“What Gifts Shall We Bring?”
Matthew’s story of the Wise Men who come seeking the newborn
King is a familiar one, re-enacted in countless Christmas pageants
every year. Amidst the costumes, animals, shepherds and mangers
crowded into most depictions of the Nativity, the gifts they bring often
are seen as just props for the Magi to carry. Yet they are far more than
Scholars believe the Wise Men came from ancient Persia (modern
day Iran), and early Christian art often depicts them in Persian clothing.
If so, their journey was long and arduous—and even as it neared
its end finding “the one who has been born king” was not easy. He
was not to be found in Jerusalem, the Holy City, as they expected, but
in the tiny village of Bethlehem; even there they had to search for him.
Yet when they found the Child, they were prepared. Bowing down,
they worshiped him. “Then they opened their treasures and presented
him with gifts of gold and of incense [frankincense] and of
myrrh” (Matthew 2:11), gifts that they had carried with them all the
way from Persia, extravagant gifts fit for a King.
We may think ourselves incapable of giving such gifts until we remember
that the good news of Jesus’ birth also came to common folk
like the shepherds, and that extravagance comes in many forms. For
the shepherds, it came in the form of praising God. For you, maybe it
will be in doing mission together in response to a disaster or on an immersion
trip to learn about another culture. Your extravagant gift to
the Christmas offering, whether large or small, supports the many
ways Disciples across your region discover and share their gifts of ministry.
Whatever gift you bring, give it joyfully; that’s the kind of giving
that makes God smile, and therein lies the secret of its extravagance.
As we celebrate anew the Good News of God-with-us, the coming
of our Lord, what gifts shall we bring? Whatever it is, may we present
them in humble thanksgiving and with joyful extravagance!