With Christmas, it's easy to get wrapped up in the "things" and miss the point.

Scripture References & Transcript

Matthew 2:9-11

Exodus 30:23-25

Esther 2:12

John 19:39-40

John 3:16-17

John 3:18-19

Our family has a tradition. And that tradition is that we go at Christmas time and we cut down our own Christmas tree. Now, this tradition started when we were in Texas, and Texas is a little bit different because you don’t have a national forest in Texas to go do that in. And so you go to Christmas Tree Farms now, Christmas tree farms, very different experience. You go out into an ocean of trees that were manufactured that have been created for the sole intent that once a year people come and chop ’em down. Like that’s, that’s why they exist. And so all of those trees look like that one. See how these are perfectly groomed and perfectly angled and just full and beautiful. As a side note, those are all real trees because there’s a volunteer that is watering them every single day. Um, but Texas, you go to one of those tree farms and you cut it down and you’re good to go.

You look at the price tag, you say, Nope, we’re not buying that one ’cause it’s too expensive. We’re gonna buy this smaller one over here. But in a national forest, it’s a little bit different. One, it’s cooler because you, you, you get a permit from the state and then you, you go, uh, the place that we went to is you go out 2 85 and we go down south for a while, and then, then we have this map that says you have to cut your tree within this area right here. And of course, you’re driving there on your phone, and then by the time you get there, you have no service. So then you’re just roaming around and hopefully the tree we cut didn’t come from somebody’s backyard. Um, but, but so last Saturday we, we go out on the mission to do the Christmas tree cutting family tradition.

And the cool part about last Saturday is it snowed and snowing makes it just that much cooler, that much more unique. And so we get there and we get outta the car and we, we start going out and it’s this journey to try and find the perfect Christmas tree. Most of them are ugly Christmas trees, and so we wanna find the perfect one. But the problem is that snow makes it more challenging. Every tree when it has snow on, it looks pretty. And so here’s what would happen is I, I’d see a tree, I’d say that one in the distance looks amazing. That is our Christmas tree. And so then we, we’d trudge over in the snow and we’d get to the tree, and then I had to shake the snow off the tree and all the snow would come off. And you’d look at it and you’d say, that looks terrible.

It looked so much prettier with snow on it. And so then I’d say, wait, that one over there. And so then we, we’d start taking off in another zone, in another direction. We’re out there for quite some time trying to find the perfect tree. My middle daughter Kinley, she’s nine. Uh, she asked if she could have my phone and she could make a video. I said, sure, go for it. And so she basically makes like a documentary. It’s a 10 minute long video. The next day I went back and watched the video and I wanna show you the first 90 seconds of the clip that Kinley made. Take a look.

Uhhuh. There you go. Okay. It’s 2023. We’re finding a tree show

Yourself too.

I know. We’re finding a tree. And dad, what is it called? What is this place called?

Uh, we’re just in a national park in Colorado.

Oh, national Park, Colorado. I’m nine and my name is Kenley Brett. How old are you? 11 five. It’s pretty funky out here. It’s pretty not stepped in snow. We have found a few trees, but we’re not cutting it down yet. My dad is, my dad is pretty serious about finding the right tree. He’s saying not good enough. Let’s find a different one. If it’s too close together, it’s not as full. We need a full one. A full one.


So we were out there for about two hours looking for Christmas tree in the snow. And I’ll tell you, the first 30 minutes is a lot of fun in the snow. Then that next 30 minutes, not so much. And then that next 30 minutes, there were a lot of tears and crying. And can we just cut down a tree already? And then it was, it was just fascinating to watch that video the next day and recognize that she was a hundred percent right. ’cause the point of taking your family to a forest and cutting out a Christmas tree is not actually about the Christmas tree. And it’s easier to go get a fake tree, get one of those trees. The point of going on the trip is the experience, the family, the moment, the point isn’t the tree, but what so easily happens when you’re out there is you think the point is the tree. You think the point is to get this amazing tree that’s gonna look perfect and gonna look beautiful. And can I tell you that after all that walking around, we ended up cutting one down that was backed by our car. At that point, it was just like, whatever doesn’t matter. That’s stick over there. Sure, let’s do it, <laugh>.

