Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Not Your Normal Kind of Gifts

Though this year we celebrated the Epiphany of the Lord on Sunday, the usual day for this celebration is January 6. I don’t know about you, but I would have thought it very strange that three kings from distant lands following a star had come to bring gifts to honor a newborn baby.

Mary and Joseph had already gotten a clue that God’s ways weren’t often what they’d had in mind in terms of the order of circumstances making them a family: betrothal, a virgin becoming pregnant, then the two living together as husband and wife. The labor and delivery accommodations probably weren’t quite what they’d pictured, either, so I guess it stands to reason that the visitors made aware of this miraculous birth would be rather out of the ordinary as well.
Angels have come to announce His birth. Shepherds tending to their flocks are told of Christ’s coming, and three wise men, or as Kevin refers to them “the three wise guys,” come to pay homage to the child born in Bethlehem. These are only some of the marvels that occur during this next leg of the young family’s journey. They must have been at least a little mystified by the gifts brought by the three wise men. I’m pretty sure gold, frankincense, and myrrh weren’t your everyday baby shower gifts, especially for such humble, lowly families.     

The revelation of the Incarnation, God made Man, is enough to wrap our heads around, but then we’re given the significance of these three gifts to ponder. Gold seems an appropriate gift for one called a king. Frankincense seems fitting since it was an ingredient for incense which was often used in the Old Testament for religious rites. Myrrh would have struck me as a rather strange baby gift. This reddish-brown tree sap was widely used in burials and funerals as embalming ointment.
Right from the beginning, we are reminded how fragile life is at both ends of the spectrum. A helpless baby lying in a feeding trough will one day experience death. God bridged the gap by becoming man, thereby becoming mortal for a time. Even in Mary’s tears of joy at holding the Christ child, she is given a foretaste of the sorrow that will later pierce her heart, the death of her beloved Son, just as essential and miraculous as His birth.
Lord, thank You for giving us the gift of Your only Son. Help us to pay homage to Our Savior by following His example (and those of Mary and Joseph) by committing completely and fully to Your will, especially when Your gifts and blessings to us aren’t exactly what we’d hoped for or expected. Amen.
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