Strange Gifts

Tuesday, December 26, 2006
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Matthew 2:11 – On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshipped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. (NIV)

Years ago, when I was a small child growing up in Bermuda during the Second World War, gifts under the Christmas tree were few and far between. Times were hard; most gifts were hand-me-downs adjusted to fit the child's age. There was my sister's outgrown doll one Christmas, looking real spiffy with new clothes lovingly sewn together by my mother. But the doll came apart in my curious hands, and weeping as if my heart would break, I went to, yes, who else? Mother took me in her arms along with the doll and said, "You will have it back as good as new."

What could they do? Well, Dad put the arms and legs back on with elastic bands and it was mine again to love and cherish for years. Strange gifts? No, they were love gifts — and I will never forget.

Another gift was my brother's outgrown baby crib, this time cut in two to make two doll cribs, one for me and the other for my sister. I can still see them standing there in the soft light as another Christmas day dawned and I was sneaking a peak.

How was your Christmas? Were there gifts under the tree you will remember years later? Does someone's love colour that gift in glowing light, touching your emotions at a deep level? Those gifts we remember for ever. Such were the three gifts of the magi, recalled for all time by Matthew. The writers of the Gospels wrote about many different things. I wonder why Matthew recalled those three strange gifts given to the Christ child. Gold! Wow! That gift must have come in handy as the young family fled to Egypt. God always works ahead of our need. Now, what do we make of the frankincense? Why that bottle of very expensive, exquisite perfume fit for a King? Finally, the myrrh has me puzzled. This was used in preparing a body for burial.

Thirty-three years later, did Mary recall those gifts as she watched Jesus die on the cross? Did she recognize that they were symbolic of a greater gift, God's help in time of need? Perhaps it was Mary who told Matthew about them years later.

We ponder anew, each year, the meaning of Jesus' death. He died for us all, sinners though we be. He died for the poor and the rich, for the learned and the foreigner. His death was foretold by strangers following a star. What did we receive this Christmas that will, many years hence, tell us why Jesus came and died? A Bible under the tree, perhaps? A very emotional Christmas Eve with family, when one is missing?

Best of all is the day we receive Jesus into our hearts. He is the greatest gift of God, meeting our every need. A strange gift? Not at all! It is the best gift given with great love, and it touches our emotions deep down. We never forget the time when we received Jesus into our hearts. What a wonderful gift! It was the beginning of many gifts poured out upon us as Jesus prepared us for the next step in our journey through life with Him.

Prayer: Lord, we receive so much. Our Christmas tree was laden with much more than we need or can use. But the special gift from You, Jesus Your Son, was not there for some, because we failed to tell them about Him. Help us, Lord, to rectify that today by sharing with someone the true story of Your great love in giving Your Son for us. May we vow to give someone this very special gift — the gift of Your love in Jesus. We pray in His name. Amen.

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Iris Ford

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