Another Christmas is here and, despite of the economic crisis, many are rushing around, like they always do at this time of the year, for the last minute shopping to buy gifts for each other before their Christmas party. Thus is sad, because Christmas is meant to be Jesus’ birthday, yet few are thinking of Him, and not many are planning to bring Him gifts! How would you feel if people were to celebrate your birthday by exchanging gifts with each other, but no one thought of you! Wouldn’t it be sad? Yet, this has been happening for hundreds of years!
I used to assume that this tradition of exchanging Christmas gifts could be traced back to the original story of someone who over the years was transformed into the figure of Santa Claus, or Father Christmas, as he’s called in certain places. Then I remembered that it’s right in the Gospel’s story of Jesus’ birth, except that then the gifts were given to Him!
“When Jesus was born in Bethlehem, there came wise men from the east, saying, “Where is he that is born King of the Jews? We have seen his star in the east, and have come to worship him”. The star went before them till it stood over where the young child was. When they saw it, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented to him gifts: gold, and frankincense and myrrh” (Matthew 2).
Who were these these wise men that came from the East? The Bible tells us that, when the prophet Daniel was deported to Babylon, “the king made him the ruler over the whole province of Babylon, and the supreme head of all the wise men of Babylon” (Daniel 2:48). Among these were astrologers that the king called upon for advice. Most likely these wise men that brought gifts to Jesus also came from some eastern countries like Persia and were important dignitaries, or even kings, because King Herod received them in his court.
What made these particolar men “wise”?
The Gospel says that they asked questions (“Where is he that is born King of the Jews?”), they studied the sacred texts (and knew that the promised King was about to be born), they looked for signs (following a star) and traveled a long distance (“they came from the East”) to find Jesus! In other words, they were not satisfied with eastern philosophies or religious doctrines, but were sincerely seeking for the truth! Some say that “all religions are equal”, but these wise men left their home country and traveled a long distance, through hardships and adversities, to find Jesus and worship Him!
On the contrary, just a few miles from Bethlehem there was Jerusalem, the religious capital with the temple, the priests and the spiritual leaders of Israel, who knew from the scriptures that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem, yet none of them came looking for Jesus! We might think of being good Christians, but often fail to recognize Jesus right there before us! If we want to be like the wise men, we should look for Jesus this Christmas! “You shall seek Me, and find Me, when you shall search for Me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13).
Another sign of their wisdom is that they came to Jesus for the right reason (“We came to worship him”). Most people today remember Jesus only if they need something from Him, treating Him like the genie of Aladdin’s lamp to get what they wish, instead of worshipping Him like the King of kings that He is! The wise men had not come to ask for something, but to worship and honor Him, to show him love and gratitude!
Finally, “they opened their treasures, and presented to Him gifts”. In other words, they did not give Himsome insignificant gift, like people give each other at Christmas, but they gave Him their best, out of “their treasures”! What about you? What do you treasure the most? What’s most important in your life? Are you willing to give Jesus from your treasure? Jesus said: “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:21).
If you really want to celebrate Jesus’ birthday this Christmas, don’t give Him the leftovers, or the spare time you have left after you have done your own things, but honor Him with “the first fruits” (Proverbs 3:9) of your life, your time, your best! That’s what these wise men did! After traveling a long way to find the Holy Child, they finally “opened their treasures and presented to Him their gifts: gold, frankincense and myrrh”.
Those were expensive and significant gifts!
Gold represented the wealth and power of a king, for He was the King of kings.
Frankincense was used in the temple to worship the Lord, for He was God.
Myrrh was a spice being used to anoint the body of a dead man and prepare it for burial, for He was the Savior of mankind that was destined to die for all of us.
What significant gift will you give to Jesus this Christmas?
As we prepare to celebrate Christmas, let’s think of what significant gift each one of us can personally bring to the One whose birthday is being celebrated!
You might think, “What can I give to a God who already has everything”? Well, there actually are certain things that He does not have until you willingly give them to Him!
The first place in your life! He does not have it until you put Him on top of your priorities. “Seek first the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matt. 6:33).
Your trust. Can you trust Him with your life, your health, your wealth, your loved ones, your future? “Commit your way to the LORD; trust also in Him; and He shall bring it to pass” (Psalms 37:5).
Your heart. That includes not only your thoughts and emotions, but everything you esteem valuable and important! “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Luke 12:34).
Your will. Can you let go of your plans and say to Him: “Not my will, but Yours be done” (Luke 22:42)? “The world passes away, but he that does the will of God abides forever” (1John 2:17).
Your friends. Will you invite some of them to your Christmas party, and show them how you celebrate His birthday by giving Him your gifts. “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in Heaven” (Matt. 5:16).
That’s how we celebrate Christmas every year, and it’s such a joyful time to be able to bring Him the gifts that no one else can give them, except each one of us personally!
We pray that your Christmas will be one full of His blessings and peace (shalom), as you share His love with others.
Happy New Year!
Renato & Patrizia