But it was easy to lose the point. And, and I’m reminded that that same thing can happen at Christmas. Christmas we surround the season with so many things, so much stuff, all good stuff, all beautiful stuff. But in surrounding Christmas with the stuff, we can easily miss the point. And so here would be my challenge and my encouragement for you, for me this Christmas season. And that is this. Don’t miss the point. What is the point with Christmas? It’s easy to get wrapped up in the things and miss the point. If you’ve been with us last couple of weeks, we are looking at the three gifts that the magi bring to Jesus, that we find that in Matthew, uh, chapter two, uh, starting in verse nine, the second half of verse nine, it says this, and behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them, until it came to rest over the place where the child was, when they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy when going into the house.

They saw the child with Mary, his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him then opening their treasures. They offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and meb, gold, frankincense and Meb gold was the king gift. Gold at the time was something that, that really only royalty and kings had. And so, uh, to give Jesus a gift of gold was recognizing the symbolism that Jesus was born to be a king. Frankincense was an incense that was used in the temple specifically by the high priest. And so this gift of frankincense was symbolic of the fact that Jesus was born to be our high priest, to make a way to mediate between us and God. And then they also give him myrrh and murr’s, probably the, the one of the three that you kind of scratch your head on. And it makes you ask this question, what is myrrh?

Anyway? Most people don’t naturally know what Murr is. So let’s unpack what Murr is and where we see it in scripture. Uh, part of the reason that we don’t know what murr is, is because it comes from this tree. And this tree is not native to the United States of America. Uh, you can find it in the Middle East, you can find it in parts of Asia. Uh, but this tree, if you prick the tree or if you make the tree bleed, make sap come out of it by stabbing it. What happens is this sap comes out and it looks like this. And that’s where we get Murph from. So when they’re farming it, they’re intentionally growing trees with the intent, uh, to pull the sap out. And after they pull the sap off of the tree in its unrefined state, it looks like this. If you go online, Amazon, you can buy everything on Amazon.

You can find and buy this type of meh on Amazon. And so then what did people use it for at the time? Well, in scripture we see three different instances where it’s used for three different types of things. In Exodus, in chapter 30, it says this, the Lord said to Moses, take the finest spices of liquid myrrh 500 shekels and of sweet smelling cinnamon, half as much. That is 250 and 250 of aromatic cane and 500 of cassia according to the shekel of the sanctuary and the hen of olive oil. And you shall make these a sacred anointing, oil blended as by the perfumer. It shall be a holy anointing oil. And so in Exodus 30, what we see is they are coming up with anointing oil. Anointing oil would be used at that time in the tabernacle. Eventually it would be used in the temple.

It’d be used by priests and by high priests. And myrrh is being used as the foundational liquid for the perfume. We see that myrrh in ancient times is used sometimes as a fragrance, as a perfume. Uh, then in Esther chapter two, this is the part in Esther, where Esther is about to go before the king. The king is looking for a bride. And it says this Now, when the turn came for each young woman to go into King Azeris after being 12 months under the regulations for the women, since this was the regular period of their beautifying six months with oil of myrrh and six months with spices and ointments for women. So we see me being used, but it’s being used slightly different. Uh, what it, what it means is that these women that are gonna go before the king as prospective brides, they are sequestered for a full year away from everybody.

For the first six months of that year. They’re using myrrh for medicinal purposes. It, in ancient history was used as an antiseptic. And so that’s why they’re using it for six months as, as getting them clean, getting them pure, getting them healthy, and then for six months that they’re using some separate spices that would be used for perfumes to make them smell good. Uh, so we, we see it being used as a fragrance. We see it being used for medicinal purposes, and then we see it in the gospel of John at the end of Jesus’ life, after Jesus has died on the cross. This is what it says, Nicodemus also who earlier had come to Jesus by night, came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, and after about 75 pounds of it in weight, so they took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen cloth with their spices as is the burial custom of the Jews.

