magi were magicians, but rather wise men…and some may have seen their wisdom as magical.
Why were they called wise?
They were experts in astrology (study of stars), alchemy (chemistry), and dream interpretation (psychology).
Magi were scientists – genius level – like Stephen Hawking…(keep in mind they didn’t have science classes or books…).
Where did they come from?
Traditions say they came from Persia, Babylon, and India - one legend says that Doubting Thomas joined the Indian Magi after the Ascension to baptize the Magi and plant the Indian church. Others say they may have come from China…Many others also say one was Ethiopian.
Why are they sometimes called Kings?
The identification of the Magi as kings is linked to Old Testament prophesies that have the Messiah being worshipped by kings in Psalm 68:29, Psalm 72:10, and Isaiah 60:3:
Psalm 68:29 “Because of your temple at Jerusalem kings will bring you gifts”
Psalm 72:10-11 “May the kings of Tarshish and of distant shores bring tribute to him. May the kings of Sheba and Seba present him gifts. May all kings bow down to him and all nations serve him.”
Isaiah 60:3 “Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.”
Regardless of whether they were kings or not, or of whether they came from China, Africa, or India; Matthew uses the word “Magi” to show they were amongst the wisest, smartest people in the world.
If you where the smartest person in the world, what would you do with your life?
The Magi spent their lives looking for God all around them and looking for the Son of God who would be the Savior of the world so they could worship Him.
The Magi had 2 choices – they could wait for the Son of God to come to them where they were…they could just passively wait…OR they could be proactive and go to Him.
How can you wait proactively? How can you look for and go to God with everything around you?
The Magi read the Scriptures and follow the signs in the stars to Bethlehem…perhaps they even were so focused on looking for God that they heard the voice of the Holy Spirit, or maybe an angel told them in a dream like the warning they received about Herod…one thing we know for sure is that they knew the star they followed was the Messiah’s.
When the Magi finally go to Jesus, what did they plan in advance to give Him?
More than just their material gifts – comfort – time – life – worship – sacrifices…
The Gold was fitting of an earthly king...
But why frankincense and myrrh? Incense is a fitting offering to God…
The Magi likely recognized Jesus’ humanity, royalty, and divinity.
What does it look like for you to sacrifice this Advent season?
How are you waiting expectantly and preparing? – Not just for Christmas…but for Jesus’ return and for eternity?
What does it look like to proactively wait for Jesus in your lives as students? As children?
For those of you that have surrendered your lives to Jesus and call yourselves Christians – what does it look like to proactively wait for Jesus as a member of the Body of Christ?
What is keeping you from proactively waiting – from expecting or preparing for Christmas?
Have you been failing to wait proactively? Do you need to recommit to doing the good things that God has called you to?
Have you been using your time waiting by doing things you know you shouldn't? Do you need to ask for help in avoiding the things that God has called you to avoid?
Maybe what is keeping you from expecting and preparing isn’t about actions, but about what is going on in your heart and mind. Do you want to be peaceful and joyful, but inside you are hurting? Do you need to share those hurts with an older Christian?
Maybe you've never surrendered to Christ. Maybe you’ve heard what it means to pray the sinner’s prayer, or ask Jesus into your heart, but you’ve never really understood what it means to surrender your whole life to Jesus…maybe you don’t really know what it means to call Jesus Savior and Lord.
If any of these things are keeping you from expecting and preparing for Jesus this Christmas season, we invite you to a time of prayer and reflection.