This morning Maria and I reflected on 1 Corinthians 12. It sparked some interesting conversation about gifts. In this passage Paul talks of the gifts of the Holy Spirit which are meant for the whole church. As I sat down to write, the connection between that passage and this week's Gospel became clear to me.
When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of King Herod, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, "Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage." When King Herod heard this, he was greatly troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. Assembling all the chief priests and the scribes of the people, He inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They said to him, "In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it has been written through the prophet: And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; since from you shall come a ruler, who is to shepherd my people Israel." Then Herod called the magi secretly and ascertained from them the time of the star's appearance. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, "Go and search diligently for the child. When you have found him, bring me word, that I too may go and do him homage." After their audience with the king they set out. And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them, until it came and stopped over the place where the child was. They were overjoyed at seeing the star, and on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother. They prostrated themselves and did him homage. Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod,
they departed for their country by another way. Matthew 2:1-12
The story of the magi's visit to Jesus is well known for many reasons. Among them are the gifts they bring to the newborn king. Matthew's Gospel mentions three specific gifts each of which had important meaning in Jesus' time. In a writing that dates back to 248 AD, the Church Father Origen explains the three gifts this way, "gold, as to a king; myrrh, as to one who was mortal; and incense, as to a God." This acknowledgement of Jesus' true identity came from magi who had journeyed some distance to see this king, this man and most significantly, this God.
Now think about God's Christmas gift. He gave the gift of His Son Jesus, king, man and God who made the journey from heaven to be with us. And let us not forget the gift that Jesus promised to us, His Holy Spirit. Because the Spirit is present with us each and every day we need not travel to be with God. The magi offered their gifts to Jesus. Jesus in turn offered Himself for you and me. Now it is our turn to offer ourselves back to Him as a gift, a gift fit for a king!