January 5th is the day of gift-giving here in Argentina. Why? It commemorates the visit of the wise men to the young Jesus and how they came bearing gifts. And personally, after listening to one of Erwin McManus' recent sermons as well as reading a few commentaries on the story, I have never been so touched by the story of these earnest men seeking the Savior of the world.
While I will probably stick to the traditional North American way of gifts during Christmas, I would like to take a moment (albeit late. hey! like the wise men! insert inappropriate rim shot) to highlight what I have recently learned.
It's not earth-shattering to be reminded that there are three gifts and for that reason we say there were only three wise men (a number which is simply unknown). It is mind-blowing to think about the significance of the individual gifts. Gold--showing the wise men's belief that this young child would be King. Frankincense--used in the Jewish offerings that give praise and thanks to God (incense was not used in the sin offerings). Myrrh--a rather offensive gift as it was used for embalming. Did they know that Christ had come to die?
And to whom are the gifts given? Lest we forget the gift-giving on Christmas is a symbol of that we should give to God--the One deserving of all our adoration. The wise men had travelled so far for that purpose only. To worship.
The wise men v. Herod. Here were men who did not have the same access to God as Herod, king of the Jews, representative of the Jewish people. To spell it out for us, Herod should have known. Not only is he surprised by the wise men's arrival, he doesn't do his own homework. He asks the others to read into what the Scriptures say about the Messiah.
But not having the same access does not translate to not having any access.
God gave the wise men science. The stars. And he specifically gave them THE star to lead them to the Savior. This should make our minds explode because it helps us understand a little more when God says to Elijah:
Meanwhile, I'm preserving for myself seven thousand souls: the knees that haven't bowed to the god Baal, the mouths that haven't kissed his image. (1 Kings 19:18 MSG)
Or when he says to Jonah:
But Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city? (Jonah 4:11 NIV)
That "man on the island" question, that "how will they hear unless someone tells them" gets reduced to the fact that once again, GOD DOESN'T NEED US. To, GOD IS THE GOD OF MERCY.
He knows who are his, and he will claim them.
He doesn't need us, but he will use us because he loves us. May our hearts not harden to his call. May our hearts not desire the throne that He deserves.
love and chau