Christmas was the end of a very long countdown. The countdown began way, way back in the Garden of Eden. This was thousands of years before Christ was born. We don’t know how long ago this was. After the first humans sinned, God promised a Savior. God called this Savior, “the Seed of the Woman” — which is super-interesting given the fact that Jesus was born of a woman through the miracle of the virgin birth without a biological father. So that’s when the countdown began.
After that, with every passing book of the Bible, God added more detail to what this Savior would look like.
- Who he would be.
- What tribe he would come from.
- Where would he be born.
- What he would do.
As the clock ticked down, like a painter applying brush strokes to the canvas, the portrait of the Savior became more and more recognizable.
Of the tribe of Judah, and David’s royal son. Born of a virgin, in the little town of Bethlehem.
By the days of Jesus, the portrait was complete. In fact, a whole lot of people recognized him.
A very old lady named Anna saw Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus and “gave thanks to God, and spoke of Jesus as the Redeemer of Israel.” She knew.
A very old man named Simeon, saw the Holy Family and said, “I can die in peace now, because my eyes have seen your Salvation,” he was referring to the baby Jesus.
They recognized him by the portrait God had painted over 1,500 years as the inspired Scriptures were written.
And then, most famously, the wise men recognized him. They knew from Scripture the clock had counted down to zero. They travelled over a thousand miles to see him. And when they came, they gave him gifts.
The Magi gave him these gifts on purpose. These were elite members of the ruling class. They were highly educated, multi-lingual, highly connected historians, theologians, and politicians — they were the best of the best — they were truly Wise… Men…
So, when they selected these gifts, and Scripture writes it down for all time, there is meaning here.
This is what we have been looking at for this month of Christmas.
The frankincense showed that Jesus is the priest you need. He is the only person qualified to usher you past all the barriers between you and God, and to bring you into his presence forever.
Then the gold showed that Jesus is the king. You will never find a better king than Jesus. Not even you, on your very best day, will rule your life as well as Jesus will.
And today I would like to think with you about the gift of myrrh.
Myrrh was very expensive and highly treasured. It was a tree sap, dried, and crushed into powder. A very strong aroma, like freshly cut pine. Myrrh had several uses. But its main uses had to do… wait for it… with death. In fact, myrrh shows up three times in the life of Jesus. And each one has to do with sacrifice.
So I invite you to think about this main idea with me today.
Jesus is the sacrifice you need to satisfy God’s requirements, and to qualify you for heaven forever.
Jesus is The One God promised to undo the mess we got into the day we all collectively sinned.
That is the gift of Christmas. That is the meaning of Christmas. That is why the Three (or more) Kings of Orient traversed afar following yonder star.
So, today, the meaning of the myrrh.
First, a head’s up. At the end of my talk today, I am going to ask you to do something. I’m going to ask you to actually respond to Jesus and to receive him.
It won’t be weird, and I won’t embarrass you or single you out in any way. Because I think it wasn’t just you that got you here today. God brought you here, and he brought you here to hear this message, and to make this particular choice, and to cross this particular line that I’m going to talk about.
Because when you do, you will make this Christmas your first Christmas as a child of God forever.
So that’s coming in just a few minutes.
So what does it mean that the Wise men gave Jesus myrrh. I said the myrrh shows up in three places in the Bible. Let’s look at them, because in each place, it indicates sacrifice.
“And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.” (Matthew 2:11, NKJV)
So this is the first time we have myrrh mentioned with Jesus. It is in connection with his birth.
We are saying the Wise men gave him myrrh to symbolize a sacrifice that is being made.
So how was the birth of Jesus a sacrifice?
The birth of Jesus is a huge sacrifice, when you consider where he came from.
He came from heaven. Jesus is the only person who pre-existed his own birthday. The reason he pre-existed his own birthday is because of who he is. He is God. Fully God, the second person of the Trinity.
Christmas is the day when God became human without ceasing to be God.
As God, he existed from eternity past.
As human, he was born of Mary and laid in a manger.
This is the beautiful mystery of Christmas.
