Pastor "T" also preached this Sermon at Farner Presbyterian Church in Farner, Tennessee on New Year's Day.  When Voices Of Hope Evangelistic Team is ministering in Word and Song, their Fire Choir will sing several songs and then lead the Congregation in singing. Since that isn't possible on-line, please click hereand may you be blessed by the song, "We Three Kings."


What Gifts Do You Bring?
Matthew 2:1-12

Good Morning, from the Voices of Hope Evangelistic Team, to all who are reading this message; I welcome each of you gathering by way of the internet. Once again, I praise God as we are able to share His Word all over the world.

I pray everyone had a Merry Christmas and I pray everyone has a Happy and blessed New Year. I pray that every day of the New Year will be filled with the presence of God’s Holy Spirit in your life and that you will experience the Miracles Christ daily. 

Read along with me Matthew 2:1-12 (ESV)
1  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 saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”
3  When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him;
4  and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.
5  They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet:
6  “‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’”
7  Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared.
8  And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.”
9  After listening to the king, they went on their way. 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.
10  When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.
11  And 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 myrrh.
12  And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.

Let’s pray: Father we ask that you enter into our hearts this morning as we begin our journey into a New Year.  We have gathered with friends and family in the past week, perhaps remembering special days or events that are now memories.  Celebrating accomplishments and joys, grieving our losses and separations, we come to you this morning hopeful for the promise of the coming year.

For it is in this time of year that we recognize the coming of the Light of the World into our lives.  As the Magi from the east saw the rising star as their guide, we too will look towards the message of your Son as a light for our path.  As He taught us to love one another above all else, guide us we pray in our search for that endless love. Help us to love even those with whom we disagree.  Give us the wisdom to see your grace in the life of each person we meet.  Let us be the means by which your light shines on our world.

Give us the insight and the strength to bring kindness into our community; into the world around us.  In times of troubles help us to shine your light of Truth and understanding into the world, to bring hope and humility, the presence of your grace to a troubled world. May we be the light of your divine message into the world you have provided us.

We ask this in the Name of Your Son, Jesus, who with his life and teaching showed us the way. Amen.

This is really a great Sunday, its Epiphany Sunday on the Church calendar. When we think about the New Year, there’s always the hope that the New Year will be better than the prior year. If 2022 wasn’t the best year, then there’s the hope, maybe an expectation that 2023 will be better. Often times, we move into the New Year with expectation and anticipation that it will be a good year!

So, with that in mind, what are we going to do to ensure that this will be a great year? How will we seek God? How will we honor God? How will we give back to God so that we can make a difference in the world? How will we show who Jesus is in us? How will we serve God? How will we give of our material or financial blessings? How will we use our gifts in 2023?

I can go on and ask lots of questions about who we are and who we will become this year, but these are questions we all must consider.

Now I know that most of us have not been kept up nights wondering about Epiphany. In literary terms, an epiphany is that moment when one achieves a realization, an awareness or a knowledge of something; a sudden, intuitive perception of or insight into the reality or essential meaning of something, usually initiated by some simple, or commonplace occurrence or experience.

A large number of people have never heard of Epiphany. Epiphany falls on January 6, on the 12th day of Christmas–the day you’re supposed to get 12 drummers drumming and the day we commonly remember the arrival of the Wise Men in Bethlehem.

In Germany and a number of other countries, this is a big event. Children dress up as kings and travel from door to door–much as we do on Halloween–only instead of collecting for themselves, they collect for the poor, remembering that the wise men brought gifts to the poor Christ child.

The more we look into church history, the more we realize that Epiphany in the early church was one of the great feast days–second only to Easter in its importance. The third great feast was Pentecost, another day that has drifted into religious backwaters. And even Easter is greatly watered down today. 

Easter used to be celebrated with an all-night vigil the night before and then the celebration continued on for what was called the “Great 50 Days” ending with a huge blowout on Pentecost. Epiphany, Easter, and Pentecost were the focus of the church. Nobody even thought about celebrating Christmas until the fourth century.

For those who have heard of Epiphany, chances are that you will know it as the day we celebrate the Wise Men coming. The word Epiphany means “manifestation” or “revelation.” So the Wise Men are celebrated on Epiphany because they represented the revelation of Jesus to the Gentiles.

