Tuesday, December 9, 2008

If Jesus Received Three Gifts ...

A few years ago, I read an article about gift giving at Christmas. I wish I could give credit where credit is due, because this was not my original idea. I have seen it shared in other places, though, since I first found it so it may not be that uncommon. Anyhow, the article presented an idea that seemed so obvious to me, but had not occurred to me up to that point in my parenting life and Bible study. I share it now in the hopes that it helps another parent during this commercialized time of year.

It always seemed a bit of a struggle to know where to cut off the buying for the kids. “Oh, she would love that!” “That would look adorable on her!” “She can always use one more pair of pjs!” You get the picture. The article referenced the story shared in Matthew 2:11. After the birth of Jesus, wise men saw the appearance of a star and followed it until they found Mary and her son, the King of kings. They brought three gifts along – gold, frankincense and myrrh. Before I share how we apply this in our home during Christmas, let me digress a moment to share what I have learned about this event shared in Scripture.

Do you know that we don’t really know how many wise men came to visit Jesus? We all think there were three because of the number of gifts. The Bible never says. Biblical scholars, though, believe there were probably more, travelling with a huge entourage.

Have you ever considered why the Magi presented those gifts? Well, they were all expensive. Perfect for financing an escape and stay into Egypt so that King Herod would not be able to find the Savior child and kill him. It’s so cool to see how God provides, because Mary and Joseph were too poor to accomplish such a mission on their own.

These three gifts, also, are often interpreted as a foreshadowing of Jesus’ life. From Halley’s Bible Handbook: “The gold, representing royalty, foretells Jesus as King. The incense, symbolic of the prayers of the high priests rising up to heaven, foretells Jesus as High Priest. The myrrh, often used as burial oil, foretells Jesus’ death.” It always amazes me how much really gets crammed into one little Bible verse. All right … back to our application …

So, Jesus – Son of God, Prince of Peace, Lord of lords – got three gifts. Three gifts. If Jesus got three gifts to celebrate His birth, why would my kids need more? So we started a new tradition. We get them each three gifts from ourselves. One is usually practical (i.e. clothes), one is something fun and just for them (i.e. toy) and the third is usually something for the whole family (i.e. tickets to a show or a game). Now they do still get one gift and stocking stuffers from Santa, but his gifts are never better than ours. (I’m competitive that way. I never give him the best ideas. :) )

On Christmas morning, we read Luke’s account of Jesus’ birth so that we can remain mindful of the “Reason for the Season”. We follow that up with Matthew’s story about the Magi’s travels and visit. We explain that that is why they receive three gifts from us. It helps us stay focused on Jesus, fiscally responsible in our gift giving, grounded in Scripture and teach our girls the same principles for when they are parents someday.

What Christmas traditions do you and your family practice? I’d love to hear how you make this season special. Let me close in wishing you and yours a Merry Christmas as we celebrate Jesus’ birth.