Where is your happy place? I have a couple of happy places. One is Maggiano’s restaurant in Chicago — or anywhere. Good food is my love language. I love the smell. I love the ambiance. I love the music. I love the food. Another happy place for me is on a small, peaceful lake, in a bass boat, as the sun is setting, the fish are biting, and the water is like a mirror, reflecting the golden sunset and the fading blue sky. That’s my happy place.
Where’s your happy place?
A lot of people would say Disneyland. A lot would say anywhere my family is all together. Or maybe by a fireplace, in a comfortable chair with a really good book.
Now imagine yourself getting all settled into your happy place, where it’s awesome and you feel great and all is well with the world.
And now imagine getting called OUT from your happy place. Why? Because you have volunteered to spend the next 30 years cleaning the toilets for a camp full of 2nd grade school boys.
Do you know what you would call leaving your happy place for that?
The sacrifices Jesus made began the day he stepped into the womb of Mary.
He was in his happy place. He was in heaven. Do you know what heaven is like? It is awesome beyond words. Beautiful. Pleasurable. Wonderful. Comfortable. There is joy there. There is fun there. There is good food there. There is no stress there. No bills to pay. No crying babies to care for. No pain to overcome. No drama. It is nothing but delight and laughter and love and overwhelming beauty all the time and forever.
Not only did Jesus leave heaven, but he left heaven’s throne. Jesus wasn’t just an occupant of heaven; he was its owner.
That is what he left behind. That is what he sacrificed. He gave it up.
How the angels watched in amazement as the Son of God stepped down from his throne.
How they gasped in surprise as he removed his crown and set it aside.
They had no heavenly language to describe their shock, as the pre-incarnate Son of God unwrapped his robe of royal glory, and set it behind his face.
He never ceased being God, but he laid aside the glory of being God.
He sacrificed the comforts of heaven for you.
The angels stood speechless the moment he stepped out of heaven — the ultimate happy place — and stepped into the womb of a humble woman named Mary. He took on the mantle and reality of a human nature. And was born into a cold cruel world that didn’t want him and paid him no attention.
There’s a chorus that sings:
He left the splendor of heaven, Knowing his destiny
Was a lonely hill called Golgotha, There to lay down his life for me.
If that isn’t love, then the ocean is dry,
There’s no stars in the sky, and the sparrow can’t fly. If that isn’t love, then heaven’s a myth.
There’s no feeling like this, If that isn’t love. [Dottie Rambo]
And yes, it was love for you, personally, by name, that made Jesus make this sacrifice. What unspeakable condescension!
The countdown is complete. Salvation has come. The only question is whether or not you will receive it today.
If he hadn’t come into this world, there would be no Savior. Without a Savior, there would be no salvation. Without salvation, there could be no adjustment to the justice of God. And without adjustment to the justice of God, there could be no heaven for anyone who has ever sinned, even a little. Instead all we would have is the final justice of an icy hot existence in a state of maximum chaos, parked far away from God forever, if Jesus didn’t come to earth as he did.
But Jesus did enter the world. He did make this sacrifice. He did it for you, because of love.
And the message the wise men gave when they gave him myrrh was to say, “Look at Jesus! Accept him as the sacrifice you need.”
Will you do that today? Because I want to show you how in just a few more minutes.
The second place where myrrh is mentioned with Jesus shifts the whole idea of sacrifice into overdrive.
“And they brought Him to the place Golgotha, which is translated, Place of a Skull. Then they gave Him wine mingled with myrrh to drink, but He did not take it.” (Mark 15:22, 23, NKJV)
They are about to crucify Jesus. The did this on a hill. The hill was named The Place of the Skull, probably because that’s what it looked like from a distance. Skull, in Aramaic, is Golgotha, which it says right here. Skull in Latin, is Calvary. It is the place where Jesus died.
When they brought him there, the Bible says they gave him wine mingled with myrrh to drink.
Why would they give him that?
