Matthew 2:11 – On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. (NIV)
Perhaps this Christmas, you’ll be giving at least one present because you feel obligated. Your better judgment reminds you that gift-giving should come from your heart, not from someone’s expectation. However, if you had been the Magi looking for Jesus, such a thought would not have entered your mind — because this child was a king.
In many ancient societies, such as Persia, you didn’t dare approach a king without bearing a gift. And you didn’t give just because it felt good or because he was nice. An inferior gift might have been viewed as insubordination; you didn’t want to lose face — or your life. In many cultures, gifts served as tribute, to pay respect, or to pledge allegiance and submission to the king. Regardless, a gift to a king was to be fitting of his title, position, and power.
The Magi came seeking a child even while acknowledging him as a king. That’s why they gave gifts fitting for a king: gold, frankincense, myrrh. Perhaps they gave other gifts: personal items, blankets, carvings, or whatever. But it is the gifts that reflected the child’s royal status that were itemized and documented in Scripture. Why? because He was born with a royal destiny.
In our gift-giving decisions, we try to choose something fitting for the recipient. A doll is fitting for a little girl, a lumber jacket for a farmer. But what is fitting for the One whose birth we celebrate? Do we acknowledge this neonate as a king — the King of kings — our Lord, who requires our homage? What gift would honour such an exalted one? What gift is worthy of His majestic name? What gift would prove that we acknowledge His title and power? What gift would He accept … from you … from me?
In considering these questions, we realize that we have nothing that we can give Him. We are too poor, too unworthy, too stained with the marks of sin. We admit that even our best offering is tainted with pride. We are utterly at His mercy — empty-handed — with nothing that is fitting for His high and holy title. It is through acknowledging our spiritual bankruptcy that we give what pleases Him: We bow low before Him, receiving Him as our Saviour and Redeemer. We kneel alongside the shepherds, those considered too defiled and unworthy to enter the temple. Together, we offer our broken and contrite hearts to the King. Such a gift He will not despise.
Psalm 51:16a,17 – You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it. My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise. (NIV 2011)
Prayer: Lord, may we worship You acceptably, with reverence and awe, as our exalted Saviour and Lord. Amen.
Kincardine, Ontario, Canada