The Wise Men

The Wise Men

An Extemporaneous Sermon by the Rev. James P. Cooper

And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense and myrrh (MAT 2:11).

  1. Christmas is a wonderful time of year:
    1. Special decorations in homes, communities
    2. Special Music
    3. Holiday Plans
    4. And of course, the reason for all these special things is the story of the Lord’s birth on earth.
  2. The story of the Lord’s birth also has many different parts, each with its own response and affections:
    1. Zacharias in the Temple
    2. Angel appearing to Mary
    3. The trip to Bethlehem
    4. The Lord born in a stable, laid in a manger
    5. The visit of the shepherds
    6. The presentation in the temple and Circumcision
      1. Simeon and Anna
    7. The visit of the Wise Men
    8. All these are familiar stories that tell us something about Christmas, that add to our understanding of what really happened when the Lord was born on earth.
  3. For today, we are going to focus on the Wise Men, and their visit.
    1. The Wise Men came from Syria, a country to the North and East of Israel.
    2. Syria was a special place because there were people in Syria who still had the special teachings of the Ancient Church – the Ancient Word.
      1. Science of Correspondences
        1. They were able to see that the holy writing of scripture contained messages, and they were able to understand them.
        2. There were many wise men in Syria who knew, from the ancient texts, when and where to expect the Messiah.
        3. All they had to do was wait to see a special star which would tell them that the exact time was at hand.
    3. The Word says that the Wise Men “saw the star in the East” (MAT 2:2), and this has been the cause of some confusion.
      1. It does not mean they were looking Eastward when they saw the star, for that would have been the wrong direction. (Bethlehem was to the South and slightly West of Syria.)
      2. Rather it means they were in the part of the world known as “the East” when they saw the star.
        1. It says “in the East” because it represents love to the Lord — the state we need to be in in order to receive the Lord.
    4. We may wonder why, if the Wise Men knew so much about the Lord’s birth, did they go to Jerusalem instead of to Bethlehem.
      1. Jerusalem is very near, and on the way
      2. Assumed the king would go there after His birth
        1. Which He did, briefly
      3. Assumed the Jews would be eager for the Messiah
        1. That He would have been eagerly awaited and taken to Jerusalem to begin His reign.
        2. But we see from Herod that the Jews did not want to be ruled by a spiritual king.
  4. The Wise Men followed the star to Bethlehem, to the very house where Jesus was.
    1. Mary, Joseph, and the baby were no longer in a stable, but were in a house when the Wise Men came.
      1. The Word does not tell us exactly what happened, but we can guess that Joseph, being a kind and considerate man, found work as a carpenter in Bethlehem in order to rent a little house for them to live in until Mary and the child were strong enough for the long and difficult journey back to Nazareth.
  5. How many Wise Men were there?
    1. Again, the Word does not tell us.
      1. We know that there was more than one because they are always referred to in the plural.
      2. We accept the tradition that there were three men because the Word tells us that there were three gifts.
        1. Gold — Celestial Good
        2. Frankincense — Spiritual Good
        3. Myrrh — Natural Good
  6. What a wonderful image this story presents:
    1. A simple family — a young carpenter and his wife — in a humble home in a little Judean town, being visited by foreign kings, who bring priceless gifts and who worship their little child!
    2. We call the kings “Wise Men” because they searched the Word to find where the king should be born, they studied the Word in its internal sense to guide them in their search for the king.
  7. If we would be wise, if we want to find the Lord, if we want Him to be the king of our lives, we must do the same thing:
    1. Search the Word using the Internal sense
    2. And guide our own lives according to the truths we find there.
    3. When we look to the Word as our guide, we, like the Wise Men, will see the star in the East, the truth (star) will appear
      1. Because we love the Lord (that means that spiritually we are in the East)
      2. And seek to find Him in the Word.
      3. If we follow the star — the truth in the Word – It will lead us
        1. Over mountains
        2. Across deserts
        3. Through Valleys
      4. Until we, like the Wise Men, will find the Lord in a house (our mind).
        1. Leading us from within
        2. Inflowing with love
      5. When we find Him in our minds, we can then acknowledge Him as our Lord and Savior by giving gifts:
        1. Gold: Celestial Good — love to the Lord
        2. Frankincense: Spiritual Good — love to the Neighbor
        3. Myrrh: Natural Good — Obedience to the Law.
    4. These are the true gifts of Christmas
      1. That we receive life from the Lord, and through our own choices and skills give it back to Him, by giving it to others

And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’ (MAT 25:40) Amen.

1st Lesson:

MAT 1:18-25 (Mat 1:18-25) Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. {19} Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. {20} But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. {21} “And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.” {22} So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: {23} “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.” {24} Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, {25} and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name JESUS. Amen.

2nd Lesson:

MAT 2:1-12 (Mat 2:1-12) Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, {2} saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.” {3} When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. {4} And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. {5} So they said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet: {6} ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, Are not the least among the rulers of Judah; For out of you shall come a Ruler Who will shepherd My people Israel.’” {7} Then Herod, when he had secretly called the wise men, determined from them what time the star appeared. {8} And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the young Child, and when you have found Him, bring back word to me, that I may come and worship Him also.” {9} When they heard the king, they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was. {10} When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. {11} And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshipped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. {12} Then, being divinely warned in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed for their own country another way. Amen.

3rd Lesson:

AC 9293:2,3 2] It is evident from the Word that such things are meant by ‘gifts offered to Jehovah’, as in David,

Sacrifice and gift You have not desired; burnt offering and sin-sacrifice You have not sought. I have delighted to do Your will, O My God. Ps. 40:6, 8.

In Moses,

Jehovah your God, He is God of gods, and Lord of lords, who shows no partiality and does not accept a gift. Deut. 10:17.

And in Matthew,

If you offer your gift on the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, you shall leave the gift there before the altar, and go away. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Matt. 5:23, 24.

From this it is evident that gifts offered to the Lord served to bear witness to things offered from the heart, which are those of faith and charity. ‘Being reconciled to a brother’ means charity towards the neighbor.

[3] In the same gospel,

Wise men from the east came, and they gave gifts to the new-born Lord – gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Matt. 2:1, 11.

Gold, frankincense, and myrrh’ means all forms of the good of love and faith offered to the Lord, ‘gold’ being forms of the good of love, ‘frankincense’ forms of the good of faith, and ‘myrrh’ forms of both in external things. The reason why ‘wise men from the east’ offered them was that among some in the east there remained from ancient times the knowledge and wisdom of the people of old, which consisted in their understanding and seeing heavenly and Divine realities within things in the world and on earth. For it was well known to the ancients that all things had a correspondence and were representative, and therefore had a spiritual meaning, as is also evident from the gentiles’ oldest books and their monuments. This was how they knew that gold, frankincense, and myrrh meant the forms of good that should be offered to God. They knew also from their prophecies, which were those of the Ancient Church and which have been spoken of in 2686, that the Lord would come into the world, at which time a star would appear to them, about which also Balaam, who likewise was one of ‘the sons of the east’, prophesied, Num. 24:17 – see 3762. ‘A star’ furthermore means cognitions or knowledge of internal goodness and truth, which come from the Lord, 2495, 2849, 4697. Amen.


Copyright General Church of the New Jerusalem, 1982 – 2008
Author, Rev. James P. Cooper, M. Div.
Page last modified October 21, 2008

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s