On faith: Does Jesus want a present?
By: Rev. Joseph Whiting, Grace Baptist Church, Two Harbors, Lake County News Chronicle
Unless you are one of those rare and special people who completes his Christmas gift shopping way too early, this time of year finds many of us making lists for purchasing gifts. On top of finding the right gifts for those special people in your life, is the requisite secrecy and carefully locating hiding places for the gifts, especially if the recipients live in your home and are prone to snoop. Of course, this is all part of the joy of seeing someone’s eyes light up at Christmas when those gifts are opened.
The first Christmas presents were from the magi who, when they found the young Jesus “fell down and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh” (Matthew). These were expensive gifts, befitting of royalty.
Contrary to popular belief, the Scriptures never refer to these men as kings nor limit their number to three. Tradition identifies them as Gaspar, Melchoir, and Balthazzar. That we always think of three wise men may derive from the number of gifts mentioned, but there may have been more than three givers.
The Bible identifies them not as kings but magi, educated astrologer-astronomers, perhaps associated with an eastern royal court. They had been scanning the night skies for some sign of the birth of the Jewish king based on the ancient prophecy “there shall come a star out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel” (Numbers). Bible scholars hold that these men came from Persia (modern day Iraq), perhaps even from Babylon.
Traditionally, nativity sets include a white-skinned wise man, a yellow-skinned wise man, and a black- skinned wise man. Thus the wise men represented the whole race of mankind who are descended from the three sons of Noah— Shem, Ham, and Japheth. While we do not know the exact racial makeup of the wise men, what really matters is that when the long awaited star appeared over Bethlehem, they headed out to find the newborn king. Through these men, the nations came to worship the long-awaited Messiah and bring Him gifts.Certainly those valuable gifts were appreciated by Jesus’ family, especially as they fled to Egypt to escape the jealous wrath of King Herod.
Should we still bring gifts to Jesus today? Church Christmas programs often ponder the question of what gift we may bring to Jesus. But does Jesus even want a gift from us? As we contemplate this question, consider three thoughts. First, Jesus Himself is God’s gift to us. The Book of John declares, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son…” God’s love for mankind motivated Him to send us what we needed—a Savior. Second, Jesus Himself has given us some wonderful gifts, such as rest (Matt. 11:28), peace (John 14:27), and most importantly, eternal life (Mark 10:45; John 6:51; Eph. 6:23). Finally, Jesus expected faith and obedience from his followers. “You believe in God, believe also in me” (John ). In that same chapter, He taught, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” Jesus wants us to trust Him and obey Him.
Is it appropriate to give a gift to Jesus? Absolutely. But you won’t find it in stores, and it’s difficult to wrap. Give Him what He wants most—A heart and life that fully believes in Him and faithfully obeys His teachings.