I’m a gift giver. I love thinking about and then discovering the perfect gift for my friends and family. Nothing about it stresses me out. It’s like a great mystery to solve followed by a treasure hunt. I feel a little like Indiana Jones searching for the Holy Grail whenever I’m hunting down a gift. Nothing beats the look of surprise and appreciation when a loved one opens a gift that’s “just right”.
Now, gift giving may excite me but I know many who just plain dread it. For many it is their absolutely least favorite part of the Christmas season and it is the greatest source of stress. And I get it…the crowded stores, the money, the wrapping paper, the unrealistic requests from small children…I get it. Yes, Christmas has become much too materialistic and too commercialized. And yet, there is a reason we give gifts.
A gift says, “I love you. I think of you. I know you. I pay attention to you.” And those sentiments have the power to warm hearts and heal hurts and strengthen relationships. A great gift is the result of truly knowing the gift receiver and everyone longs to be known. The best gift doesn’t cost the most money, but it does cost something – maybe money, maybe thought, maybe time. The best gifts isn’t wrapped with the prettiest paper or bows, but is wrapped in excitement. The best gift isn’t the flashiest gadget or trendiest toy on the market, but is the most thoughtful and most meaningful to the receiver.
Jesus himself was the greatest gift the world has ever received. As audacious as Christianity’s claim of the resurrection may seem, it is NOTHING in comparison to the incarnation, Immanuel, God with us. Stop and think about what that TRULY means! Love so great as to become like us in order to relate to us. Incredible! And the wise men recognized the miraculous nature of the moment and so they came and they came bearing gifts.
The wise men’s gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh were quite possibly the most meaningful gifts they could have selected. These valuable items were standard gifts for a king. Gold is a precious metal, frankincense a perfume, and myrrh an anointing oil. The magi’s visit and the gifts they would bring were foretold by Isaiah and may have an even deeper meaning than just pointing to Jesus’ identity as king. They also pointed to his role as priest and to his impending death on a cross.
As I write, my family is doing our traditional Christmas Eve routine – eating and watching football! Mom is at Walmart because something was forgotten (nothing we couldn’t have gone without but it just wouldn’t be Christmas Eve without an unnecessary trip to Walmart with the masses). Tonight we’ll go to church, enjoy an amazing meal, and then open presents. And even now, as adults, we can’t stop talking about how we can’t wait for one another to open the carefully selected gifts later tonight. And there are certainly plenty of them to open! (I considered taking a picture of our tree but the number of packages is simply embarrassing.) We simply love to give gifts to one another! It isn’t anything other than a tangible expression of how much we love one another.
So my question is simple…like the wise men, what gifts are we bringing Jesus this Christmas? Yes, Jesus wants your heart, but what else might he be asking you to give this year? Yes, it might cost you – you might have to spend time or thought or even money. But like any other gift we give, the cost is always overshadowed by the joy on the receiver’s face. And when we give Jesus what he wants – what he has been asking us for – the joy is priceless, the cost negligible.
So this Christmas I hope you receive all you asked for but find even more joy in the giving. My prayer is you receive the gifts God has for you. And my challenge is that you take the time to ponder what Jesus wants to receive from you. Merry Christmas!