A Gift for Christ
December 4th, 1966 @ 8:15 AM
A Gift For Christ
Dr. W.A. Criswell
12-04-66 8:15 a.m.
You are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, you who listen on KIXL. And this is the pastor bringing the morning message. The sermon today is in preparation for one of the dearest and sweetest of all of the seasons of the year. Christmas time is inextricably associated with Christ.
Often, very often, I read articles and I listen to speeches, and the lament is that our tinsel and tinfoil and our merchandising approaches are threatening to take Christ out of Christmas. I do not deny that there is not enough Christ in the nativity celebration, but it would be impossible, utterly impossible, to disassociate Christmas from Christ. However you might try, that is one fear that you need not possess. We can give that one up. As long as there will be Christmas, Christ will be associated with it.
The sweetest part, however, of our Christmas season lies in our intercession for the poor, the lost, the unenlightened, the darkened, the sub-marginal, the forgotten in the earth. And it is highly appropriate that this be so. This is the season that brings to us especially our week of prayer for foreign missions and our Lottie Moon Christmas offering, which is dedicated in their behalf.
Now let’s turn in our Bible to chapter 2 of the First Gospel, chapter 2 of the Revelation—of the First Gospel of Matthew. I’ve really got this revelation in my soul! Matthew chapter 2, and the title of the sermon, as I say, is A Gift for Christ:
Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came magi from the East to Jerusalem,
Saying, Where is He that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen His star in the East, and are come to worship Him.
When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.
And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born.
And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judea: for thus it is written by the prophet, by the prophet Micah,
And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, art not the least among the princes of Judah: for out of thee shall come a Governor, who shall rule My people Israel.
Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, inquired of them diligently what time the star appeared.
And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search earnestly, diligently for the young Child; and when ye have found Him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship Him also. When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the East, went before them, until it came and stood over where the young Child was.
When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. And when they were 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 unto Him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.
A Gift for Christ.
In your study of the word “sacrifice,” what is a sacrifice? In your study of the word “sacrifice,” you will find that the primitive and first word minchah, which is sometimes translated in the Old Testament “sacrifice,” it is sometimes translated in the Old Testament “offering,” but you will find that the word meant “gift.” I read it, for example, “And Eve bare Cain, and again she bare his brother Abel, and Abel was a keeper of the sheep, Cain was a tiller of the ground. And in the process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground a minchah unto the Lord. And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock. And the Lord had respect unto Abel and to his minchah: but unto Cain and to his minchah He had not respect” [Genesis 4:1-5].
As the story began, in this sacrificial offering unto God, on the part of Cain and Abel, the primitive and ancient and first word means “a gift”; sometimes translated “a sacrifice,” sometimes translated “an offering,” a minchah, a gift to God. And as I read this, and as I look at my own heart, and as I think of how all of us are created in the image of God [Genesis 1:27], it is right, it is reasonable, it is natural, it is explicable, when God blessed the fruit of the ground, and when God blessed the increase of the flocks, the first response was, “I shall make a minchah, I shall bring a gift to God.” And that was so in the life of our blessed Lord.
When the Savior was a guest in the house of Lazarus, Mary, and Martha, in Bethany, we are told in God’s Holy Book, that Mary, out of the fullness of her heart, took an alabaster box, one that cost the wages of a whole year, and broke it over the head of our Lord, and the perfume filled the room. And when Judas so objected to the extravagance, imagine taking a whole year’s wages, and wasting it, breaking it over our Lord. Judas objected [John 12:1-5], just as you hear people object to spending money beautifying the church. They would object to a beautiful stained-glass window. They would object to a gracious gift, in an instrument, or the carpeting of the floor. That’s Judas, that’s Judas. “Why should these extravagances be dedicated to Jesus?” That’s Judas! But the fullness of heart is like that: Mary, “Oh, how God in Christ has blessed us,” and out of the overflowing abounding gratitude of her soul, she took that alabaster box of ointment and broke it over the head of our Savior [John 12:3].
It was so in the death of our Lord [John 19:16-34]; Nicodemus just out of the abounding love of his soul, bought one hundred pounds of spices [John 19:39]. Did you ever think of how much that is, one hundred pounds of spices? And as they rolled the body of the Lord in that linen shroud, over, and over, and over again, Nicodemus took that one hundred pounds of spices and rolled it into the linen cloth, over, and over, and over; a gift for Christ.
And Joseph of Arimathea, as you so well know, took his own new tomb and gave it for a resting place for our Lord [Matthew 27:57-60]. Now, that is the spirit that lies back of the beautiful story that I have read. When the wise men, the magi, the Parsee priests came from the East [Matthew 2:1-2], doubtless from India, far, far away; following the star to the manger where He lay [Matthew 2:9-11]; after they worshiped and praised God in humble, devoted, prayerful thankfulness; after they had bowed in prayer; they opened their treasures and gave to the Lord gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh [Matthew 2:11].
