On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Matthew 2:11T
Messengers of faith come to us in all shapes and sizes and surprise us with their gifts and their message. As we journey along our paths of faith, it is important for us to keep our eyes and ears open that we may perceive the gifts of good news being proclaimed—and believe it!
We have just been through a season of gift giving with family and friends around the Christmas tree, and now we enter into the season of Epiphany where the Christ child is revealed to the whole world as the most precious gift of God to all of humanity. The news of Jesus birth was revealed to shepherds out in the field and to Wise men from a far Eastern land, not the political authorities in Jerusalem, the Pharisees, Scribes, Sadducees or priests. Unlike the wise men, these didn’t welcome the news that a King of the Jews had been born in Bethlehem. In fact, it frightened and threatened them to hear that news.
The magi arrived at the home where Jesus and Mary were and they did not question whether Jesus “needed” their gifts. They did not comment on how humble or how exceptional his dwelling was. They did not ask to see his birth certificate, they did not inquire about his lineage, nor did they ask to see his green card. They simply knelt before Jesus and offered him their gifts of wisdom and indulgence: “Gold, for a king; myrrh, for one who was mortal; and incense, for a God.” These gifts show that the magi “get” Jesus. They understand who he is and who he will grow up to be; and they have made this long journey to honor him. This is the message Matthew gives to help us identify and bring to our reality who Jesus really is.
The symbolism of the gifts those wise men bore doesn’t have to be explained to us, for we recognize that he represents a different kind of royalty (gold) than the world is accustomed to, we know the divinity of that new born babe (frankincense), and we also know that he was destined to die a most unusual death (myrrh). The gifts foretell truths about the Savior born to us in Bethlehem. They open our eyes to help us see a Savior who came to die for us and forgive our sins. This is our first Epiphany that will show us who Jesus is and what kind of King he is.
We move from a season of indulgence and gift giving that has been loosely connected with the incarnation of God, to honoring, not ourselves, but God who has come into the world to give us new life. I wonder what gifts we will bring to the King of kings as we journey with Christ this year.
- Through the season of Epiphany and the rest of the year, how do we honor our Lord? What gifts do we bring to Him? Why do we give them, to honor ourselves or Christ Jesus?
- Through our gifts, are we testifying who God is to others?
- How will we honor Him?
Rev. Sue Beall – National Lutheran Secretariat Spiritual Director