Wednesday, December 05, 2012

All About the GIFTS!

       Christmas has been many things to me in my life. As a child, it was a wonder to behold.  As a young mother, it was a privilege to provide.  As a Christian, Christmas is a celebration of the beginning of everything that really matters.  As an adult, it is a portal to my past, to days when believing was easy and awe came naturally.  Yes, December 25th has been many things to me in my lifetime, but just like anything that truly has life, Christmas continues, even now, to transform into exactly what I need.
        Christmas, according to our culture, is all about the GIFTS!  I know that is offensive to many Christ followers, and I've shared in the disappointment of watching people I love trample strangers to get that perfect gift, all the while seeming to forget that the Perfect Gift had already been given.  It goes against what I believe to allow Christmas to be reduced to a few boxed treasures under a tree, so imagine my soul's surprise when I was reading the Christmas Story this morning, only to drop my Bible in my lap and whisper,

                            "Christmas really is all about the gifts!"


I don't know why it hit my heart the way it did, but this morning, I tried to "see" the story in my mind.  I'm so accustomed to the verses that studying them is actually difficult, but in trying to pay attention to the details I usually glance over, I found treasure.  My treasure wasn't in a conversation with the innkeeper, in the smell of the damp manger, or even in the cries of the Newborn.  I didn't find my treasure in Mary's response to giving birth to Redemption, or in the angels or even the stars that took notice of the Christ-child.  My treasure, quite literally, was found in the next few verses- after the family had traveled home, after the furniture had been rearranged, after the proverbial bow had been taken off of the mailbox.  My newly found treasure in the ancient story was found in the gifts given to the Giver.

"And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh." Matthew 2:11

The gifts.  I remember those from Sunday School.  I remember one time, someone actually bought me a bottle of  frankincense oil and I tried hard to imagine its worth in Jesus' time.  I've even taught children about these gifts and encouraged them to replace the gifts of Bible times with appropriate gift of our own time and imagine giving them as a celebration of Christmas.  But, in all my knowledge of this particular offering, I had (as we all do) lost sense of  Jesus in the story.

Remember, when the men of wisdom came bearing gifts, Jesus wasn't a grown man.  He hadn't performed any miracles.  He hadn't spoken life into the broken.  He hadn't looked at a sinner with eyes that I imagine were so full of compassion that one couldn't help but believe what He was saying.  He hadn't done any of those things yet, so the gifts weren't "Thank You," gifts or "You Are Worthy" gifts.    Jesus, at best, was a toddler when the wise men came.  He might have cried when the strangers approached.  Depending on the weather, Mary might have had to wipe His nose on her robe in their presence, and yet they still "fell down and worshiped Him."  
They didn't just bring a respectful gift of tradition and leave it at the door.  They didn't deliver a casserole.  They didn't bring a diaper cake.  They trekked across a nation to deliver goods worth a fortune, and when given the opportunity to give their fortunes away to a toddler, they "fell down and worshiped Him."

Oh, the lessons we could learn from those wise, benevolent men!  But, do you know what really crept into my heart this morning?  What really turned my soul?  What really brought me to tears?

Those men, however wise they proclaimed to be, had absolutely no guarantee that Jesus was worth the gift they were bringing.    Think about it.  We get to look at the Christmas Story though the eyes of history.  These wise men were looking at it from a completely different perspective.  How many times had they heard false rumors about the Messiah?  How many times had they allowed their hopes to raise, only to be disappointed?  Or, were they like us and after decades of hearing that He was coming, had given up hope that it would ever happen in their lifetime?  Putting trust in a Savior that is who He says He is and has done what He came to do is sometimes difficult for us.  Imagine putting trust in a toddlerNow, imagine putting trust in a toddler that lived with a poor family in an embarrassing neighborhood.  Now, imagine putting trust in a toddler that, even if he was being raised by the affluent, had little chance of living to his tenth birthday because the child mortality rate was so high.  No, imagine putting trust in a toddler whose survival chances just got a lot slimmer because someone important somewhere wanted His head.  Yeah.  That's tough, isn't it?

Now, imagine that you don't just say you "trust."  Imagine that you spend a lot of money proving it.  Imagine that you have to go the distance to make your faith known.  Imagine that, instead of getting to drop a few dollars in a plate on Sunday to thank God for what He's already done, that you have SO MUCH FAITH that you give a FORTUNE of wealth and the HOPE of your heart to a child who has done nothing to prove Himself to you.

They gave a deposit of hope.
They gave a fortune to a child.

They gave their hearts in worship.

They gave extravagant gifts to a babe who didn't yet know how to give.

 They gave, not looking back to make sure that the gifts had been well-earned, but looking forward, knowing that their treasure was more valuable in the nursery than it would have been in the bank.  They gave, believing in the Words they'd been taught, instead of the wealth they'd acquired.

They believed in the Promise of the Christ-child even though it made no sense.

We have a hard time believing in Christ, even though it makes no sense not to.  

They gave extravagant gifts because they fully expected Jesus to save the world.

We hold back our gifts because we somehow believe that we are in charge of our world.

They "fell down and worshiped" a baby because they knew God is a promise keeper.

We look for reasons to limit our worship because we are reputation keepers.

They knew in their own hearts that they would worship who they gave their treasure to.

We know in our own hearts that we will worship who we give our treasure to.

It's time to focus on that kid in the Christmas story again.  It's time to take a deep breath and try to imagine trusting That Baby, putting our hope in That Baby, giving our riches to That Baby, falling down and worshiping That Baby, because, after all, Christmas is really all about the gifts.

Giving has always been a FAITH issue.
             We tend to be WAIT AND SEE givers.
                                The wise-men were I CAN'T WAIT TO SEE givers. 

         How we give tells who we are.  What we gives tell who He is. 



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