After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.
- – Matthew 2:9-12
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
- – John 3:16
Two Scriptures are presented. There are two types of gifts that first Christmas. The first Scripture from Matthew mentions that the Magi, or wise men, brought gold, frankincense and myrrh. I have heard sermons and read about the symbolism of the three gifts. Nothing is recorded as to their use. If the myrrh is used in burial, could it have been used when Joseph passed away? I have heard some people say that the quick, and unplanned, trip to Egypt may have consumed the gifts. But even if the gifts remained for Jesus’ use later on, during His ministry, the gifts were needed things. They were practical, in a kingly way.
The other gift is the reason for the season. Jesus was sent by the Father to provide a means for us to have eternal life. All other gifts pale in comparison.
The nature of these gifts is the important thing. The Magi gave gifts to a king that a king (or priest) would use. God gave His Son out of love for us to save us – something that we need, even though most reject the idea including a lot that celebrate Christmas (which blows my mind).
Why do we give gifts? I have heard it explained as a means to remember the four gifts mentioned in the Scriptures above as we celebrate the birth of Jesus. But as anything that involves commercial gift giving, Satan welcomes the idea in store owners’ heads of making a profit. Making a profit is not a bad thing, but some businesses make the majority of their annual profit during gift-giving seasons, Christmas just being the largest. The advertisements ramp up. The frenzy ramps up. The noise ramps up. It becomes too busy for us to hear the soft voice of the Holy Spirit telling us the true reason for the season.
My parents gave up on gift giving about 15-20 years ago. They sent a letter with a newspaper article attached. The article was about the idiocy of giving an old person a Christmas present. If they need something; they bought it. But mostly, they learned how to do without. Most of the gifts were things that they didn’t need and wouldn’t use, which would be part of the estate when they were gone.
Only a few problems with the newspaper article. My mother preached learning to live without for my entire lifetime. I had no clue that my Dad made more than twice what I made in my best year during each of my years in college (and this does not consider the cost of living difference over those 40 years – think salesman selling million dollar things on commission). Since they spent none of it, they lavished themselves with trips when I was in Germany and when our niece was in Scotland, trying to spend minimally even then. They truly spent the money when they needed it. Another problem was that there never was any dividing of the property. My mother gifted the land. The person with the house moved in and all the possession became hers by default, not that we wanted our kitchen towel made into a bunny that hung from the oven door (an old Christmas gift).
No, the letter was interpreted by my wife and I as “Bah! Humbug! Do not expect us to ever give you a Christmas gift again, so don’t bother giving us anything.” When we visited, they had a six-inch high toy Christmas tree on the electric organ or the piano. (They were in the living room, back to back.) The tree was there on the insistence of the great-grandchildren and for no other reason. They were going “Bah! Humbug!” all the way. But my wife and I knew that one sibling was still getting a Christmas Check, and for most years to the amount that was divided among the three children before the ‘letter.’ They’ve been gone for a few years, but their legacy has not dampened our spirits. Frankly, my wife and I focus on the religious and spiritual aspects of the season and try to avoid shopping in December.
Yet, maybe the ‘Bah Humbug’ letter has affected us a little. We have already sent Christmas presents for the children and grandchildren. But, that old newspaper article is running in our minds. We have a house filled with junk, too much junk. We do not need more junk. But knowing how we reacted to the ‘letter’ means that we will never send our children the letter.
Now that my wife’s mother has passed, there has been discussions between her sisters that gift giving between siblings will stop, but only one sister has not sent my wife a gift already this year. With the high cost of shipping, my wife uses on-line purchases that can be sent direct. We spent more last year on shipping than we did for the presents.
A gift saying that you love your family members and friends is a good thing, but the tremendous cost and the annual family debt due to the abundance of commercialism? That has gone way too far.
How can I hint to those who are thinking of giving me a gift that I want something that does not take up space, does not need to be dusted / cleaned / maintained / etc., and I will use? Hmmm. Does something like that even exist?
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.