GoId: if we were speaking typically, following a typology, we would say that this is in honor of His deity, in recognition of His godhead; gold, a king [Matthew 2:11]. But I shall think of it for this moment in the necessity by which God provided for the little family, the holy family. They were exceeding poor, very poor. If you have ever visited Nazareth and have been told this is where they had there carpenter shop, and this is where they had their little home [Matthew 13:55; Mark 6:1-3], to me, it’s like living in a den, like living in a cave. It is a cave. They were very, very poor, and there awaited them this journey to Egypt that God knew about and could foresee [Matthew 2:13-15]. And in provision for that journey to Egypt, one of the magi, opening his treasures, offered to the Lord gold; in the poverty and need of the family, a gift of gold [Matthew 2:11].
Where is our Lord today, if we sought Him and found Him? Where would we see Him? “Lord, I feel that way,” in my heart. “The Lord has been so good to me.” Said my heart, “Lord, to dedicate a gift to Thee, where shall I find Thee?” Well, there’s an easy answer to that from the Holy Scriptures. Our Lord is incarnate in His people, and our Lord is especially identified with His poor [Luke 6:20-21].
Not speaking dispensationally and theologically, but speaking morally, speaking emotionally, speaking humanitarianly, speaking philanthropically, the story of the gathering of the Gentiles, translated in the King James Version “the nations” [Matthew 25:32], the gathering of all of the Gentiles before the Lord at the great judgment of the Gentiles in the twenty-fifth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew [Matthew 25:31], the Lord says to those on His right hand:
Come, ye blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the earth:
For I was poor, and you ministered unto Me: I was sick, and you visited Me, I was naked, and you clothed Me, I was hungry, and you fed Me.
And these on His right shall say, “Why, Lord, never in my life did I see You. I lived and died, and these eyes never looked upon Your face. When was it that I found Thee naked, and clothed Thee? or when did I ever see Thee hungry, and fed Thee? or when did I ever visit Thee being sick?” [Matthew 25:37-39] And the Lord shall say, “Blessed, blessed ones, inasmuch as you did it unto one of the least of these My brethren, ye did it unto Me” [Matthew 25:40]. Where is the Lord, and where can I find Him? He is identified with His people. He is in incarnate in His people [Matthew 25:31-40].
Do you remember the story of Saul of Tarsus? Breathing out threatening and slaughter against the people of Christ, the Lord stopped him on the journey to Damascus and said, remember that question? “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me?” And no wonder Saul said “Why, Lord, who are You? Persecuting You, ravaging You, Lord who art Thou, why persecutest thou Me?” [Acts 9:1, 3-5a] For the Lord is identified with His people.
Or again do you remember in that sweetest of all confrontations, after the denial of our Savior by the chief apostle Peter [Matthew 26:69-75], the Lord raised from the dead, after they had eaten breakfast by the side of the sea, early in the morning, the Lord turns to Simon Peter and ask “Simon, lovest thou Me, lovest thou Me?’ And Simon says “Yea, Lord; Thou knowest that I love Thee.” And the Lord replies “Then Simon shepherd My lambs, take care of My little ones.” And then the second and third time, “shepherd My sheep, remember My sheep, feed My sheep” [John 21:15-17]. To love Christ is to love His people. To love the Lord is to love His little ones. And how shall I dedicate a gift to Jesus? I have it in my heart to do it. This shall I do; I shall bring to our Lord an offering, a minchah, dedicating it to His people.
R.C. Campbell is over here, we shall remember the Buckner family, so many of them are here this morning, and every morning. You dear children and young people and executives and leaders of our Buckner philanthropies and benevolences, you bring to our church an enrichment beyond anything we could ever return to you. And to give a minchah and dedicate it to you is a high privilege, for it is bringing a gift to Christ. And this Lottie Moon Christmas offering, dedicated to our missionaries, God’s emissaries from the courts of heaven, it is a high and a holy privilege. They open their treasures and gave unto Him gifts, gold [Matthew 2:11]. We must hasten.
The second gift is frankincense [Matthew 2:11]. Now we are going to speak typologically. Always, always, in the Holy Scriptures, always, frankincense, the burning of incense, is a type of the ascending prayers of God’s people [Revelation 8:4]. One of the sermons that I preached in the Revelation was the censers in the great nation, as John looked inside of the courts of heaven, and always the burning of incense, the rising upward is a perfume, a sweet-smelling savor, as Paul calls it [Ephesians 5:2], before the Lord: pleasing God, the prayers of His people [Revelation 8:4].
