dec. 23 - gifts

dec. 23 gifts-01.jpg

by Rev. Monique McBride, FUMC Ft. Lauderdale, FL

First, read Matthew 2:1-12

Gifts. At this point in the season of Advent, the word gifts probably makes you think of the giant pile of presents left to wrap or the few (or more) gifts you still have to purchase before the big day. The word gifts may make you think of all the money you didn’t mean to spend or the gift you wish you could buy but just can’t afford. It may even make you think of an unfortunate sweater or tie gifted to you which you’re just not sure how to say thank you for. 

All of these ways of thinking about gifts point us toward scarcity and not abundance. They point us toward the stress of the season, the worrisome need to make Christmas bigger and better and the hope of satisfaction through materialism. Yet, all of this is the complete opposite of those three special gifts given to the baby Jesus by the wise men. 

Though we are not sure of their number, we know that the wise men came from the east bringing with them the three gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. As these were costly gifts usually intended for royalty, this gesture is meant to be a sign of honor from those outside Jewish culture -- yet another proclamation of the universality of Jesus’ Lordship. More than anything else, they symbolize honor and joyful generosity.   

With a few precious hours before Christmas, I invite you to think about the nature of gift giving and the spirit in which you find yourself today. Perhaps you have prepared your heart well and are excited to give the gifts you’ve purchased and prepared. Maybe you’re feeling overwhelmed with the stress of everything still to do. Maybe you’re secretly waiting for all of the stuff and nonsense of Christmas to be over. 

If you are feeling overwhelmed, what would it look like to liken yourself to those three wise men? As far at times as the Christmas story seems, it isn’t out of the question to feel as distant from it as those men traveling from the east. What would it look like to recast your vision of the days to come out of a place of joyful generosity? The only change needed is a reminder of all that has been gifted to you already. Think of the people in your past who have shared the love of Jesus with you. They are a gift from God. Think of the times when you felt lost or without God and a certain scripture or friend comforted you. These are gifts from God. Think of a time when you were able to help someone in need. This too is a gift from God. Though all of these gifts surround us, they can at times be difficult to see. Like the stars over a city of bright lights, we can often miss the subtly of God’s presence in the hustle and bustle of the world. Yet, all we have to do is pause and remind ourselves of these gifts and suddenly we feel as blessed and willing to give to others as those three (or however many) wise men. 

God of abundant and unending gifts, bless this season of giving which is about to begin. Help our hearts to remember the many gifts we've been given and guide us to give to others out of our own abundant joy and appreciation. Amen.

On Christmas Eve Eve, our thoughts turn to the story of the wise men in the gospel of Matthew. This story found only in the book of Matthew is the story which brings us the three little wise men usually seen in our nativity scenes. Yet, the story really didn’t happen as our nativity scene suggests. Though we like to think there were three kings, the only thing we know for sure is that there were three gifts. The three gifts brought to Jesus of gold, frankincense and myrrh were gifts of great worth. The wise men, though not Jewish, came a great distance and followed the star to the baby Jesus. They gave what was precious to them as they knew there was something precious about the baby King.

Read the story of the wise men together found in Matthew 2:1-12. Then, think of three things that are precious to your family which you would like to give to Jesus. They could be plans to do something after all the excitement of Christmas is over. They could be promises to put Jesus first in all you do. They could be actual gifts which you give to those in need. Wrap up your gifts and place them under your Christmas tree or near your Nativity.

What sort of gift is precious to you and how can you use it to honor Jesus?