12.25.11 Unwrapping God’s Gift to Us, Matt 2:1-12
The story of the Magi invites us to pay attention to the disturbances in our lives. Herod was disturbed to hear about the birth of a new king. Herod was king of the Jews, and wasn’t ready to relinquish his power to anyone else. This is why he tried to have the toddler Jesus killed.
Ours may not be as big or as fragile as Herod’s, but each of us also has an ego which is disturbed when it hears of the birth of another king. Will we respond as Herod did? Will we try to kill off the new born king so that we can remain in control of our lives?
The Magi’s lives also experienced a disturbance. When the star appeared, it signified the birth of a new king, and they left their homeland to go and find him. When we pay attention to the disturbances in our lives, we will either respond as Herod did, with defensive self-preservation. Or we will respond as the Magi did, by worshiping at the sight of the new born king, and presenting him with gifts.
The Magi brought three gifts. The story is based on an image take from Isaiah 60:1-7, where the prophet assures the Exiles that their glory will be restored, that a new king will arise, and that tribute will be brought to him by visiting kings. Gold and incense are mentioned by Isaiah, but not myrrh.
Gold represents our treasure, literally. The frankincense represents our hearts, as incense were used in worship, and our hearts follow our worship. But myrrh is an embalming agent, used to prepare a body for burial. According to Matthew, the Magi brought myrrh in addition to gold and incense. It’s Matthew’s way of saying that this king is different than other kings. This king will die, and those who would offer their treasures of gold and incense to this new king, must also offer the treasure of their very own lives.
God’s gift to us is our lives. We unwrap this gift by giving it back to God.