Thursday, December 22, 2011

To You Is Born Today...

Luke 2:11 For to you is born today, in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

In this Christmas season, we hear that verse often. It’s interesting that the human mind tends to create blocks of thought, categories. And, come December, we think of all the ramifications of that verse and separate it from the rest of Christ’s earthly existence, as if that’s actually possible in reality. My pastor shared some things in a recent service that highlighted that fact for me. And got me to do a little more research.

Matthew 2:11 says, “And coming into the house, they saw the child with Mary His mother. And they fell down and worshiped Him. And opening their treasures, they presented gifts to Him, gold and frankincense and myrrh.” All of those were important and expensive in the society of that day. Each had it’s own purposes. When the wisemen brought those gifts, the fact that all three were included speaks volumes. So, let’s look at that.

If you read the full account of why the wisemen came at all, it’s clearly stated that they were looking for someone prophesied to have special qualities. They’re described as being “from the east”, meaning they weren’t Jews. They were from a totally different society. Which means that the prophecies they were reading may not even have been Jewish writings. So, when scoffers talk about similar “myths” in other cultures, it’s likely that God was preparing the rest of the world to look toward Bethlehem when the time and signs were right. When they were, the wisemen set out to find the Messiah. Which brings us to the gifts.

It doesn’t take a lot of research to figure out that gold was a gift “fit for a king”, as the saying goes. The wisemen were looking for a king. Frankincense is one of the main ingredients of incense, which was mostly used in religious ceremonies. Very likely, the wisemen recognized that this king was also a priest or holy man. Myrrh could be included with frankincense in incense, but it was used in Egypt to anoint the dying and part of the embalming process. Not exactly the gift you’d normally give a baby. So, the wisemen were aware that this holy king had to die as part of who and why he was here. Both frankincense and myrrh have medicinal qualities. But myrrh has some pain killing qualities that make the anointing of the dying potentially as much to relieve some of the pain as it was to spiritually prepare them for death. What does all that say to us?

The wisemen obviously knew what they were looking for. A holy king who had to die as part of his functioning. I’m not sure if they ever fully realized that Who they were seeking was indeed God Himself. But they were, to some extent, aware of the sequence that had to come about. And selected their gifts accordingly. We need to think in those terms, too.

As nice as it is to consider the virgin birth and the process of blessing for us that this birth started, we can’t forget the rest of the sequence of events, either. There was the prophecy, the birth, all the events in Jesus life, the scourging, the crucifixion, the burial, and the resurrection. Each had its place in fulfilling all that was needed. We can put an emphasis, at this time of year, on the birth in the manger. But we can’t ever forget the rest of the package. It all brought us into a real relationship with God.

How are you going to latch onto that relationship, today?

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