But, in the days when Epiphany was a great church feast, it also celebrated the revelation of Jesus in His first miracle, changing water into wine at Cana–and the manifestation of Jesus as the Son of God at His baptism. Those three things–the Wise Men, Cana, and the Baptism were all lumped together to symbolize the revelation of God in Jesus Christ, and such revelation was cause for great celebration.

A baby that was born in a manger was relatively unimportant, compared with the events that proved to the world who that baby was. The authority of Jesus was validated by the signs He performed–like changing water into wine–by the voice of God and a descending dove at His baptism, and through signs in the heavens that could be interpreted by the Gentiles. Those signs were God’s way of saying, “Hey...this is the guy!” and Epiphany was the church’s way of saying, “We can never be the same again.”

So why doesn’t anything epiph on Epiphany anymore? There may be several answers, but I think one of them is that, for the most part, we no longer expect it. We no more expect God to be revealed in our midst than we expect stores to start giving away merchandise. And because we don’t expect it, we get what we expect.

It's interesting that when we make New Year's resolutions most of them are more self centered in nature. That’s not necessarily bad, it’s just an observation. We might say, we want to lose weight, to get in better shape, to get a new job, to be a better spouse . . . and all those are good things, but many of us don’t have spiritual goals or expectations when it comes to what we want to do in the New Year. They’re me centered as opposed to God centered.

When it comes to God, we try to get God to do what we want, as opposed to doing the hard work of intentionally drawing closer to God. We want God to get us that new job, to help us wake up in the morning with more hair on our head and less wrinkles on our bodies. We want God to take away those bad desires. You all know what I mean?

We demand -- God bless me, God help me be richer, God help me be happier, God give me what I want. We say, I tried, I gave it a week. I prayed for a day and silence from God. And so whenever life doesn't go as we want, we blame God.

If we were to be really honest, many of us believe God exists for us, when in reality, we exist to serve and honor Him. In fact, when Jesus invited people to follow Him, it was costly. Jesus said, "Whoever wants to be My disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross "and follow me."

If we want to be a disciple of Jesus, it's less about us and it's more about Him. And that's why as we move into a new year, in the culture that we live in, a very self centered, selfish culture, I want us to move closer to God, to become more selfless as we follow Jesus; because if we want to follow Him, it's got to be less about us and more about Him.

If we are not careful to allow the fresh breezes of the Holy Spirit to blow across our lives, the future will not be full of exciting new possibilities, positive change and new growth; it will just be more of the same.

As we think about this New Year, I would like to say first of all: God is always doing a new thing. When we live in harmony with a creative God we keep experiencing new things, and discover that we are constantly growing in new ways.

Growth is a principle that God has built into the universe. He loves doing things in new ways. He says in (Rev.21:5)., “See I am making everything new”

That is the exciting thing about knowing God. The Lord spoke through Isaiah the prophet saying, (Isaiah 43:18-19) “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing”.

What a thrilling God we serve. How exciting to be at the point where we sense that God wants to do new things with our lives, and in our life as a church. How wonderful it is to walk with Him.

But letting God do a new thing in us is sometimes threatening. And even when we want to experience what God has for us it is not always easy. How many of us know what it is like to be determined and resolved to change some things then see our resistance shattered, maybe the same day?

The problem is that we are soon overcome by old habits and forget our resolutions, and our resolve goes out the window. Turning over a new leaf seldom affects us in a lasting way. What we need is not inspiration, but transformation.

We need a change in our lives that comes from God. What every person needs is something that will permanently affect their life situation, things, which will truly satisfy the longings, the needs, the aches of life, things that will bring true and lasting change.

The second thing we need to realize is: Only God can bring about real change. We cannot do this by ourselves. We need something beyond us. That “something” is a Someone. That Someone is Jesus and His Holy Spirit dwelling in us.

During His life here on earth He never left people the same. He always affected them permanently. They either became devout disciples, or dangerous enemies, but they were forever different. They either permitted Him to help them or claimed they did not need Him. But to those who allowed Him, He made them new people.

The early church was a church full of excitement and expectation. They anticipated the return of Jesus at any time, and the persecutions which they endured forced them to be aware of their faith and sometimes to die for their faith.

