Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Christmas Day Message & Prayer

Did you get any good gifts?

I wonder why such gifts were given to you, and what they might indicate. Maybe, that you mean something to that person, and that this is a symbol of their affection. Is this the criteria for giving? Having a special regard for someone?

Jesus got some good gifts!

Refer verse 11 – part of the glorious verses 10-12 of Matthew chapter 2.
At least three ways to look at these gifts:
They were … spontaneous, generous and prophetic.
Later, I’m going to suggest that our response to meeting Jesus can also be spontaneous (or, natural), generous and prophetic.

Firstly, spontaneous – no mention of these gifts earlier than verse 11.
As a result of their successful search (through the provision of a bright guiding star), the ‘wise men’ were “overwhelmed with joy”. At the sight of the Christ child, they fell to their knees in worship. They honoured the baby for who he was destined to become. Then, these ‘wise men’ then threw open their “treasure chests”!!

“What shall we give”, they thought … and here’s the generous bit … “the best of what we have”! These were very valuable gifts. Who gives gold away, as well as these other valuable commodities? But then, the ‘wise men’ had the privilege of meeting the Christ child!

Thirdly, these gifts were prophetic because of what each gift symbolised. They each said something about the sort of life that would be lived by this child Jesus. Did these ‘wise men’ understand fully the depth of meaning in their gifts … perhaps, perhaps not? We certainly do now! Gold … is a gift for royalty; frankincense … speaks of the priestly role of offering a sacrifice for sin; myrrh … used in the preparation for a burial. Put together – here will be a special kind of king who provides forgiveness for sin at the cost of his own life! This life of Jesus will be a life of kingly leadership, spiritual service, and ultimate sacrifice.

Now, if we read this text with an Eastern mind, we would know that this story is not yet complete (with the giving of the ‘wise men’). There would have to be giving in return; these gifts would need to be reciprocated! The reader’s breath would be held waiting to discover what gifts the ‘wise men’ would receive in return. How would their giving be reciprocated?

These 3 great gifts were not brought for the purpose of receiving back (because they were spontaneous and worshipful), but there would have been some anticipation as to what was going to happen next.

The whole Gospel that follows unfolds the answer! The reciprocal gift was Jesus himself.

So the giving didn’t actually start with the ‘wise men’, for it had already begun with God. [The gifts of the ‘wise men’ were actually the gifts in return.]

So these 3 gifts can actually mirror the sorts of gifts we can bring today. Such giving occurs in response to God’s gift of Jesus to us. We cannot give anything to influence God to love us more (for God’s love cannot be any greater than it already is). It is simply in response to God’s gift of Jesus … that we can likewise throw open our “treasure chests”.

Pictured here is a mutuality of giving and receiving, which begins with God’s love and his coming into the world in human form as a vulnerable baby, and then is responded to by the “treasure chests” of his followers being thrown open.

What then do we have in our “treasure chests”? We would look into our “treasure chest” for the most valuable things. This means the heart of who we are, and the deep resources placed within us. It is our very life that we give back to God! Having done this, all that we have and enjoy are ready to be shared (in the cause of God’s Kingdom).

This can grow to become a very spontaneous and natural response to what Jesus has and is doing for us. The ‘wise men’ were “overwhelmed with joy”, fell to their knees and worshipped. What we have we will share, not reluctantly, but with generous hearts – which points to something bigger and better in life. Wholeheartedness and generosity always looms large! This is the ‘prophetic’ bit … it stands out – and it points to something!

The lives of the ‘wise men’ were changed for ever. Previously they may have just gone with the flow and returned to Herod with the information he wanted. However, now there was something new in their lives, and thus they were able to correctly interpret their dream, and understand that returning to Herod would be a very bad idea. What did they do instead? They took “another road”; and thus avoided any further encounter with that tyrant Herod.

The ‘wise men’ had followed their star, gave their allegiance to their new king, opened their “treasure chests”, and thus experienced transforming grace.

Christmas Day Prayer

Loving God, we praise you for all you have shown us in Jesus.                         
Now we know for sure that you are not far away.                                                 
We thank you that, though we cannot see you, you have promised that, no matter who or what we are, no matter what we have done or failed to do, you will be very near to each and every one of us.

Living God, we praise you for the joy of Jesus’ presence in our lives.                
We praise you that he came into this world just as we did – as a helpless baby. 
We thank you that his coming has left us in no doubt about your love and mercy.        
We praise you that Jesus has opened the way to real life now and for all eternity.

Most wonderful God, we praise you for the story of Mary and Joseph, the shepherds and the angels, the star, the wise men, and their three gifts.          
We praise you for the carols we sing, and the joy we share in celebrating the arrival of Jesus.                                                                                                             
We are all the more thankful that it is not just a story, but a message of the birth of the Saviour of the world. Amen.

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