Do you not remember when the angel Gabriel came to make his announcement of the birth of the forerunner and of the coming of the Messiah the promised King of glory, that there was an aged priest by the name of Zacharias and his aged wife Elizabeth [Luke 1:5-7, 11-13]. We think in terms of old Abraham and old Sarah, he a hundred years and she ninety years, and yet God hath promised [Genesis 17:15-17]. You know I have found that a pattern in the Bible. The Lord is never heard, and we waited for the coming of the Prince from glory these two thousand years. And men say, “Why, there is no personal coming, this refers to a development, it refers to a culture.” Ah no, God had promised!
Sometimes He delays almost beyond what human heart can believe, but the Lord hath promised. There were thousands of years; we don’t know how many thousands of years, from the garden of Eden when that promise was made, the Protevangelium: “The Seed of the woman shall crush the head of the serpent” [Genesis 3:15]. But the day came, and it always and inevitably will come; God will keep His promise.
And the angel Gabriel, from the right hand of the Father in glory, came to make that incomparable and celestial announcement. How did he do it, and when did he do it? And the aged priest Zacharias, a member of the course of Abijah, the eighth of the twenty-four courses into which all of the priests were divided, as they took their turns ministering in the temple [1 Chronicles 23:4-5]; and according to his lot, which was once in a lifetime for the thousands of priests—as his lot was, this one time in a lifetime, he entered into the Holy Place [Luke 1:5-9].
There on one side was the seven-branched lampstand, on the other side was the golden table of showbread. And in front, just before the veil, was the golden altar of incense, and his lot was to lay upon the coals, taken from off the altar, the coals, the burning coals, the frankincense; mystically compounded according to a formula of God. And there it ascended upward [Leviticus 16:12-13], all of the people were outside praying, praying, praying God for deliverance, praying God for the coming King; all the people outside praying [Luke 1:10].
And suddenly there appeared on the right side of the golden altar of incense, the angel Gabriel with the marvelous, celestial and heavenly announcement, “He is coming, the time is at hand” [Luke 1:11-19]; at the hour of prayer [Luke 1:10], at the hour of the burning of incense, at the hour of the daily sacrifice, when the lamb of God was offered up in expiation, in hope [Exodus 29:39]. Think of it. And they offered unto Him frankincense [Matthew 2:11], the ascending prayers of God’s people [Revelation 8:3-4]. And in that story may I take just one thing, as Zacharias exalted the name of the Lord, “and thou, child, shall be called the prophet of the Highest; for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare His ways” [Luke 1:76], now listen, “To give knowledge of salvation unto His people by the remission of their sins, through the tender mercies of our Lord; whereby the Dayspring, the Dawn, the anatolē” [Luke 1:77-78]. You know I think it will be wonderful to name a child anatolē, anatolē, that’s one of the most beautiful words in the Greek language. It means dayspring. It means dawn. It means the bursting of the sun. It means the sunrise, anatolē, anatolē, “Whereby the anatolē from on high hath visited us, to give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace” [Luke 1:78-79].
There are two things. May I so briefly name them? In that exaltation that belonged to the prayers of God’s people, the incense, the rising up of our intercessions; the first one that I name, “To give light to them that sit in darkness in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace” [Luke 1:79]. Psalm 122:6, “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love thee.” As long as that city is torn and crushed and divided and in the midst of frightful bitterness and war, there will never be peace in this earth. “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.”
In my first visit to Palestine, to the Holy Land, I came in from the Israeli side and up to Jerusalem in the nighttime and lodged at St. Andrew’s Hospice, a little Presbyterian hotel; a little Presbyterian mission station. And the next morning was my first sight of Jerusalem. I looked out of the window, facing toward the east, and below me was the valley separating, and there were the walls of the Old City, and the Jordanian Hashmonite kingdom beyond. And just before me, out of the Jaffa Gate, down the valley and right before me ran the Bethlehem road, the road that the wise men followed from Jerusalem to the City of David [Matthew 2:1, 8-11].
But oh, my soul! O God! As I looked out of the window what did I see? The whole area was a no man’s land, and the road had been cut, and it was filled with dragon’s teeth, those little pyramid things to impede the progress of tanks, and barbed wire and debris and litter from the war that had just closed between the Arab and the Jew. And all day long and all night long you could hear the crack of the rifles as they shot from one side of that no man’s land to the other.
And as I looked out the window upon that scene, I thought, “O Lord, when shall peace and rest ever come to this world?” And the answer came so distinct from my reading of the Word of God and from my own sensitive heart. “There will never be peace till the Prince of Peace comes to this earth” [Isaiah 9:6]. There will never be peace for Jerusalem until her King shall come in glory [Matthew 25:31], received and acclaimed by God’s people [Matthew 23:39]; pray for the peace of Jerusalem [Psalm 122:6]. Pray that our King may soon come [Matthew 6:10]. And I haven’t a time to speak, “To give the knowledge of salvation unto His people by the remission of their sins” [Luke 1:77]; the proclamation of the gospel of redemption in the name of our Lord.
