And going into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother, and they fell down and worshipped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered Him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.
Six shopping days until Christmas! That announcement will be dread to some of our readers today. Some of us haven’t shopped at all for Christmas. Others are stumped on what to get people. Some people are really hard to shop for. Hopefully, Jesus is on your list for this Christmas. We’ll get to His gift in a minute.
First, let’s discuss the gifts of the magi. They offered Jesus gold, frankincense and myrrh. There was symbolism in each of these gifts. Gold is the sign of royalty. Kings wore gold apparel. Gold was also a sign of power and value. The powerful people had the gold. Jesus is the King of kings, He is the Almighty God. Gold, therefore, is an appropriate gift.
Frankincense is a sign of divinity. Christ is not only King, but is God. Incense was burned in the temple, as a fragrant offering to God. We still do this in our church. Frankincense therefore is an appropriate gift.
Myrrh prefigures the anointing of Jesus after His death. His Kingship and Lordship is punctuated by humility and sacrifice. The purpose of His Nativity is ultimately His crucifixion and resurrection, His sacrifice for the redemption of humanity. Myrrh, therefore, is an appropriate gift.
In deciding what to bring to Jesus this year, we can model our “gifts” after these three gifts. What can we bring to Jesus as a sign of His Kingship? If He is the King, then we are the servants. Write down on a piece of paper three ways you can be a better servant this year, whether that means serving the Lord directly, or serving someone else in your life. Because when we serve our neighbor, it is as if we are serving God. Write down three ways you can serve better this coming year and check in with that list on a weekly basis.
If Jesus is our Lord and Savior, then our relationship with Him involves prayer and worship, as well as obedience to His commandments. These are part of the journey to salvation, to the grand space, heaven, mentioned in the previous reflection. How can we offer here? First, start by worshipping the Lord on the day on the Nativity. I’m always amazed at how many people do not worship on Christmas. (This year, Christmas falls on a Monday, which means every church will have services Christmas Eve in the morning because it is a Sunday, and will have at least one other service, either Christmas Eve in the evening, or Christmas day in the morning, or both. The evening of Christmas Eve and the morning of Christmas Day are the actual services that will commemorate the Nativity—make sure you go to one of THEM, in addition to Sunday morning, December 24.) What happens after Christmas? Is there a plan for worship for next year? How about prayer? How about Scripture reading? After identifying the three ways you can be a better servant, write down one goal for worship, one goal for prayer and one goal for Scripture reading for this coming year.
For the third gift, let’s talk about the “myrrh” we can bring. The myrrh is connected to the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. One icon we use on Good Friday is the icon of the Extreme Humility, because dying on the cross was an act of extreme humility. So for this gift, write down three ways in which you can be more humble—maybe speaking less and listening more, maybe being more patient or more forgiving, whatever will give you more of the overall posture of humility.
What can we really bring to Jesus for Christmas this year? The answer is OURSELVES. But we don’t want to make this a one-day presentation of ourselves, but something more substantial. When we buy gifts for other people, we decide what to buy, we buy it, we give it and we are done with buying presents until the next birthday or holiday. This is not how we want to offer a gift to Christ. The gift to Christ is a recommitment of ourselves, and because we constantly are seeking new and different ways to do this, for this coming year, focus on how we can offer gold (for Kingship), frankincense (for Lordship) and myrrh (in recognition of His sacrifice) to Christ by writing down some specific gifts you can offer, not just on Christmas, but throughout this coming year.
When the Lord Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, Magi came from the East, and they worshiped God become man. They readily opened their treasures, and they offered Him precious gifts: pure gold to the King of the ages; incense to the God of all; and myrrh to the immortal One, who would die for three days. Come, all nations, let us worship Him who was born to save our souls. (Aposticha, Vespers of the Nativity, Trans. by Fr. Seraphim Dedes)
Personal Reflection Point: What treasures can you offer to Christ?