Because it would deaden the pain. Myrrh was an anesthetic to deaden the pain. It had narcotic effects and was the one small mercy the Roman government offered a person before crucifixion. They knew it was a torturous death. Here, have some myrrh to deaden the pain.
Jesus refused. The reason he refused was his mission, which was all about sacrifice, and specifically, the sacrifice of his life.
What is a sacrifice? It is when one person gives up something for the sake of another person.
Jesus is the one person.
You are the other person.
When he died on the cross, Jesus gave up something for you.
He gave up his life. He sacrificed himself. This is because of the extreme distance between you and God. That distance existed because you and I and everybody on God’s green earth has sin on their records. We are stained by it and guilty because of it. How does sin go away?
Not by any human power. Not by any religious element. Sin goes away when it is punished. And over and over again the Bible is very clear the only acceptable punishment is death.
That is what you owe God. It is the only way to balance the scales of justice. The only way for God to love you without comprising his own perfection. You need to give to God exactly one death for sin.
So in steps Jesus. He is nailed to the Cross. They stand up the Cross. And then God does something remarkable, something the devil never saw coming. God reached to you long before you were ever born. God removed your sins… all of them, past, present, future, even the sins you have planned for later today.
And he put them all on Jesus. And that is the weight that Jesus felt. He refused the myrrh so that nothing would minimize the sacrifice he was about to offer. He felt every last sin…
And then God punished Jesus for your sins instead of punishing you. And the punishment was death. That was the sacrifice.
Because by this, he closed the distance between you and God. He effected reconciliation.
A sacrifice is one person who gives up something for another person. On Christmas day, the One Person came into the world. He would give up his life for another person. And that other person is you.
No wonder the Wise Men gave him myrrh.
Something encouraged these Magi to seek Jesus. It was this, “We have seen his star.” And through the sacred writings, they heard all about this Priest and King and Sacrifice.
But they didn’t just hear.
They came a thousand miles to find him. They did not stop short. They didn’t turn around because the hills were steep or the desert was hot and dry. They didn’t give up because the evidence was scant. They pushed through every obstacle till they met Jesus face to face.
And that is what I would say to you. Some people hear of Jesus, and go to church, and even do the things the church says to do. But they stop short. Because the invitation to you today isn’t to a church, or a creed, or a behavior, or even a way of life.
I am inviting you today to a Person. He is the One. He is the One all the Scriptures are pointing to.
And when a prophet named John saw him, he knew he had seen the sacrifice to end all sacrifices… he said, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”
Won’t you let him take away your sin today? The sacrifice has been made. The way to God is open. Jesus wants to bring you past it. The door is open. God is tugging at your heart. You may not have this chance again. Oh please come to him. And you are welcome. Please let this Christmas be your first Christmas as a child of God.
There is only one more time when myrrh is mentioned in connection with Jesus:
“And Nicodemus, who at first came to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds.” (John 19:39, NKJV)
Jesus has been crucified. His body has been taken from the Cross. They are about to bury him.
Nicodemus brings a hundred pounds of myrrh and aloes.
Why? Because they will wind his dead body in strips of cloth, and wind throughout the cloth aloe and myrrh. Because they knew what we all know: the body will decay. It will take a hundred pounds of scent to overcome that smell. There was no going back. Once putrefaction sets in, that’s it.
- The first mention of myrrh was the sacrifice of comforts.
- The second mention of myrrh was the sacrifice of life.
- This third mention of myrrh was the sacrifice of hope.
I should say it was the sacrifice of human hope. Because humanly speaking, the body of Jesus was dead, and by every expectation would soon undergo decay.
But that leaves out one important factor. That leaves out the God factor. Because a thousand years before Jesus even came, the psalmist wrote a prophecy:
“For You will not leave my soul in the grave, Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption.” (Psalms 16:10, NKJV)
Because, surprise, the body of Jesus would soon be inhabited again. But we’ll have to save that story for Easter.
But our faith sees Jesus. We see him go from heaven to Mary. From Mary to the Manger. From the Manger to the Cross. From the Cross to the Grave. From the Grave to the Throne. And, here’s where you come in… from the throne in heaven to the throne in every heart that believes.