Many of us today have lost that sense of excitement and expectation. In the early church, the point of Epiphany was not to remember history, but to be reminded that God appears miraculously to us in places and in ways that we don’t expect. If we keep remembering that God seems to thrive on unexpected appearances and if we keep expecting to see God everywhere we turn, we are not too likely to miss it when it happens.

The wedding at Cana was crowded, but only a few were aware that Jesus had worked a miracle in their midst. Most weren’t paying attention, except to realize that the wine was flowing again. They weren’t watching and they missed an event that people have talked about over the past two thousand years. 

Bethlehem was so full of people that Mary and Joseph couldn’t even find a room to spend the night, but there is no indication that more than a handful paid any notice to the new life that changed all of history.

If we want anything to epiph in our lives, we had better begin by expecting it and watching for it. If 
you are expecting company in your home, you are not going to miss their arrival, unless they are purposely sneaking up on you. You have made preparations for their coming, fully expecting to see them, and always keeping an ear out for the doorbell and an eye out the window. Yet how many of us expect God in that way? Do we prepare for God to come? For that matter, have we even issued an invitation?

How many times do we prepare for our day by asking God to be revealed in our co-workers, in the traffic on the way, in our housework, in our children, in the clients we deal with? How many times do we prepare for church by asking God to speak to us in the music, in the sermon, in the others in the congregation? How many of us honestly, truly expect a real, life-changing encounter with God when we enter these doors? 

If we don’t expect God to appear or to speak or touch our hearts; if we’re not looking for God at every turn and listening for God in every voice, chances are we’ll be as clueless as the guests at the wedding or the people in Bethlehem when God finally appears.

If we’re looking, the signs of God’s presence are all around us, as much outside the church as inside. God is there in the trees and mountains and the deer and the geese, the birds feeding on our feeders and even the squirrels. God is in the delivery room and the funeral home. God is in 
the face of the homeless man and in the face of the child. God may just be sitting beside you in the 
pew or might call on the phone this afternoon.

We all meet God in different ways and at different times and places in our lives. The message of Epiphany is that the revelation of God is talking about more than a one-shot deal. It’s not that Jesus came once and that was that. 

Come Easter morning, all bets were off...the tomb was empty and God was on the loose. He appeared and disappeared out of rooms. He was now here on the beach having breakfast and now there walking with disciples who had no clue who they were talking to.

The message of that God is not dead, dried out, and stuffed into your Bibles somewhere. God is alive and kicking and epiphing here, there and everywhere in the hopes that somebody will experience Him. 

The God who was made manifest in Jesus of Nazareth, lives and was made manifest some- where, somehow in your home this very morning. The God that was calling to you in our last hymn, the God that will be revealed right after the service in the parking lot. The message of Epiphany is, “Keep watch!” For you don’t know the day or the hour when God will appear.

One of the most appealing Christmas stories is that of Amal and the Night Visitors. The three wise men are on the way to Bethlehem, and they come to the home of a poor woman who has a little boy named Amal. Amal is crippled; he could not walk without his crutch.

One evening their humdrum existence was interrupted by a loud knocking at their door, and his mother said to Amal, “Go see who is at the door.” He went, and he came back and said, “Momma, a king is there.”

She lashed him with her tongue for exaggerating so much and sent him back to the door, and he came back the second time. He said, “There are two kings out there.” He was in big trouble by then. So for a third time she sent him to the door, and he said, “Momma, there are three kings out there.”

Eventually the three wise men were invited in. After much conversation about collecting gifts for the baby Jesus, Amal’s mother wished she had something to send but she was very poor. Amal, sensing what was happening, sensing he had nothing at all to send but wanting to send something, decided, “I will send my crutch.” The one thing that was indispensable to him, he was going to give away. So he lifted up his crutch and gave it to the wise men.

He gave what he had; he gave it personally; he gave it completely. And then a miracle occurred. His mother noticed first that he could walk now. The giving away of the most valuable treasure that Amal had was the very thing that freed him from the need of having to use it.

While they are often referred to as kings, it is probably more likely that they were astrologers familiar in some way with the coming of the Messiah.

They may have been descendants of some who had even come into contact with the Messianic prophecies during the Babylonian captivity of the Nation of Israel some centuries prior to the birth of Christ.

