Bringing our Gifts to the Christ Child

January 13, 2014

This morning, we finally we come to the Feast of the Epiphany: Kings; Gold, frankincense, and myrrh. This is certainly one of the coolest parts of the Christmas story. I think it’s easy to see why this passage is so popular. We’ve got these mysterious figures – the Magi. Already this is interesting; none of the translations seem to do this word justice. Usually in Scriptures, Magi are not good people. They are sorcerers and astrologers. People that God usually doesn’t like. But these people have recognized something about Jesus that even his own people cannot yet see. These magi follow the star, and they stumble into Jerusalem. Then, they stir up a small court intrigue. Finally, they find the Christchild in Bethlehem, and then they are warned in a dream by God, so they slip away into the desert. It’s a great story. With the Wise Men, we get the message that Jesus is to be the Christ for all people, and his light will shine out across the world, and not just for one people.

It’s also a wonderful story for us to imagine ourselves in. Many Christmas poems and songs reflect on what we might bring the Baby Jesus as our gifts. This morning, I’d like us to reflect on these three gifts mean: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. What does it mean that they brought these three gifts, and what do these gifts reveal to us about the one who we try to follow. If we were the ones bringing these gifts, what would it mean about how we would need to change our lives?

First: gold. Gold is the gift for a king. Too often, I suspect we gloss over this one. We think to ourselves – gold for the King of kings and Lord of lords – and we don’t stop to think about the implications of the idea that Jesus is our King. What do kings do? To put it simply, kings are in charge. They exercise complete political authority over their kingdom. They make laws, and they establish the standards of behavior for their subjects. As Christians, the implication is that our public selves should be governed by Jesus and by his law. This means that we are supposed to act both as citizens of our country and our community, but we are also supposed to remember that our final citizenship is in heaven with Jesus as our king. We work, we shop, we pay our taxes, and we even vote as subjects of Jesus our king. Recognizing Jesus as our king should have real world implications for how we order our lives.

Second: frankincense, a gift given to a god. In some ways, this gift is easier to grasp than the gold was. With this gift, we recognize that Jesus is the Son of God, and worthy of worship. If the gold reminds us that we give our public selves over to Jesus, then the frankincense reminds us that we also need to give our interior selves over to Jesus. We order our hearts toward him. We follow his spiritual laws – the laws of forgiveness and love. We look to extend this love to all of God’s children, so that all can find true fulfillment.

Third: myrrh. This is the gift that foretells that Jesus will be the sacrifice for all creation. This gift is perhaps the most significant. This gift recognizes that – whether we live up to the other two gifts or not – Jesus came to release us all for our sins and to restore each one of us to the love of God. In this gift is the heart of our response to Jesus. We are called to repentance, humility, and gratitude. At Christmas, we often talk about the gift of Jesus – God’s only Son. But we often gloss over the reality that the gift is Jesus’ life given freely on the cross so that we might all be united to the true life of God.

These were the three gifts the Magi brought, and they reflect the three kinds of offering that we continue to make as Christians today – sometimes we do a better job and sometimes worse. The hallmark of the Feast of the Epiphany is the Star that led the Magi to the child Jesus in Bethlehem. And so we think about this feast as the reminder that Jesus is the light to all the nations – that all people are welcome in his household. And we also remember, through the gifts of the Magi, that being followers of Jesus means that when we order our hearts and our lives toward him, we can be a way that God’s light continues to shine in the world today.

– Michael Tuck+

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