Saturday, December 24, 2011
Tradition teaches us that 2,000 years ago three Eastern kings journeyed to the land of Israel to see the foretold Christ child. But scripture mentions the number of gifts, not the number of kings.
When the Magi found Mary, Joseph, and the young Jesus, “they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh” (Matt. 2:11b NIV). Unusual gifts for a little boy.
Gold was the currency of kings. As a first-century Judean carpenter, Joseph probably had seen very little of it and so prized it accordingly. No doubt it helped finance the family’s flight to Egypt when Joseph was warned to relocate.
Incense, or frankincense, represented the adoration of God’s people. Priests offered it in the temple to symbolize prayer rising to heaven. This costly commodity was harvested by collecting the sap from slashed and bleeding Boswellia trees.
Myrrh is also a fragrant resin obtained from tapping a specific tree, one whose thorns can pose a considerable challenge. It served medicinal purposes, and was used in burial preparations, as when Nicodemus wrapped the crucified body of Christ in linen and myrrh and aloes (John 19:39-40).
These gifts are nothing like those I received for my newborns and toddlers, but they were highly fitting for the Son of God—our King, our Priest, and our Sacrifice.
This Christmas as we open our treasures and consider what to give, we probably won’t find gold, incense and myrrh. But we will find representations of them: faith refined like gold, the sweet savor of worship, and the sacrifice of praise.
Never doubt that you have something of great value to give our Lord. For you bring the one perfect gift He wants above all else, the one which only you can give—yourself.
For Christmas reading: The Other Wiseman by Henry Van Dyke.
Sunday, December 11, 2011
Writing assignment: Evaluate yourself as a friend.
I told my students to measure themselves against criteria that defined a good friend, and then write a short essay, supporting their findings with evidence.
Though it was a college composition class, some students had more difficulty with spelling than anything else, and as I read through their papers I noticed an unusual standard listed by one young man: faith fullness.
I knew he meant faithfulness, but the way he wrote it made me see the term differently—perhaps with the significance intended by the word’s originator.
I wondered about my own quota. How do I measure fullness of faith? Would it be the same way I measure a glass of water, a tank of gas, a heavy meal of Italian lasagna?
Would it be to say I am full of faith, half full of faith, hardly at all full of faith?
I want to be full, yet Jesus said a mustard seed-sized drop would do.
Whew! I’m so glad.
Sometimes when I look into the glass, a drop is all that’s there.
(Image creator: winnond)