Now the third: “And they opened their treasures and gave unto Him gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh” [Matthew 2:11]. Myrrh, myrrh, myrrh, in the typology of the Holy Word, myrrh is a fragrance. It is a spice that was used in the embalming of the dead. In the nineteenth chapter of John, “There came also Nicodemus, which at the first came to Jesus by night, and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight” [John 19:39]. Myrrh, myrrh, “And they brought unto Him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh” [Matthew 2:11]. Myrrh is a symbol, a sign, a type, of the offering of life, sacrificial life unto death, the giving of ourselves to God, myrrh; myrrh, the death of our Lord, the giving of life, the pouring out of Himself [Matthew 27:26-50].
There are many marvelous sacrifices and gifts of God, oh, how many, how many, how very many! But there is one that is superlative that rises beyond all others. The Lord’s stars, and the Lord’s universe, and God’s sun, and the streams, and the hills, and the trees of the fruitful earth all of these are gifts of God. But none could approach, none could approach the gift of God in Christ Jesus [John 3:16; Romans 3:23], pouring out His life unto death for us [John 19:16-30]. And this is God’s incomparable and precious, oh, how earnestly, does the Lord make appeal for our lives, poured out, a sweet savor unto Him [2 Corinthians 2:5].
When I was in Hong Kong, I asked, “Would you take me to Happy Valley? And would you leave me there for just awhile?” So they brought me to Happy Valley in Hong Kong. This is where so many of the missionaries are buried. And especially I wanted to visit the tomb, the grave of the first missionary woman to China, who was a Baptist missionary, and later, when the Triennial Convention divided, a Southern Baptist missionary––her name was Henrietta Hall, married to Lewis Shuck, Henrietta Hall Shuck––and I stood before the tomb and reviewed the things of her life. She was the daughter of a Virginia minister, and away to boarding school, came back for a summer vacation. And in a Baptist camp revival meeting she was converted.
And in reading the life of Ann Hasseltine Judson, she gave herself to be a foreign missionary, and married before she was eighteen to Lewis Shuck. And they were appointed by the Triennial Baptist Convention, when all of the Baptist in the United States were in one convention, she was appointed by the American Baptist Society for foreign missionaries, foreign missions, she and her husband to go to China. And five days after they were married a great throng gathered on a pier in Boston, and the young bride and her young husband boarded the ship. It was to be forever, and never to return. It was not planned in those days for a missionary ever came back. When they left, they left to put their lives on a foreign field. And the great throng waved as the sails filled with the wind that bore them away. It took them a year to arrive, and in 1836 they came to Macao, which is a Portuguese colony near Canton, and there they began their missionary labors.
The first thing that she did, she met a funeral procession of a man, a Chinese man in Macao, and following it to the grave, there was a little boy left behind. And he was weeping, so disconsolate, at the grave of his father, nobody to turn to. And she asked those who were standing around if she might have the little boy. And they were so happy to get rid of him.
And she took the little fellow, her first little child. And a little later as she saw a Chinese girl being sold from one to the other to the other and terribly mistreated, and she asked if she could buy the little girl, and she paid ten dollars for the child. And this began her sweet ministries among those children.
Then in 1844, they went to Hong Kong, and after two years of her sweet ministries in Hong Kong, the trials were so difficult, and without medical help and attention, she suddenly died. And I copied from the headstone I copied these words:
Henrietta, first American female missionary to China, daughter of the Reverend Addison Hall of Virginia, USA. Consort of (married to) the Reverend J. Lewis Shuck, missionary to China, from the American Baptist Board for Missions. She was born October 28, 1817, married eighth of September 1835, arrived in China September 1836. In the prime of life, in the midst of her labors, and in the meridian of her usefulness, suddenly but peacefully she died in Hong Kong, November 27, 1844, age 27.
Then underneath are written these words, “Hallowed and blessed is the memory of the good.”
Myrrh, and they offered unto Him, myrrh, the sacrifice of life unto death [Matthew 2:11]. O dear Lord, bless our people as we follow in the way of these magi, offering to Thee a gift of minchah, a prayer [Matthew 2:11], and please Thee, Lord, our lives [Romans 12:1]. Now we always go beyond the time and this is no different than any other, so we are accustomed to it. But oh, how do you say in so brief a while so much that needs to be said?
Now we must sing briefly, and if you have it in your heart to come, on the first note of the first stanza, come. In this balcony, if we were to close this service before you got down to the front, you just keep on coming, for I dismiss these who lead in our Sunday school, and I do it soon. And the rest of us stay, and there will be plenty of us here to rejoice in your coming. On the first note of the first stanza, giving your life to Jesus, taking the Lord as your Savior, putting your whole life and love in the fellowship of this dear church; a family, or one somebody you, while we sing this hymn, and all of us stay here in prayer for this moment—while we sing this stanza, you come; while we stand and while we sing.