Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015, has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany”: “https://amzn.to/2t1rXwh and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.” https://amzn.to/2WAcfG0
Then opening their treasures, they offered Him gifts—gold, frankincense and myrrh. Matthew 2:11
Good morning Prayer Team!
The Magi did not come empty-handed to visit the Christ-child. They brought Him treasures, gifts that they considered valuable, gifts that befit the “king” they were coming to visit. They presumably brought these treasures from their homelands. There wasn’t a Walmart or a mall in Bethlehem. So they had not only the burden of purchasing a gift, they had the burden of transporting and safeguarding the treasures they were carrying. These gifts were going to be special gifts indeed.
These gifts were carefully selected with Christ in mind, gifts that befit a king. The gifts they offered were three:
Gold—From nearly the beginning of time, gold and precious metals have held great value. This is why kings wear a gold crown, as a sign of their kingship, their authority, their power. Gold is representative of Christ’s Kingship on earth.
Frankincense—Incense was burned in the temple, and is a sign of divinity. The Magi were the first to recognize the divinity of Christ in presenting Him with this gift.
Myrrh—The purpose of Christ coming to earth was to die for our sins. Remember the swaddling clothes, the burial bands which prefigured the burial of Christ? Myrrh was used with other spices in anointing the bodies of the dead to prepare them for burial. Myrrh is presented to Christ prefiguring His death and burial for our sakes.
When we offer gifts, whether to God or to one another, we should follow the example of the Magi. We should offer gifts that are meaningful. The gifts offered to the Christ-child represented material things (gold), spiritual things (incense) and purposeful things (myrrh). These provide good parameters in our giving of gifts to each other, and especially to God.
Let’s discuss our gifts to one another. We should give to one another in a material way, whether this is an outlay of resources to buy a gift, or an outlay of time to assist each other in some way. This is the “gold” we give to one another.
We should give to one another in a spiritual way. The gift of prayer is something that we can’t put a price on. It is even more valuable than “gold.” After all, what could be a greater gift to offer someone than speaking to our God about him or her? When someone says to me “I pray for you every day,” that is the greatest gift of all, the greatest possible gift I can receive. Prayer is the “frankincense” we can offer each other.
Without a purpose, there is no point to anything. Without a purpose to this life, there is no point to it. The purpose in this life is to reach everlasting life. Thus the purpose of every marriage is mutual salvation. That is also the ultimate purpose of every close friendship. That doesn’t mean we need to make the basis of every conversation, every outing to a sports event, and every meal we share a discussion on spiritual things. But it means that cultivating things like the fruits of the Spirit in our relationships is important, because it is ultimately these fruits and other spiritual things that lead us to our ultimate destination, salvation. So, when you offer forgiveness, this restores love. When you offer encouragement to others, this leads them to a greater sense of joy. When you help others reduce stress, this promotes peace. When you aren’t always nagging, that promotes patience. When you do things without being asked, that promotes kindness. When you are optimistic, that promotes goodness. When you are humble, that promotes gentleness. When you put Christ at the center of a relationship, this promotes faithfulness. And when you don’t tempt people or goad them into gossip or other unhealthy choices, this promotes self-control. Offer any of these gifts to anybody and these gifts of purpose will not only grow a friendship or a marriage, but the will help get closer to our ultimate purpose, salvation. Purposeful gifts are the “myrrh” we can offer each other.
Lord, I have cried to You; hear me. Hear me O Lord. Lord, I have cried out to You; hear me. Give heed to the voice of my supplication when I cry to You. Hear me, O Lord.
Let my prayer be set forth before You as incense, the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice. Hear me, O Lord. (Sung at the Vespers of the Nativity, Trans. Fr. Seraphim Dedes)
Make sure you are “wrapping” some “spiritual” and “purposeful” gifts to give away this Christmas!
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The Orthodox Christian Network (OCN) is an official agency of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops. OCN offers videos, podcasts, blogs and music, to enhance Orthodox Christian life. The Prayer Team is a daily devotion written by Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis, the parish priest at St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, Florida. Devotions include a verse from scripture, a commentary from Fr. Stavros, and a short prayer that he writes to match the topic.
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