So Jesus has died. Now, typically at the time, they would take someone who came from a cross, they’d be a criminal, and, and they would just dispose of the body. But Nicodemus, who is a Pharisee, who we see interacting with Jesus in John chapter three, Nicodemus shows up and he treats Jesus’ body different. He wraps him in linen, and then he uses myrrh as an embalming ointment for the body. The primary thing that we see mer being used for in ancient history is for that function of embalming. And, and so myrrh has these three different uses. One is as a fragrance, one is, uh, for medicinal, such as an antiseptic, and one is for embalming. And so what is the symbol then of mer mean for Jesus? It could be a little bit of all three. It could be a fragrance. Fragrance. Now in ancient history was very different than fragrance for us.

And mainly because the, the greatest medical invention of all time is indoor plumbing by far. Why be? Because it allows us to wash our hands. It allows us to take, uh, unclean things and get it out of our house. Uh, but that’s a relatively new invention, uh, that you, you see the Greeks that had certain things, aqueducts and things, uh, but not modern plumbing as, as we think of it. So for a long time in ancient history, people weren’t nearly as clean as what we are. Uh, they would bathe, but they would bathe in a wash bin. They definitely wouldn’t do something like taking a shower every day. And so, especially people that were poorer who didn’t have, uh, just the ability to bathe as often, fragrance became a big thing. The fragrance would hide the smell of body odor. I used to be a youth pastor <laugh>.

We would go to camp with junior high kids and I, I’d be a counselor leader with a whole group of junior high boys. And I would tell ’em at the beginning of the week, Hey, hey, here’s the rule. You are going to bathe this week, period. Like, this is not a, this is not a question. This is not a, Hey, do I have to like, you need to bathe yourself and take a shower. No matter how hard you tried to explain that at the beginning of the week, you always had kids that were like, no, I’m good. I’m fine. Took a bath in the pool. You know, I mean, counts, same thing. And so about halfway through the week, you, you’d just start getting this odor from these junior high boys are like, oh, this just smells awful. And I remember going in one day to our cabin, and I, I just walked in.

It’s like, this smell hit me in the face, except it wasn’t body odor, it was something else. I mean, my eyes are watering and I feel like they’re about to bleed. And I say, what is going on in here? And one of the kids, one of the smaller kids, he, he walks up to me and he goes, Hey, Kurt, it was smelling bad in here. He actually used the word stink <laugh>, he says, so I got you. I got you. I said, what do you mean you got me? He said, I got some axe body spray <laugh>. So I used the whole can up in this place. So I sprayed every one of the boys down. I sprayed the bunks. I just kept spraying until it couldn’t spray anymore. He said, it smells way better in here, doesn’t it? And I was like, oh, okay.

And then he added this tagline at the end. He said, man, the ladies are gonna love it, <laugh>. And I can tell you they smelled it for sure. ’cause when we went as a group to dinner that night, it was like, whoa, what is, what is that group coming in with? You see? But the problem with the fragrance is that it, it can mask odor, but it doesn’t deal with the underlying issue. And Jesus didn’t come to just mask the issues of the world. No. He, he came to deal with the underlying issue. Jesus wasn’t just an ointment, a balm to put on an injury in this world. No. Jesus came to fix the world. You see, myrrh, even at his birth, is foreshadowing the fact that Jesus came to die. And now when we think of the Christmas story, uh, we, we tend to wrap it all around the birth.

And, and the birth is this beautiful thing. It’s kind of this magical thing. It’s, it’s wonderful. Easter is a little bit harder for the non-Christian to come to church because there’s a part of Easter that, that involves a cross and crucifixion. And, and it’s, it’s hard to have Easter without pointing to the cross. Yes, it’s a celebration of the resurrection of Jesus, but you, you can’t have that without really looking at the cross. But sometimes at, at Christmas, we try and ignore that part of it. We say, well, no, it’s just about a baby and a manger, and there’s animals. But even at the birth of Jesus, he’s being given a gift myrrh for embalming that is pointing ahead to his future. It’s pointing ahead to his purpose. If we look at all three gifts together, the gifts of the Magi point to Jesus’s identity and purpose, how Emmanuel God with us means that the king of the universe represented in the gold came to be our high priest represented in the frankincense and give us direct access to God through his death, which was represented in the murder.