The sacrifice has been made.
- It is once for all.
- It has wiped out your sin. It has wiped out your guilt.
- It has wiped away your shame.
- It has wiped out very barrier that stands between you and a holy God.
- The barrier is broken. The door is open. The way is clear.
- The time is now.
The baby who lay in the manger, at whose feet the learned Wise men of Persia poured out their treasures and worshipped… if you were to go to heaven right now, and withstand the blazing glory of God’s presence, there stands the man, the very man who slept in Bethlehem’s manger, who in Heaven reigns as Lord of lords.
- He is your priest, to bring you to God.
- He is your king, to lead you to joys you never could imagine.
- He is your sacrifice, to open the door to salvation and to God and invite you to step through.
Won’t you step through right now?
Jesus is the One
God wants the whole world to know that Jesus is the One. He wants us to know so badly, that he has described Jesus from a thousand different angles, so everybody can understand him.
Here is just a small sampling of his profile as described in the Bible.
- Jesus is the Light of the world so that electricians can understand.
- The Bread of Life so that bakers can understand.
- The Water of Life so that plumbers can understand.
- The Firstborn so that pediatricians can understand.
- The Chief cornerstone so that architects can understand.
- The Morning star so that astronomers can understand.
- The Hidden treasure so that bankers can understand.
- The Life so that biologists can understand.
- The Door so that carpenters can understand.
- The Great Physician so that medical professionals can understand.
- Teacher so that educators can understand.
- The Lily of the Valley so that florists can understand.
- The Rose of Sharon so that gardeners can understand.
- The Rock of Ages so that geologists can understand.
- The True Vine so that viticulturists can understand.
- The Bridegroom so that wedding planners can understand.
- The Righteous One so that judges can understand.
- The Advocate so that lawyers can understand.
- The Judge so that criminals can understand.
- Wisdom so that philosophers can understand.
- The Priest so that clergy can understand.
- The Wonderful Counselor so that therapists can understand.
- The Word so that lexicographers can understand.
- The Shepherd so that farmers can understand.
- The Captain of our Faith so that military personnel can understand.
- The Alpha and Omega so that scientists can understand.
- The Way so that cartographers can understand.
- The Deliverer so that mail carriers can understand.
- The Mediator so that union workers can understand.
- The Lion of Judah so that zookeepers can understand.
- The Lamb so that veterinarians can understand.
- The Resurrection so that undertakers can understand.
- The Rider on the white horse so that jockeys can understand.
- The Indescribable gift so that shoppers can understand.
- The King of Kings so that royalty can understand.
- The Truth so that politicians can understand.
Has there ever been a profile more detailed and more clear than this? Jesus is the One. There is no one like the child born in Bethlehem. There is no one beside him. Not even close. He is in a league of his own.
And the Wise Men knew it.
Wise men and wise women still know it. I hope you will be one of them, right now.
For our prayer today, I’m going to use the words of a famous Christmas carol, called O Little Town of Bethlehem.
The fourth verse is a prayer and it goes like this:
O holy Child of Bethlehem
Descend to us, we pray
Cast out our sin and enter in
Be born to us today
O come to us, abide with us
Our Lord Emmanuel
And let’s just add this final ABC prayer:
ADMIT. God, I admit I need you today. There is a gap between me and you. I feel it in my conscience, I feel it in my heart. I am fallen. I am broken. I am sinful. I cannot reach you by myself, and never will.
BELIEVE. But I believe that on Christmas day, you sent Jesus into the world. He came to be the sacrifice I need. I believe he is your Son. I believe offered the one sacrifice for all my sins, once for all. I believe he rose again. I need no other sacrifice to bring me to you. Just Jesus. I believe.
CHOOSE. So right now God, I choose to trust in Jesus as my Only Hope. I choose to believe in him. I’m telling you God, as best as I can, that I’m believing in Jesus and receiving him as my Savior and my one and only Sacrifice. And I ask you right now, because of Jesus alone, please save me. Please forgive me. Please make me your child forever.