So yesterday my son had is Broadway debut as one of the Magi, or Three Kings. Ok, so the stage was smaller, but he performed flawlessly to a packed house and in front of a ton of paparazzi (moms with video cameras) none the less. It has been pure joy the last couple of weeks as we have rehearsed for this. My son's big part was to follow the other two wise men around. Pretty easy. He didn't have a single line to speak. But he had one of the hardest parts. He had to be the first one on the stage to give his gift of gold to the newborn King.
My son, being a fan of pirates and treasure, quickly latched on to the idea of giving a box of gold. And it is easily identifiable in every nativity and creche. We couldn't walk past one without him stopping, looking for a wise man carrying a box, and proudly proclaiming "look, that one's me!"
As excited as he was, it gave me the perfect opportunity to explain what the gifts of the Magi meant. Gold for a King, frankincense for a Priest, and myrrh to anoint One who would die. And with each gift I was able to explain the birth of Jesus, his ministry/mission, and his ultimate sacrifice. My son was fascinated.
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”
When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:
“‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.’”
Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”
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 2:1-12)
It was refreshing to look at this story from a child's eyes. The magnitude of the birth of Jesus and the significance of the gifts took on a whole new meaning.
The Magi gave their gifts to Jesus because of who he was, not because of what he had done or was about to do. They came to honor and to worship for the same reason. Today we live in a culture where the first question is often "what's in it for me?". And sadly, many approach Jesus the same way. We need to give our lives to him not because of what he has done, but because of who he is: King, Priest, atoning Sacrifice.
(For other posts on gifts, check out these posts from last year)