THE CHRISTMAS GIFT
This Christmas season that began on December 25th is the time for giving gifts. During this season we typically give gifts to our relatives and friends, to our coworkers, and to those who have helped us this past year. We also give gifts to people in need, to various charities, and of course to our parish – our spiritual home.
The tradition of giving gifts at Christmas has its origin not in the story of Santa Claus, but rather in the feast we celebrate this Sunday, the Solemnity of the Epiphany.
Sunday’s Gospel (Matthew 2:1-12) tells us that led by a star, the magi, those travelers from the East made the long journey to Jerusalem to offer homage to the newborn king of the Jews. Then, directed by the prophecy told them by the chief priests and scribes, they continued on to Bethlehem.
On entering the house over which the star was shining, “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.”
Those magi presented the very first Christmas gifts, the gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Those three gifts not only honored this newborn king of the Jews but also revealed who he was.
The gift of gold pointed to his royalty. The gift of frankincense used in worship indicated his divinity. While the gift of myrrh used for burial hinted at his future suffering and death.
But those three gifts were not the first Christmas gifts ever to be given. The very first Christmas gift was the one given to the magi themselves.
They were given the gift of faith. It was that gift that caused them to notice the shining star in the heavens. It was that gift that spurred them on as they journeyed to the land of Judah. It was that gift that caused them to recognize the child of Mary as the newborn king of the Jews.
Without that first Christmas gift, the magi would have remained at home. Like the chief priests, scribes, and people of Jerusalem, they would not have taken a step toward Bethlehem.
We would not be celebrating this Christmas season unless God gave us that same gift of faith that he gave the magi of old.
It is that gift of faith that enables us to recognize the child born in Bethlehem as the one whose coming was announced by John the Baptist. It is that gift of faith that allows us to know Jesus as the Word made flesh. It is that gift of faith that empowers us to profess Jesus to be our Lord and God.
This season we give gifts to those who have a special place in our hearts and we also bring gifts to God, the gifts of our praise and worship, the gifts of our love and obedience.
This Feast of the Epiphany reminds us that we who give gifts during this Christmas Season share in the first and best of all Christmas gifts. Like the magi, God has given us the gift of faith to recognize Jesus, the one born that first Christmas, as our Savior and King.
© 2020 Rev. Thomas B. Iwanowski
Best Wishes for a New Year Filled with God’s Presence and Peace!