Tuesday, December 4

The Gift of Christmas

Well, it's the most wonderful time of the year again...right?  If you are anything like me, I absolutely adore everything about the Christmas season.  The trees, the lights, the food, the celebration of my Savior... I've always loved everything about this time of year, until it comes time for THE LIST.  You know, the gift list.  The miles long list of stuff that children MUST have in order to survive.  I lived most of my childhood and young adult life under the poverty line, so my list was always relatively short and I didn't expect to get much on it.  My parents tried to give us what they could, and I know they hated the list then as much as I do now.  I'm sure they felt the anxiety and pressure of meeting their children's expectations that I feel about meeting those of my own children.  The world tells us to buy, buy, buy...what's the hottest toy, how many can you get, or better yet, how many can you get for a good deal.  Ah, consumerism.  I am just as guilty as the next.

When I had my own daughter, I couldn't wait until Christmas.  I would get her everything her little three month old heart could want.  I proceeded to relive my childhood vicariously through her and spent an obscene amount of money on toys and clothes of which she had absolutely no need. On Christmas day my little family of three sat in a pile of things...things from her grandparents, things from her aunts and uncles, things from us.  I did not feel as satisfied as I thought I would.  But I shook it off and began finding a place for each of them.  The next Christmas, we had a new addition to the family, a two month old son.  So we began the rat race all over again.  Will the store still have that perfect toy?  Did I get her everything she wanted on the list?  Did the baby get as much as sister? That year the pile of things grew, as did my anxiety.  As my husband and I sat looking at each other I could tell he felt the same way that I did.  Isn't Christmas supposed to be about peace, joy, and worshiping Jesus?  Instead it had turned into anxiety, disappointment, and worshiping ourselves.

It was that Christmas we decided to make a change.  I had read a blog about a family that gave three gifts to their children as a symbol of what Christ received in celebration of his birth.  My husband and I agreed, this was a wonderful and unorthodox tradition, and the answer to our problem.  So, for the past four years, our children have each received three gifts each on Christmas morning.  We discuss the importance of why they are able to enjoy these gifts and talk about the three gifts Christ received, Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh.  The gifts given to Christ by the Magi were no ordinary things.  Not only were they gifts worthy of royalty, they were items specific to worshiping who the Christ child was... the Messiah.

In the Jewish culture, Gold was not only valuable as currency, it represented the glory of God.  Jesus was Immanuel, the Glory of God in human form, or "God with us."  Frankincense was used in the incense burned in the temple on the Altar of Incense. It was the ingredient that contributed to the white hue of the cloud that preceded the High Priest into the Holy of Holies, where the Ark of the Covenant was kept in the Tabernacle.  This cloud was required to shield the Priest from the presence of God, a shield that is no longer needed now that the Messiah was born.  Myrrh was also used in the incense burned in the temple, and was known to be a very valuable balm used for healing.  Myrrh was one of the five ingredients used in the oil God told Moses to make called the Holy Anointing Oil. This oil was used to anoint the Tabernacle, the Congregation, and the Ark of the Covenant (Exodus 30:23-26). The term Messiah means "Anointed One" and comes from the Hebrew verb mashah meaning to anoint in a way of marking or setting apart (Abarim-publications).  Jesus IS the Holy Anointing Oil.  The Magi offered gifts to this child with the intention of giving praise and acknowledgment to him as the Messiah the world had been waiting on for centuries.

As we join in the privilege of gift giving this holiday season, I hope we will remember why we are giving in the first place.  It is the day of the birth of our Rescuer and with His birth our adoption papers were signed and sealed. "But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that we might receive the adoption as sons." Galatians 4:4-5.  We are no longer separated from God, but are His sons and daughters in Christ Jesus (2 Corinthians 6:18; Galatians 3:26).  Let's celebrate!  But let us do so in a way that worships HIM, rather than the standards of the world.  That is the purpose of the three-gift tradition we began as a family, and I hope it continues for generations of Hardages to come.

Merry Christmas from our family to yours, we wish you happiness and  peace during this season. I pray each of you would know Jesus as your own Messiah, Immanuel, Savior, and Friend.  He truly is the only gift we need.

*This post can also be seen in the "Letter from the Editor" at My Journey of Faith Magazine

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