If we are honest, we’d have to admit that we enjoy getting gifts at Christmastime. It might not be like it was when we were kids, but there’s still something special when you read your name on a beautifully-wrapped box under the tree. I’d like to take a look at Christmas (literally Christ-mass or the worship of the Messiah) by focusing on what we are usually told not to focus on: the presents!
The Present Too Wonderful for Words
2 Corinthians 9:15 says that God’s gracious gift is ‘unspeakable.’ That means it is indescribable, it is too wonderful for words. Christmas is a celebration of the greatest gift ever given: Jesus Christ. We often talk about things that God has given: Heaven, eternal life, etc., but the greatest is His Son. This gift was a practical gift: it was exactly what we needed. Because of our sin, we needed a Savior and Jesus was that need-meeter (Matthew 1:21). Not only was this present practical, it was personal. Great gifts are focused on the person receiving them. I always want my gifts to mean something, so I don’t buy gifts that are ‘standard issue.’ Isn’t it wonderful that God’s gift to you is as personal to you as it is universal for the whole world. God thought of you. He thought of me. What’s more, the indescribable gift was permanent. There was no disputing the telescoping effects of the purposes behind this particular birth. I have bought many gifts that were broken before the 26th of December, but this gift is eternal and everlasting!
The Presents of the Wise Men
Matthew 2:11 records the three special gifts given to the newborn King: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Why these three? Is there anything to these particular presents? Yes! These wise men were men of great faith and their gifts were insightful symbols of worship. You’ll notice that the meaning of these gifts will layer upon the thoughts gleaned from Christ’s ‘too-wonderful-for-words’ gift.
Gold is a gift fit for a king. This gift reveals Jesus’ Divine origin and yet it is a very practical gift for a poor family with a baby in a feeding trough. It’s not recorded what happened to the gold after this, although since we never find Jesus wearing or spending it, it’s quite possible it became part of the family’s finances. Frankincense is a beautiful-smelling incense used in the Temple and in prayer ritual. It is the spice of intercession. This gift reveals Jesus as the High Priest, the Mediator between God and men. This particular present was very personal, for no other person on earth deserved to receive this at his birth more than this One. The last gift presented to the baby was myrrh. This is the most unusual of the presents, for myrrh’s main use was as in embalming the dead. This lasting, permanent gift reveals Jesus’ coming sacrifice on Calvary.
The Presents God Desires
The Prophet Micah asked a question that I’ve often asked myself: What does God want from me? What can I give Him that He’ll really like? The answer came quickly: “to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God” (Micah 6:6-8). What is most interesting about this is the parallels between the gifts of the wise men 2,000 years ago and what God desires from me today. God’s tastes in presents hasn’t changed much!
1. God desires a practical present given to the King… He wants me to ‘do justly.’ That simply means that I live within my bound and means. Life puts limits on each of us – pleasing God is about how we manage the things inside of the circle we label as ‘ours.’ It’s also called stewardship. My first present is one of self-examination and taking inventory to make sure that I’m living according the to means and boundaries that are established for me. Literally, my present to God is Living Practically.
2. God desires a personal present given to my High Priest… He wants me to ‘love mercy’ (this involves how I treat those around me). God is well pleased when I do good to others by treating them with love, kindness, and forgiveness. Think of what this verse is saying… there should be a double-standard in the way we treat others (vs. ourselves): mercy for them, justice for self. I should treat them better than I treat myself, pray harder for their blessings than I do myself, giving the benefit of the doubt to them without expecting it for myself. Isn’t that what Jesus said in Matthew 22:39? Isn’t that why we have Christmas in the first place, because Jesus gave of Himself in a manner that could never be repaid or reciprocated? So, my present to God is Living Personally.
3. God desires a permanent present given to the Sacrificial Lamb … He wants me to ‘walk humbly’ with Him. This is the most lasting and eternal thing that I can do after being saved. My walk with God is key to everything else, if it’s not right nothing else can be right. The force of the phrase ‘walk humbly” in Scripture here is the idea of consistent faithfulness combined with yielded modesty and simplicity. The best present I can give to God is Living Permanently, and the only way to do that is walking with Him and yielding to His Spirit.