First & Christ UMC Chestertown

At the Corners of High & Mill Street

What Gift Can We Bring?

Posted by on Jan 22, 2020

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Church, let me say it again, “Happy New Year!”

Of course, we, in the church, as we follow the Christian year have already gotten a head start. We began our new year four Sundays before Christmas with the observance of Advent.

Today is actually the last day of Christmas! So if you still have your Christmas decorations up, good for you! You are not behind. You are just on time as long as you take them down today!

Tomorrow, January 6th, begins a new season for us. The season of Epiphany will take us right up to Lent which begins with Ash Wednesday on February 26th.

Epiphany celebrates several things. The overall theme is the Light of Christ. We remember the coming of the wise men. We remember the baptism of Jesus. We celebrate the Light of Christ which was first foreshadowed by his natal star, the one that guided the wise men to come and worship Him.

Because of their inclusion in many of our Nativity scenes, we often forget that the wise men were not there at the same time as the shepherds. The Scriptures tell us that they find Mary and the child at a house where they are staying. We read that Herod issues the terrible decree that all boys born that are two years old or younger are to be killed in an attempt to snuff out the life of this “new king.” So, we think that maybe the wise men came some two years or so after Jesus was born.

We don’t know how many there were. Tradition tells us there were three because three gifts are given; gold, frankincense and myrrh. More on those in a bit.

While we are clearing things up, we don’t really know when Jesus was born. December 25th  was picked as a day to celebrate the birth because it was a take over of a pagan holiday. They wanted to shift the focus from the pagan celebrations to a celebration of God’s great gift to us in Christ.

Sorry if that messes with anyone’s head. What we do know is that Christ was born? We do know that wise man, also known as magi, came. We do know that gifts were given. Let’s talk about those gifts.

First the gold. Money is always a good gift! Some say that this gift was given in recognition of the kingship of Christ. Gold is something we associate with kings. Kings usually have a lot of it!

I like to think that the reason the wise men were guided by God to give the gift of gold was that this was God’s way of providing for Mary and Joseph and the young Jesus. We all know that living takes money.

Joseph was a carpenter. Perhaps during these early months of Jesus’ life, he was able to get work as a carpenter. But something was about to happen that was going to turn their lives into chaos.

I mentioned earlier that Herod issued that horrible decree, killing so many innocent lives. Jesus was spared from that massacre. Joseph was warned in a dream to take the child and his mother, to escape to Egypt. They were to stay there until God tells them it is safe to return home. That would take money. Money they did not have to worry about because God had already provided it through the gift of the wise men.

Isn’t that great to remember that God has provided even before the need was known? I know we worry and fret over all kinds of things. Sometimes, we worry and fret over money.

I can only testify that God has provided for me so many times. Sometimes, His provision has been very apparent. Sometimes, it has not. But God has always provided a way where there seems to be no way.

The second gift was the gift of frankincense. This was a gift appropriate for a priest. It recognized Jesus’ role as our High Priest.

Incense was used in worship. It was burned in the temple. It represented the prayers of the people and the priests rising up before God.

Frankincense was also used for its healing properties. Today, sometimes the oils we use for anointing have frankincense in them.

Could Mary have needed the frankincense sometime as a healing ointment for the baby Jesus? We don’t know. Let me be careful to say that. But it does make me wonder.

It reminds me that while He was truly God, Jesus was also truly human. He got diaper rash. When He was a toddler running around, if he fell down, He would bruise. He might even bleed.

We know that later, upon the cross, he was bruised for our sin. He bled, dying in our place, as the last sacrifice that would ever be needed.

I don’t know the following because this is not in scripture. Did Jesus get sick? Did He have headaches? Was He sick to his stomach?

The Bible says that he knew our weakness. He knew our pains. He knew our sufferings. He knew the need for comfort and care.

Maybe, the Frankincense was used for this. I do know that in the Lord, we find our healing. In the Lord, we find comfort and care.

He is also God, worthy of praise. Worthy of our worship. When we pray, our prayers rise before him like incense.

The last gift mentioned is myrrh. What an odd gift to give for a little child. Myrrh was used for embalming. Myrrh was associated with death.

Why would you give such a thing, presenting it to the child’s mother? Was it a reminder of God to Mary that while Jesus was her son, He was also God’s Son? Sent to redeem the world. That redemption would come through his death. His blood would one day be shed for the sins of the world.

I wonder. What became of the myrrh? Was it saved? Was it given to the Marys who went to the garden tomb where Jesus’ body lay after he was taken from the cross? Was it sold? Used for Joseph?

We don’t know, but the gift of it is a reminder to us of why Jesus came. He came to live, to love and teach, and to show us the way to God. He came to die, to be the ultimate sacrifice for us. His blood cleanses us from our own unrighteousness. His one death bringing salvation to the many.

Let us remember. He came not only to live and to die, but to rise again, victorious from the grave. Now, He is seated at the right hand of the father. The lamb of God who has taken away the sins of the world reigns with Him for all eternity. One sweet day, we will ourselves go to glory.

We will stand before the throne of God. We will worship Christ our Lord. Not from a distance, but face to face. What a day of rejoicing that will be!

Gifts. Symbolic? Yes. Important reminders for us who hear the story today. But also gifts that provided for His need. He was loved by the Father, His Heavenly Father, who worked through human agents.

God still works through human agents today, through men and women who are attentive to the Spirit. I hope that includes you.

We all have gifts to bring to God and for God to those who are in need. We have been through our Christmas celebrations with all of the gifts given and received. The time for giving is not over. It continues today.

How can you give to the Lord? What gifts do you have in your hand? What can you offer to him? What need can God fulfill for others through you?

Your gifts are needed. Some ministry takes money to do. Your gifts are needed and appreciated.

Some ministry takes our time. I am grateful for what folks do through the church. There are still plenty of ways that you can give of your time. We have lots of openings with the Samaritan Group’s winter shelter. Its an immediate thing that you can do. There are other ministries, too, needing your help; your time, your creativity, and your energy.

God wants all of you. All of who you are. All of who you are becoming. If you put your life in God’s hands, there is no end to what can be done through you.

We have remembered already the gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Let us give ourselves to the one who gave his all to us.

A blessed Epiphany, dear friends. Let us rejoice in the Light of Christ! Let us share the Light of Christ in our world!

Amen.