Christmas is all about presents. Yup. For adults as well as kids. It’s about the really expensive ones you can’t order online.
Matthew records that the very first Christmas present was one that Best Buy doesn’t stock. It’s the gift of an heir to David’s royal house (1:1), a Son to Abraham’s lineage to bless all nations (Gen. 12:3), a Messiah saving all who live in brokenness and sin.
This is not a gift we can give ourselves. It was given to us by God (Matt. 1:18-25) on Christmas Day.
According to Matthew, that started a bit of a trend. In the article “Belonging at the Manger” (p. 18), Leonard Kuyvenhoven observes: “Everything [Matthew] wants to convey to us about the coming of Christ and what it means for our world is summed up in this single episode. And it is the magi who teach us how to respond (Matt. 6:21).”
The magi make their long, difficult journey to present gifts to King Jesus. Not just the Wal-Mart specials either, but gifts fit for a king: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
If you know Scripture, those gifts may ring a bell, especially when we toss in the caravan the magi would have taken: “Herds of camels will cover your land, young camels of Midian and Ephah. And all from Sheba will come, bearing gold and incense, and proclaiming the praise of the Lord” (Isa. 60:6).
Matthew announces that the great reversal prophesied by Isaiah and the others begins with Christmas. In former times, because of Israel’s disobedience, God allowed the nations to beat up on them, to disrespect their kings, to rob them blind, and to slaughter or enslave them. Now, with the coming of the magi, the tide is turning. The nations have begun to give back to King Jesus—an endless stream of gifts that will never, ever cease: “I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. . . . The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it” (Rev. 21:22, 24).
So Christmas really is all about presents. It’s still true today, and that’s where we come in. As God gave himself for us who were once aliens, we may now give our very best to him: Frisians, Mongols, Chilean aboriginals, and Quebecois.
Christmas isn’t really about the gifts we give each other but those we present to our King.
True, Amazon doesn’t ship to where Jesus presently resides. Actually, we don’t have to send our presents quite that far. Jesus assures us: “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (Matt. 25:40).
Christmas is all about gifts that honor our King. O come, let us adore him! And let’s wrap up our gift-giving to Jesus before we get all wrapped up with those gift lists. Jesus’ impoverished sisters and brothers need your gift far more than Uncle Harold needs yet another plaid tie. Experience the magi(c).
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Don’t miss this week’s must-read articles:
- Tell A Better Story
- ‘Rebirth’ for a Wisconsin Church
- Book review: A Church Called Tov, by Laura Barringer and Scot McKnight