Advent Week 4: A Gift of Love

Lori and her Christmas rings…

My sister, Lori, shared the following with me several years ago. Because I have used it and shared it myself, I’m not sure how much of the writing of this is mine, and how much of these words are hers. Lori died in February 2019. 

I think that the mixing up of our words pretty well describes our lives. I cannot extract her thoughts and her words, her presence from who I am. I miss her wisdom. And so I share this today from Lori (and me).

Our Grama Beulah graduated from college in the 1920s (the first time).  She majored in “elocution” (that was a real thing).  She performed recitations (much like you might see in “Anne of Green Gables”). 

Every Christmas Eve as I was growing up, she would recite “The Three Kings” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (this is how I learned that the word kine means “cattle”).

I can hear the inflections of her voice, and how it would change as she spoke the words of Herod or Baltasar.

She was wonderful.

And cradled there in the scented hay,

In the air made sweet by the breath of kine,

The little child in the manger lay,

The child, that would be king one day

Of a kingdom not human, but divine.

His mother Mary of Nazareth

Sat watching beside his place of rest,

Watching the even flow of his breath,

For the joy of life and terror of death

Were mingled together in her breast.

They laid their offerings at his feet:

The gold was their tribute to a King,

The frankincense, with its odor sweet,

Was for the Priest, the Paraclete,

The myrrh for the body’s burying.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

For many people, Christmas has become about gift giving and gift receiving.  So I gave some thought to what the Christmas gifts are in the Bible.

There is the gift of God to us in Jesus (Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift! 2 Corinthians 9:15).

The shepherds gave their time and their worship.

And there are the gifts of the Magi, which they gave to Jesus.

The Magi brought what they had.  They lived in a region of the world and a time in history when gold, frankincense and myrrh were certainly among the VERY BEST the world had to offer.   

Gold has a monetary value that we clearly understand today.  

Frankincense was used in worship.

Myrrh was used as anointing oil and for embalming.

Both Frankincense and Myrrh had medical uses as well.

Gold comes from deep within the earth – mining it is tedious, dangerous, dirty work.  By the time it arrives at the jewelry counter, there is no indication of the arduous journey it had to travel.  Most of us know a little bit about gold and understand the value of it.

I have read that the frankincense and myrrh actually had a much greater monetary value than the gold. 

I did a little research on how frankincense and myrrh are harvested.  

Frankincense and myrrh are both derived from tree resin.  

In order to harvest the Frankincense, a long, deep incision is made into the trunk of the tree.  When the tree is cut, a sticky resin oozes out onto the trunk and hardens over the course of several weeks.  Then is it scraped off the tree into baskets.  That process is repeated.  At the third harvest, the resin forms yellow “tears” which produce the best incense. 

Myrrh is harvested in a similar way, but in its case, the incisions are made all the way up from the root to those of the branches that are strong enough to bear the cut.  The gum seeps out of the incision and often mats are laid beneath the tree to catch the drips.  Myrrh is considered to be of good quality it if comes in small pieces of irregular shape and has a slightly bitter taste.

I was struck by the fact that each of these exceptionally valuable gifts came out of some kind of a wound.  

Miners dig deep into the earth to break the gold free, then it is burned and melted and manipulated into a form that is enjoyed and valued.

The other gifts literally come out of the wounds made to their trees.

It’s so easy for us to believe that we have nothing of value to bring to Jesus.  

We are wounded and broken people.   But God – the God who specializes in taking wounded and broken things and restoring them to something of value – longs to accept what we bring to him.

Sometimes it seems like bringing what I have and offering it to Jesus is just the messy stuff that came out of my wounds.  The beauty of His deep love for you (and me) is that this is exactly what He WANTS us to give him.  

He didn’t ask shepherd to bring him gold, and he doesn’t ask us to bring the refined, finished version of the frankincense and myrrh.  Jesus is the one who will take the stuff that oozed out of the incisions in your life and turn it into a fragrant, beautiful, useful anointing oil or perfume.

The Wise Men’s gifts seem so much more valuable than what you and I probably have to offer.  But the point isn’t in what the gift is – it’s in the giving of what we have. 

But of course, the most valuable gift in the Christmas story is Jesus Himself.  He is “Emmanuel: God With Us”. 

He was broken when he offered himself on the cross for us.  But that wounded, broken Savior is not who he is now.  

God did what He can do for any of us – He restored the broken Jesus to life again so that we could be restored to the relationship we were intended to be in all along.  

All we have to do is offer what we have to give.  Give God your life, with its messy wounds and scars.  He will do what He does – he will redeem your brokenness and make you the person he created you to be in the first place. 

Whole. Loved. Valued. Useful. Beautiful. Fragrant. Accepted.

In this Christmas season, Lord, we thank you that you “became flesh and dwelt among us” so that you can be “God with us – Emmanuel” who understands our pains and our joys. We pray that we would find you in the stillness of the manger, our Saviour come to save us. 

Take what we have to offer and transform and redeem it… a beautiful fragrant offering… a Christmas gift. Amen

Inhale:  Emmanuel

Exhale: God with us

That’s what I would have said…

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