We are a little over a week away from Christmas and I’m sure some of you are stressed by the fact that you have not purchased gifts for all those on your Christmas list. I would guess that some of those who are still on the list are those who are difficult to buy for. I think people are difficult to find a gift for because of one of these three reasons:
- They are people that don’t seem to need anything.
- They are people we don’t know really well (like teachers and co-workers)
- They are people you don’t really want to buy for to begin with
Bill Vaughn says, “The ideal Christmas present is money. The only trouble is, you can’t charge it!”
The famous pundit “Anonymous” has said, “There are generally two kinds of Christmas presents: the one you don’t like and the ones you don’t get.”
None of us want to get or give gifts that fall into either of those two categories. As a way of stimulating our thinking about gifts . . . and to remind us of the person who is to be honored above all at this season it seems best to focus on the most famous gift givers of all . . . the gifts of the Magi.
The Gifts of the Wise Men
I was read this week about a pre-school teacher who was reading the story of Jesus’ birth to her day-care center children. She stopped to see if they understood and asked,
“What do we call the three wise men?”
“The three maggots,” replied a bright five year old.
“What gift did the Magi bring baby Jesus?” she corrected.
“Gold, Frankenstein, and Smurfs!” the same 5-year old replied.
The truth is we don’t know a great deal more about the Magi than this child did. It is easier to list what we don’t know than what we do.
-We don’t know how many there were. Tradition says three because of the three gifts. It may have been more. The entourage was certainly bigger than three people.
-We don’t know their names. Tradition says that their names were Gaspar, Mechior and Balthazar but that’s purely tradition.
-We don’t know where they came from other than that they came “from the east”.
-We don’t know when they arrived to see Jesus. It was somewhere before he was two years old and sometime after he was born.
The two things that seem to be spotlighted are that 1) these men came from afar to honor Christ. 2) They brought him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Now why would the gifts be noted and none of those other details. I think it was because the gifts honored Christ in three distinct ways.
The gift of gold acknowledged the Kingship of Christ
Gold was a gift that denoted royalty, authority, and power. If you have ever toured the palace of a King in Europe you will find that these palaces are often steeped in gold. It is a gift befitting a ruler.
The gift of frankincense acknowledged the Priestly Ministry of Christ
Frankincense was used in the offerings in the temple. They added a fragrant aroma to the sacrifices. Frankincense also was added to the oil that anointed the priests. The incense added a dimension of beauty to the worship. Women understand this. They know that just the right amount of perfume can enhance their beauty.
The gift of myrrh acknowledged the Sacrificial nature of Christ
Myrrh is an interesting gift. In the Old Testament we see it used as a fragrance. In the New Testament we see it used in two different ways. In Mark 15:23 we see that Jesus was offered wine mixed with myrrh while he was on the cross. He refused . . .why? It’s because myrrh had a medicinal use as a mild anesthetic.
In John 19:39 we see Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea preparing Jesus for burial using a mixture of aloes and myrrh.
Myrrh points to the sacrificial death of Jesus. Now I don’t for a moment believe that these Magi understood the significance of these gifts. But they were designed by God to carry a symbolic meaning.
The Present Question . . . What Can We give the Savior?
It is right and appropriate to honor Christ at Christmas. But what do you give the one who made and owns everything?
- We can give him something from the heart
In Genesis 4 we read the story of Cain and Abel. In this story Abel the livestock owner brings a prize animal and presents him as a sacrifice before the Lord. Cain, the farmer, brings a portion of the firstfruit of his harvest. God is pleased with Abel’s offering but not Cain’s. Why?
There are lots of speculations but I think Hebrews 11 makes it clear that Cain gave with the wrong attitude. It may be that Abel gave with a desire to honor and worship God . . . Cain gave out of a sense of obligation.
Whatever you do to honor Christ this Christmas make sure it is from the heart- an honest desire to honor and worship the Lord.
- Give Him Something of Value
All throughout the Old Testament we see the people commanded to give: the best animal, the first portion of the harvest, 10% of all that God has given them. In each of these cases it is something valuable.
In our society two of the most valuable things we have is our money and our time. Perhaps this Christmas you can make an extra donation to your church or some Christian ministry. Or maybe you can give your time in serving as a volunteer or helping with repairs or in some other way in the church or in your community.
- Give Him something Personal
In Romans 12:1 we are encouraged to give our bodies as a pleasing sacrifice. Obviously we are not being told to kill ourselves. We are being asked to give ourselves. One of the best gifts we can give to our children is to give them undivided attention. Perhaps a similar gift would be appropriate for the Lord.
Maybe you can give time each day to prayer or study. Maybe you can plan a spiritual retreat, start a daily journal, take aim at a wicked habit, find a quiet place to sing songs and worship to the Lord.
- Give Him something symbolic
In Matthew 25 people are commended or condemned based on how they showed love to Christ. This love was shown in how we dealt with “the least of the brothers.” We show God love when we treat those around us in a loving way. So this year maybe you can:
- mend a quarrel
- extend forgiveness
- sit with one who is lonely
- take a long lost friend to dinner
- tell someone you love them
- bake some cookies anonymously
- give someone a second chance
- find a way to life a burden
- play some music during dinner
- give parents a night off by babysitting their children . . . for no charge.
The point of all these suggestions is that it is easy for us to forget the guest of honor this Christmas. It is too easy to get so wrapped up in the activity that we forget the Savior.
Friend, how do you plan to honor Jesus this Christmas? Is He still on your Christmas list?
-is it because He is so big that you don’t know what to give Him? Any gift that expresses sincere love is priceless. Tell me, would you trade that piece of “art” your child made for you in kindergarten for anything in the world? Of course not, it’s precious. Your gift, will be loved by the Lord if it is given in the right spirit.
-is it because you don’t know the Lord? There is no time like the present to change that. Why not use this Christmas to declare your trust in the Lord’s provision, Jesus, for your salvation. Make this the Christmas you bow at the manger and honor the one who alone can save you from sin.
-is it because you don’t really want to honor him? If that’s the case my friend, you don’t understand Christmas at all. The commercial has pushed the message from your heart. Jesus has come into the world because He wanted to relate to you. He wanted to stand in your place and pay the price for your sin. It’s time to drop the resentment. He loves you, don’t push Him away.
As you buy, wrap, give and open during the next couple of weeks, it’s my prayer that you . . .and I, will remember that Jesus is the center of our celebration . . . and not only remember it, but demonstrate it.