The gift of the Magi to us
Last night, I found a cute poem at a friend’s house that I must share-
“What would have happened if it had been three Wise Women instead of three Wise men? They would have asked directions, arrived on time, helped deliver the baby, cleaned the stable, made a casserole, and brought practical gifts.”
Ladies everywhere will see the truth in this witty poem while men everywhere will deny it! LOL!!
But seriously, the wise men are an important part of the Christmas story- although nowhere in scripture does it saw there were 3 wise men- just three gifts which is why the number has been assumed. The word “Magi” is a Persian word for men who were experts in the study of the stars. Got to stop there and point out that Daniel was a part of the Persian Empire back in its heyday. He was taken captive form his native Israel and found himself serving the kings Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, and Darius. His refusal to turn his back on God landed him in the lion’s den where he was a great witness for God. I say all that to point out that hundreds of years later, his godly influence in Persia was still felt as the Magi sought the King of the Jews.
By the time the Magi appeared on the scene, Jesus would have been up to 2 years old. I know the nativity plays at Christmas show the wise men arriving after the shepherds but that is for the sake of time. So, how do we know this?
“On coming to the house, they saw the child.” V11
Not a stable but a house- Joseph had upgraded from the stable. Then there is Herod’s slaughter of the Bethlehem babies 2 years old and younger.
“Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star appeared.”
Eventually, the Magi found their way to the house where Mary, Joseph, and Jesus lived. Apparently, the star they had been following was lost to them for awhile which was why they stopped in Jerusalem to get directions from Herod. As they got back on track, the star reappeared.
“The star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.” V9-10
I happen to love my NIV version of the Bible but there are times that the traditional KJV I grew up on still calls out to me. I love the KJV of v 10- when the wise men saw the star they rejoiced “with exceeding great joy”. Then-
“They bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh.” V11
Their gifts were very costly and significant. The gold symbolized the fact that Jesus was a king. Gold was very expensive so kings surrounded themselves with much to represent their position. Next came the incense. One of the jobs of the priests was to keep the incense burning in the temple. Jesus is our high priest so the frankincense represented his position. Last came the myrrh symbolizing the price Jesus would pay to redeem us- death. In John 19:39, myrrh was brought by Nicodemus to use in preparing the body of Jesus for burial. Interesting- the myrrh went full circle- a gift at his birth, a gift at his death.
The gift of Magi was not to the Christ child alone but to us also. The gift the Magi bring to us is the lesson they taught us by their example. Two things stand out from their story that we can apply to our lives. First- their joy. The scripture doesn’t just say they were pleased to find the Christ child. No, they were overjoyed! They rejoiced with “exceeding great joy”. Paul writes- “rejoice in the Lord and again I say rejoice!” Have we lost the joy of our salvation? Has worshiping God and attending church become something we do because we always have done it? Have we slipped into a routine? Are we going through the motions? If so, let’s look at the example of the Magi and listen to the words of Paul and get some excitement back in our worship!
Second- the gifts of gold, incense and myrrh were not cheap! These men spent much money and more than that, traveled hundreds of miles to find the Christ child. How much do we offer Christ? God doesn’t necessarily expect us to travel around the world but what about going across the street to offer a helping hand to a neighbor? What about traveling a few miles to find a church home so that we can serve and worship God? And what gifts do we present to our Lord? Sure, tithing could fit here because giving our money back to God in thanks for his blessings is important but it is more than that. We have gifts that are more valuable than our money- like our time. Do you know how hard it is to find someone willing to give them time to teach a Sunday School class? Help with Awana or youth? I’m sure there are shelters across this country in need of volunteers to help prepare and serve meals. Our time is limited so it is very valuable- so how do we spend it? The Magi brought their best to God- do we?
As we grow ever so near to Christmas day and then think beyond to the beginning of a new year, let’s ponder these 2 gifts the Magi have brought us. Do we need to renew our joy in Christ? Do we bring our best to God? If we let these thoughts consume us and change us, it could mean changing our world…. Are you ready for that? I think the world is!