Here’s a, a hard question then. Why does Jesus come to die? Uh, why is it that that’s the reason that God sends his son Jesus? There’s a famous doctor, philosopher educator in Poland. His name was, uh, Janus Kza, Janus Kza in 1911 and 1912, he became the director of an orphanage that he created in Poland. It was an orphanage called the Orphan House. And it was designed specifically for Jewish children. He himself was a Jew. It was a lot of marginalized Jewish kids. And so he created this orphanage as a place where they could come, they could experience life, uh, that he could help raise them and, and not just give them a bed to sleep in and food to survive, but also educate them, uh, to, to prepare them for life. In 1919, he wrote a book called How to Love a Child. Uh, that book was pretty revolutionary at the time.

There’s a lot of concepts in that book that we would see as just normal. Hey, that’s expected. Those are rights that children should have. But at the time, there’s a lot of, there was no labor laws for children the way that we have today. And so you had a lot of unfit conditions that kids were living in, and he had three specific basic rights that he claimed all children should have. Number one was the right of today. His point was, Hey, children should have a right to live today. That they should have some ownership, some autonomy of their day. Number two, that the right of the child over their own death. And that was specifically talking about malnutrition. That, that each child deserves the right to live. Each child deserves the right, uh, to, to be provided a meal and sustenance so that they can grow to adulthood.

And then number three, he determined that each child has the right of the child to be what it wants to be. Especially when you can think of dealing with orphans who often looked at their future and they said, well, I have no future. It’s a very big future. He would look at ’em and say, no, you have a right to grow up to be something incredible and amazing. I want you to encourage you in that. So that’s who he was. He was a doctor who decided to step into education and really transformed the lives of so many different kids that in 1939, world War II happens. And his orphanage in 1940, uh, gets moved into Warsaw, uh, Germany takes over all of Poland, and they create what’s called the Warsaw Ghetto. So his orphanage was in a nicer part of the town, but they get moved by the Germans into the Warsaw Ghetto.

And now what’s interesting is, uh, Yiannis had the opportunity. They said, Hey, you don’t have to live there. You’re an educated man. You’re a doctor. You provide a lot of other services. We’ll give you better accommodations elsewhere. But he chooses not to take those accommodations. He chooses to go live in the slums with his orphans because of his love for the orphans. Then in early August of 1942, German soldiers showed up. They collected 192 orphans and about a dozen staff members in order to transport them to the trea extermination camp. And again, he was offered a choice. And these kids are about to be loaded up onto a train and taken to an extermination camp. But you are an educated man. You’re a doctor, and so you don’t have to go. And here is what he responded with. He said, you do not leave a sick child in the night, and you do not leave children at a time like this.

There’s a statue in Poland that eyewitnesses said that, that he picked up one of the orphans and he had an orphan in this hand and had orphans just draped all over him. There’s a statue of that picture. And he carried them onto the train and rode with them. And as soon as they got to their destination, they were escorted straight into a gas chamber where he died with all his kids. Yiannis took care of Jewish children in an orphanage and experienced the Holocaust with them, even though he didn’t have to. Christmas is about Jesus stepping into this world, this broken world, this sinful world, this scarred world, even though he didn’t have to. Christmas is about Jesus being born, looking ahead, knowing that he would one day die even though he didn’t have to. Why does Jesus die for us? Why does God send Jesus to die in a cross forest?

Well, the most famous verse in the Bible tells us, John three 16, for God so love the world that he gave his only son. God loved the world so much. He looks at the brokenness. He says, I’ve gotta do something about the brokenness. And what does he do? Uh, he gave his son, he, he gave him recognizing that in the giving of his son, it would include death on a cross. You can’t have Christmas without understanding that the cross was always a part of the plan. That whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life. Verse 17 is equally as profound, although not as famous. It says, for God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Oftentimes, our culture has this view of God, that God is up in heaven and he’s throwing down lightning bolts and he’s reigning down anger and hate that God just wants to condemn us for all the wrong things that we’ve done.