Whatever their background; they were wise men from the East who were provoked to action by a star which signaled Christ’s birth. They came to worship at the feet of the new King, each bearing a uniquely valuable gift.

This morning I pose to you this question – What gifts do you bring to the King?

The Magi came before Jesus bearing gifts of incredible value. God has placed gifts of incredible value inside of each one of us. Just as the Magi brought gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, each of us bears unique and valuable gifts for the Kingdom of God.

Our calling from God is to share whatever gifts we have in common for the benefit of the mission of the community of faith. I’m terribly afraid though that many believers today do not recognize what that mission is.

The mission of the church is twofold; to edify the saints and to share the love of Christ with this World, which is in desperate need of hope.

I Corinthians 12:25-27 reads, “so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it.” (NASB)

We are all members of one body and our gifts – whatever they may be – are meant to serve one another so that the love of Christ may shine brightly in, around, and forth – from the fellowship that we share together.

Sometimes we mistake our gifts. How often do we bear gifts as though they are burdens? How often do we lock away our treasures for fear of loss?

A lack of confidence in our ability to serve God with our gifts reflects much more than simply a lack of confidence in ourselves; it reflects a lack of understanding of the true nature of the power of God to enable us.

Acts 1:8 the words of Christ are recorded, “but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” (NASB)

We have at our disposal the power of God within us. As followers of Christ we are given the matchless opportunity to experience the extraordinary power of God working in and thorough us.

D.L. Moody once wrote, “God commands us to be filled with the Spirit, and if we are not filled, it is because we are living beneath our privileges.” O, that it might not be said of us that we lived as paupers while being children of the King!

1 Corinthians 14:26 reads, “What is the outcome then, brethren? When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification.” (NASB)

Each of us has unique gifts that are meant for building up one another and for the building up of the kingdom of God. No matter how young or old you may be, regardless of how rich or poor you are, and absolutely independent of your rung on the social latter, each of us has a distinct purpose and function for the Kingdom.

What is even more powerful than that is the fact that we don’t have to rely on our own strength to use those gifts. We have been blessed with the very presence of God within us to enable us for every good work.

We have been given the gift of grace. It’s not that we need to earn God’s favor; No! What I am speaking of today is something far greater than that.

We have been invited to be “Kingdom Builders” on a mission to share the love of God and in so doing – build the very kingdom of God. Ours is a holy task of participation in the plan of God by the power of His Holy Spirit within us.

So, again, I ask you the question, “What gifts do you bring to the King?”

We have been given the incredible opportunity to partner with the very God of the Universe in building His Kingdom. The call of Christ is a call to action! Just as the Magi saw a distant star and followed it to the King of Kings – so too God has given us a sign of His coming and a call to action.

Earlier in this message I told you of a boy who gave the only thing of value that he had to the Magi to bring to the King.; A crippled boy who was willing to give the most valuable thing he had – his crutch – as a gift to Christ. The story continues that as a result of his generous offer, he was healed. 

The message is clear. It is in sharing our most precious gifts that we find healing.

It is in loving others – it is in sharing our gifts – that we become free to receive the most precious gift of all – the grace, love, and mercy of Christ in our own lives.

This morning, I encourage you to recommit yourself to looking for ways to shower gifts upon the King as you fulfill His command to let Him love others through you!

Why not let God epiph in our life. Make space in our life to have a real encounter with God. It might be here; it might be anywhere...but expect that it will happen. Get up in the morning wondering where it will come and go to sleep listening for God’s voice. 

A New Year is like a blank book, and the pen is in your hands. It is your chance to write a beautiful story for yourself. We’re supposed to let go of the past and start off new. We’re supposed to forgive all those who have hurt us and be open to new relationships, with open arms. That is why it is called the ‘New’ Year. May every one of you have a Happy and blessed New Year expecting to hear God and be open to receive. God will epiph in us. I promise, in Jesus’ Name. 


Lord Jesus, fill us with Your Holy Spirit.  Lead us in Your truth and show us Your Way.  Keep our eyes open to the opportunities You lay before us to love someone to life in Jesus.  Give us the courage to act.  Help us see our place in Your Kingdom and Your plan to use our life to lead others to You.  In Your holy name I pray.  Amen.