Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh
Merry Christmas everyone! Yesterday my family and I drove to Barrie to surprise my sister on her birthday (which she was very surprised!) and then we went to the Vox Christmas Coffee House, something we have looked forward to each Christmas for the past seven years! Each year, people are invited to offer their gifts and talents, music, dance, poetry, art and even animation, in celebration of Christmas!
This year, when the invitation went out, my first thought was about gifts and then the three Wise Men, or Magi as some people call them. Since I was a child, I have been fascinated by the Magi. I remember playing with my moms nativity scene and carefully placing the wise men in their spot, just to the side, the angels on the other side and Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus in the middle. When I was talking to my mom the other day I asked her if she still had the camel that went with the set, and she did! She actually gave me the camel and the rest of her nativity scene to have. She also reminded me that the camel actually belonged to my Nana and she brought it back from her trip to Israel, the Holy Land 40+ years ago.
I don’t consider myself a very good gift giver. My sister though, now she knows how to give gifts and loves to! And she passed that along to my oldest daughter. They are generous and thoughtful and would never miss an opportunity to give something to someone else. It comes very easily to them. I on the other hand, have to work at gift giving. I think it has something to do with our differing love languages - gift giving and receiving are definitely my sister and daughter’s love language, my love language on the other hand is quality time. It’s a different kind of gift, the gift of time and presence. It’s a bit harder to wrap.
As I read the story of the Magi in Matthew chapter 2 again this year, thinking also about the Shepherds who visited baby Jesus, it occurred to me that the gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh were not quite as profound as tradition might lead us to believe. In the Message translation, it says when the Magi found Jesus, they were “overcome and kneeled down in worship. Then they opened up their luggage and presented gifts: gold, frankincense and myrrh.” These were common things to have at that time. Gold was the currency. Frankincense and myrrh don’t just smell good, they each have been used as medicine, for digestion and even pain. They are probably something they would normally keep with them, especially on a long trip to a foreign land. The last time we went to Mexico, I made sure I packed Pepto Bismol… just sayin’.
The thing is, it’s not like there was a gift registry at Babies R Us. The Shepherds didn’t get an invitation to a baby shower and neither did the Magi - they simply saw a strange star in the sky, which according to their legends, meant a King had been born, but they had no guarantee the legend was true. They travelled a long way before they had any confirmation they were on the right track.
The Shepherds and the Magi arrived at the manger, just as they were and could only offer what they already had.
I learned something about this over the past year through The Butterfly Project. I’ve really had to lean into what I thought were inadequacies - I doubt the Shepherds were feeling self-conscious as they approached the long awaited Messiah. And I’m positive the Magi didn’t second guess their decision to offer the new born King and His parents some creature comforts.
Maybe I’m a better gift-giver than I thought. As I have been reflecting on this past year, I am humbled by the generosity of those who have supported me and grateful for your encouragement! I have really learned this year to bring to the table what I already have.
Whether it's a family heirloom like my moms nativity scene, something you buy in a store, a gift of time, artwork or eggs from your backyard chickens, the gift of YOU is the best gift anyone could receive.
I pray you and your family will be full of the Spirit of Christmas and that the knowledge of your worth in His eyes will grow exponentially in the year ahead.