And we have done wrong things. Scripture is clear. Then you go all the way back to the Garden of Eden, that God creates man to have relationship with God. And we messed it up. We saw ourself as God and turned away from his way. And so sin enters the world, and scripture tells us that we’re born into sin. Everybody is born into sin. We’re born into this brokenness. We’ve all done wrong things. And because of that, God could condemn us. We, we actually do deserve to die. But Jesus doesn’t come to condemn. No, he does something else. He comes to save us. The scripture’s clear that the punishment for sin is death. Someone has to die. And so Jesus comes and he raises his hand and says, I will die so that no one else has to. In John three 16, he uses that word love.

But in Greek, there’s a lot of different words for love. Probably if you’ve been around church for long enough, you’ve heard that there’s, there’s aeros love, which is an erotic type of love. There’s phileo love, which is a brotherly type of love. And then there’s agape love. John three 16 uses that word agape when it says, for God so loved the world. Agape love is an unconditional love, and it’s a sacrificial love, sometimes falsely. Inside church, we say, well, agape love is only the love that God has for us. And that’s not true. Uh, the Greeks used agape love in in a few different ways. We will see it again in the next verse. But really understanding unconditional love is challenging for us because we, we really don’t have a lot of unconditional love in our culture, right? Think of how we treat our sports teams, the Denver Barcos at the beginning of the year, unconditional love, few games in no love, five game winning streak, unconditional love lost two outta three.

No more love. We are a fickle base. And, and, and if you deny that, just look at our famous sports teams in our town, Denver Broncos. A lot of people show up to those games. Denver Nuggets. A lot of people, they’re winning, man. A lot of people go to those games, avs, packing it out. You’ve been to a Rockies game lately. <laugh> fans do not have unconditional love. We have very conditional love. And even inside of other relationships inside of your marriage, we like to say George Strait has a song, uh, saying that, Hey, my love is unconditional. But guess what? Our, our love inside of marriage really isn’t unconditional. That, that you expect it to be reciprocated. As a matter of fact, if your spouse starts treating you like dirt and starts being mean to you, starts being mean to your kids, starts being mean to your family, starts maybe abusing your kids, or, or maybe they turn into a murder.

Like at some point you’ve got a limit where you’re like, okay, hey, I, you know that song, my love is unconditional. Okay, apparently it has limits and you’ve gone beyond those limits. That’s how we function. Probably the closest thing we have to unconditional love is the love that a parent has for their child. Although we see in culture where that’s not always true, there are plenty of instances where, where parents are terrible to their children. So love, agape love scripturally is unconditional. It’s not dependent upon the object of your love. It’s not dependent upon how they act. It’s not dependent upon if they reciprocate that love back to you. Ornan. It’s unconditional, first and foremost. Secondly, it’s sacrificial. It’s a love that is willing to endure pain and sacrifice on behalf of someone else. So God’s love, his unconditional love is poured out. And the Christmas story that God steps out of heaven and puts on human flesh.

But that unconditional and sacrificial love is represented in the gift of myrrh, recognizing that one day he would die and Jesus dies on a cross for our sins to demonstrate that agape love. Now, what’s fascinating is in verse 18, it goes on to say this, whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already. Now there’s a profound theological statement that’s happening there. It’s saying that what’s the, the basis of where we start Now, we are born into this life condemned. We’re condemned already. Uh, that’s how we just function. Uh, there’s this theology that people talk about hell all the time. Well, how could God send someone to hell? And, and God’s not sending anyone to hell. He’s saving people from hell. People are making that choice on their own self, on their own decision. So we’re born condemned. We’re born separated from God.

We’re we’re born deserving eternal death. But it says that whoever believes in him is not condemned. And it goes on to say, because he is not believed in the name of the only son of God. And this is the judgment. The light has come into the world. Jesus has come into the world and the people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. Here’s what’s fascinating about that word, loved. Guess what Greek word John uses agape, unconditional, sacrificial love. It’s saying that Jesus came as the light of the world showing the way for us to go. But we, the world loved the darkness more than the light. Love that is unconditional love that is sacrificial. You’ve probably seen it in the world around us, that we fall in love with worldly things. We fall in love with sins. We fall in love with pleasures.

