When my kids were younger, we encouraged them to make up a Christmas list each year. They would get a pencil and paper out and pour through toy store catalogs, listing all of the things they wanted.
One year my son asked me, “How come on my birthday you buy me presents, and on Jesus’s birthday, you still buy me presents. Doesn’t Jesus want something for his birthday?”
That’s such a great question. What would Jesus want for Christmas? After all, Christmas is a celebration of his birth. While it’s probably not possible to know exactly what Jesus wants for his birthday, I think we can make some assumptions based on certain ideas in the Bible.
When Jesus was just a toddler, long after the birth story and the manger, he was visited by the Magi or wise men. We don’t know how many Magi there were, but we assume three because there were three gifts. The gifts are significant, and they can help us figure out what kind of gifts Jesus wants.
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)
Myrrh — The Gift of Sacrific
Myrrh is a resin that is common in the middle east. You get it by cutting into a tree from the species “Commiphora myrrha” and then collecting the sap once it’s hardened. It becomes a hard and somewhat glossy substance that can be used for all kinds of things, including medicine.
What catches my interest is the fact that the magi brought this particular spice to a child king. What kind of present is this for a toddler?
Later, when Jesus was crucified, Joseph of Arimathea requested the body of Jesus so he could prepare it for burial. According to the gospel of John, Joseph used myrrh in the preparation of Jesus’ temporary lifeless body.
By presenting the child-king with myrrh, there is a foreshadowing of events to come. Remember, Jesus’ purpose in coming to earth was to give his life as a ransom and to sacrifice himself. In a sense, myrrh becomes the gift associated with sacrifice and death.
So, would Jesus put this on his Christmas list? Not his own sacrifice — but yours.
Romans 12:1 says, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”
This Christmas, why not give Jesus the gift of sacrifice in your own life.
Frankincense — The Gift of Worship
The magi also offered Jesus frankincense, which is a similar substance to myrrh but it is used much differently. When burned, frankincense has a very specific smell and the history of its use as incense goes back to the times of Israel’s wandering in the desert.
In Exodus 30, God gives Moses and Aaron very specific directions about what incense is to be used in the tabernacle. A specific recipe (Ex 30:34) is given and it includes frankincense.
What fascinates me about this section of scripture is that God also prohibits the use of this incense anywhere else but in the temple. Its use was sacred and only to be associated with the worship on the True Holy God.
When the magi presented Jesus with the frankincense they were recognizing the deity of Jesus, the young boy.
So, if frankincense is all about worship. What kind of worship can you offer Jesus today? I’m talking about more than just singing — I’m talking about all of your life. Everything you do can be worship, whether singing, shopping, caring for children, coding java, or sweeping a floor. It’s simply a matter of attitude.
This Christmas, why not give Jesus the gift of worship. Colossians 3:17 says, “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus.”
Gold — The Gift of a King
The magi also brought gold. Let’s face it, isn’t this what all of us want for Christmas? I’m one of those people that don’t mind when people give me cash or a gift card. That way I can buy myself the right color, get the right size, and avoid the return lines after Christmas.
In ancient times, gold was the expected gift for royalty. When the wise men presented the boy Jesus with gold they were acknowledging his coming reign as king. They knew the child was special, and their gift of gold, the most precious metal at the time, proved their devotion.
The magi were smart and knew where to put their allegiance. This Christmas season you’re sure to see at least one Christmas card, billboard, or bumper sticker that says, “wise men still seek him.” Does that describe you? Will you make Jesus the king of your life? Will you make him number one?
There’s no better time than Christmas to give your life to Jesus — or to give your life back to Jesus.
If you are struggling this holiday season can I encourage you to reach out for help? Believe it or not, I understand how difficult it can be to ‘get through the holidays’ in one piece. It’s a difficult time of the year to navigate, considering all of the extra responsibilities and obligations that Christmas can place on moms, dads, bosses, pastors, and so on.
Don’t go through this alone. If you are a part of a local church and you are battling depression, anxiety, or fatigue please reach out. If you need someone to talk to call my friends at 1–888-Need-Him. They are always ready to give some encouragement or answer any questions that you have about Jesus.
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