“…….They opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, and of incense and of myrrh.” Matthew 2:11b (NIV)
December is a month rich in gift-giving and receiving. Recently, at an Advent event at St. Andrew’s, the following story was shared. It was of a child’s letter to Santa Claus. The letter included a great list of things that the young writer hoped to receive at Christmas. In fact, the list went on and on and on. At the end of the letter, the writer wrote this: “But my mother says Jesus only received three gifts….so would you please pick three things from the list for me.”
We often associate the gifts of the wise men or magi in our celebration of the story of Jesus’ birth. The gospel of Matthew records for us the account of foreign astrologers arriving in King Herod’s palace in Jerusalem. They are looking for a newborn king, whom they identify as “king of the Jews”, based on their study of the night-time heavens and the sighting of a peculiar star that has guided them in an uncharted journey westward. A palace is a logical place to look for a newborn king, gut this palace is not the place of the infant king for whom the magi seek. Instead, they are directed to a small, historic town about five miles away, the birthplace of ancient Israel’s King David. Matthew’s story tell us the magi continue to trust the star’s light as it guides them to a humble home in Bethlehem. Inside that house they find Mary, with Jesus. The magi offer their honour, respect and devotion to the infant, presenting to him the gifts they’ve brought: gold, frankincense and myrrh. It must have been a most unexpected and peculiar climax to the trip for the magi!
The gifts of the magi have long held symbolic meaning in the Christian faith. They are not practical gifts, but symbolic gifts of who Jesus will come to be in the world. The precious metal of gold symbolizes Jesus’ kingship that is not of a political nature but of the hearts and lives of people that transcend the nations and the generations. Frankincense is an incense used in prayers and sacrificial offerings that ritually bring cleansing and healing. In Matthew’s gospel, and the other gospels, we learn of Jesus’ ministry that offers healing and forgiveness to those around him, restoring broken lives into the realm of God’s blessing and acceptance. Myrrh, in the Near East, is often used as a burial spice so foreshadows Jesus’ suffering and death. In Jesus’ faithful and obedient journey to the cross and to death itself, the power of God’s divine love is revealed as the vice-grip of sin and evil are overcome. Jesus hold the promise of newness and new life that is rooted in divine forgiveness, love and well-being.
In this season of gifts and gift-giving, there comes the invitation to us to contemplate what gifts we might bring to the Christ Child, who is for us the gift of God’s love. Might we offer our devotion, as we spend intentional time reading a gospel to learn more of Jesus’ life and teaching and then allowing that learning to guide our lives? Might we offer prayers as we commit to upholding the world and those we love to God’s promise of newness and renewal in our midst? Might we offer generosity as we share what resources we have to help lift burdens experienced by others? Might we offer encouragement as we journey alongside others in the challenges of daily living? What are the symbolic gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh in our lives that are precious and costly, but when given to Jesus can become a part of God’s life-renewing and healing purposes in this world?
I continue to give thanks for the work and witness of the people of St. Andrew’s. Thank you for continuing interest and support….in your presence week by week as we worship and work together, in your prayers, and in your financial support. The challenges are many, but together by God’s grace we can make a difference in our community and the world!
Wishing you God’s richest blessing for Christmas and the undolding days of 2020!
Rev. Marion Barclay MacKay (Minister)