by Heather Neese


“And they came into the house and saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell down and worshiped Him; and opening their treasures they presented to Him gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh.” (Matthew 2:11)

So often during this time of the year, I get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the season—presents to buy, trees to decorate, memories to create and maintain, celebrations to attend, and food to prepare.  And I do all of this while trying to keep my focus clearly centered on the true meaning of Christmas.  It can most definitely be a whirlwind. At times when all is said and done—when gifts have all been unwrapped, the Christmas dishes are in the dishwasher and put up for another year, and guests have departed—we find ourselves exhausted.

I am certain many of us have asked ourselves, “How do I more effectively make Christ the center of my Christmas?”  

I have pondered this question over the past few days. Because let’s just be honest with each other. Along with the joys of the season, come the harsh realities as well. As I sit here typing, I am overwhelmed by the vast grief I have witnessed or have been made aware of over the past several months:

Estranged family members,

Broken friendships,

Marriages in shambles,

Children in rebellion,

Couples struggling with infertility and loss,

Ongoing illness,

Sudden death of loved ones,

Battles of depression, addictions, and loneliness,

Prayers that seem to be remaining unanswered,

Financial hardships…

And so we do what we do. We string our lights and hang our wreaths. We plan get-togethers and bake our cookies, all the while secretly hoping for a Christmas miracle of some sort—for our own life or for the life of someone close to us. We pray this year will be different, that Jesus will show up in our personal situations, changing them from worse to better.

In Matthew 2:1-10, the magi traveled to Bethlehem to witness the Christ-child’s arrival.  Matthew 2:11 says,

“And they came into the house and saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell down and worshiped Him; and opening their treasures they presented to Him gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh.”

I love the sequence of their response to meeting Jesus for the first time: They saw Him, they worshiped Him, and they blessed Him.  There is so much richness packed into this one small verse.

I think about how much anticipation must have welled up inside the souls of these men as they journeyed so far following a brilliant star to meet their Savior. I wonder if they recalled the following ancient prophecy along their journey…

“He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.  He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.  Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.

Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted.  But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:2-5)

How did it feel to know that the child they were about to lay eyes on was the Promised One? The child they were about to kneel before was the One who would bring salvation and hope for all mankind?

These men from a far away land journeyed miles upon miles to set their eyes upon the One for whom they had expectantly waited. I would venture to guess that these men had known pain and loss throughout their lives in some capacity. I am sure they knew hurting and suffering people. I would imagine that just like us, they had lost hope and allowed discouragement to get the best of them at times. But in the form of a babe in a manger, their hope had come.

He was Immanuel, God with them. He was the promise of the Scripture, the fulfillment of the prophecy. He was, simply put, their deliverance.

Did this mean their pain would disappear?  That hardships would be lessened?  That their life would now be void of all anguish?  It did not.  But I would imagine that looking in the face of the Christ-child gave them a peace and assurance that they would never walk life alone.  They knew Immanuel indeed had come, and as prophecy foretold, He would:

Be acquainted with grief and bear their grief.

Be called a man of sorrows and carry their sorrows.

Be despised and forsaken by men and be pierced on their behalf.

Be wounded to the point of death and be the Healer of the broken.

Scripture tells us the wise men fell down and worshiped Jesus.  The men fell prostrate on the ground before Jesus, overwhelmed by the glory of the Lord.

Upon seeing Jesus for who He is, we cannot help but be overcome with worship. Worship changes our perspective and places Jesus in His proper position of authority and honor. When we worship, we are proclaiming who Jesus is and all He is capable of. When we worship, we are ushering in the presence of God. When we bow down and worship, things happen.

After the magi saw Jesus, they bowed and presented Him with gifts. By this act, they blessed Him.

To bless can be translated to mean, “the bending of the knee” (Strong’s #1288). These men were among the first to experience an encounter with the God Incarnate. The bending of the knee symbolizes our unending trust in Him, our yielding to His greatness. Despite the circumstances some of us may face this Christmas, we can trust Him because He is Immanuel, God with us.

The baby who was born in the manger within the lowly stable all those years ago, is the same Jesus who was pierced for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities. He is the same One who bears our grief, carries our sorrows, and heals our wounds.

So as we make our way into this Christmas season, may we be mindful of the magi.  As we think about that long journey to Bethlehem, may our hearts too overflow with expectancy.  As we take time to worship and bless the Lord this season, may we too have a wondrous encounter with Jesus this Christmas.

Just as the magi did all those years ago, may we see Him, worship Him, and bless Him this Christmas season.  

And as Christmas approaches, may we intentionally look into the face of Jesus, not seeing Him just as a baby, but as the Healer of our soul, our Breath of Life, our Immanuel.

Because Immanuel has come, and He is with us—forever and ever.

Heather Neese


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