We fall in love with addictions and, and that love is not reciprocated back to us. The the world is not loving us back. It’s not an unconditional love. The object is not giving us anything back. And yet we fall in love with it and we pursue it. Scripture tells us Satan came to steal, to kill and destroy. That’s the world that exists around us. It is trying to destroy us. And yet we fall in love with it and we pursue it unconditionally. But agape means we also pursue it sacrificially. It’s easy to see that every every few months. What do we see in the news? We see a famous celebrity that their life was destroyed by addiction. I, I mean, you just like clockwork my whole life. Every few months, that’s what happens. Someone who’s famous, someone who’s rich, someone who has all the things the world would say that you and I want to have.

And yet the addiction slowly starts to destroy their life. It destroys their relationships. It destroys their family that destroys themselves, that God recognizes that we have hearts that trend towards this agape love, this unconditional sacrificial love to the wrong stuff, to a broken world that will ultimately destroy us. And then what does God do? How does he respond? Because of love and grace. God steps out of heaven and the form of a baby to live a perfect life, a sinless life. And then he dies on a cross. He stretches his arms wide and says, I am doing this because I love you. It’s unconditional love. It’s sacrificial love, willing to take the pain and suffering that you deserve on your behalf. You can imagine that when Jesus is a baby and, and Mary is there, uh, we don’t know exactly timing wise. When the magi show up, it’s probably not at the birth.

It’s probably at some amount of time after the birth. And can you just imagine that you’re marry and you have these strangers that they show up from the far east. They’ve traveled a long way to come see your baby. And they say, we brought gifts. And Mary’s probably pretty excited about gifts, man, I could use some more diapers. And man, it would be fantastic if you gave us just some more baby clothes ’cause we’re, we’re out. And so they open up their gifts and it says that the first one is gold. And probably she’s excited about gold. ’cause it’s like, wow. Hey, that’s great. That’s fantastic. That’ll, that’ll be very beneficial. And then they open up the next one. It’s frankincense, an instance used in the temple. And she’s like, okay, that’s unexpected, but great. And then they say, and here’s, here’s some mer you know, for one day when he dies, you’ll have something to embalm him with.

And Mary’s probably scratching her head like, this is the oddest gift I’ve ever gotten from anybody. And yet God wants us to recognize and understand that the story of Christmas is not just about a baby. The story of Christmas is about God becoming a baby, Emmanuel God with us in order that he would die on the cross for our sins. What then is the point of Christmas? John three 16 tells us, for God so love the world that he gave his only son. If you’re a Christian in this room, can I just encourage you, during this Christmas season, we, we can make it so much about the baby that we miss the whole story of Christmas. We can make it so much about all the other trappings of Christmas. Christmas is so unique. It’s the only time you’re aware. We’re just for this whole season.

We, we have specific decorations and we have specific songs, and we have specific clothing that we wear. I can only wear this shirt once a month or one month a year. That’s it. Like the rest of the year you wear this and it’s like, ah, it’s not Christmas today. No other season has clothes that you wear just for that season. So there’s these beautiful, wonderful things about Christmas and they’re all good things, but they can distract us away from the main thing. So if you’re a Christian, I would just challenge you. Don’t get distracted from the purpose. And maybe you’re here and you’re not a Christian. Maybe you’re here and, and you came because we had Chris Toman at church. And your neighbor said, Hey, come check out Now. We’re glad that you’re here. But if you’re not a Christian, can I just challenge you to deeply in your heart, consider the truth of the gospel.

That it’s not just about a baby, it’s about Jesus who came to die in a cross for your sins. And then John 3 16 17, 18, 19, what does it tell us? It tells us that we’ve got to believe we stop putting our trust in our ourself and our love for the world. And instead, we put our faith and our trust in God and in his love for us. So if you’re not a Christian, let me just challenge you. Make today the day that you put your faith into Jesus. Let’s pray. Heavenly Father, I thank you so much for the privilege to come and to worship you during this Christmas season. And I pray that you would just work on each and every one of our hearts on how we should live different because of Christmas. God, we thank you that you sent your son to live and to die for us, for our sins. And we praise your name that Jesus isn’t dead, but he has risen. He has risen indeed. We love you. It’s the name of Jesus we pray. Amen.