Have you recuperated from Christmas yet? An American Christmas can be summed up in two words: SENSORY OVERLOAD! We are bombarded with hundreds upon hundreds of choices to make; presents to buy, food to prepare, places to go. Department stores are loaded with everything imaginable in toys, clothing, and electronic gadgets from a tiny Bluetooth to an eighty-inch (analog, digital, HD) projection, plasma (3D, L.C.D., L.E.D., L.D.) T.V. And the grocery stores have just as many choices for us to make (Did you know there are not one, but many types of cauliflower?). The T.V. also has an unusual number of obnoxious commercials about cars and other high priced items “no one can live without” Although I didn’t see any annoying Chia Pet commercials this year (thankfully). Besides buying STUFF for Christmas gifts and buying FOOD after deciding on a Christmas menu which everyone will eat, there are Christmas parties to attend, Christmas concerts to go listen to, live Nativity scenes to go see, as well as Christmas plays and “Lessons and Carols” and “Candle Light” and other church services (Midnight Mass) to enjoy. There is no way any one person can go to all these special Christmas events. Where is the “peace on earth” we sing about during the Christmas Season? For me, I get my sense of peace from the sense of smell.
How soothing it is to smell the mug of hot chocolate I am about to sip on a cold and snowy wintry day (I use a straw. But, don’t worry; the technique is to put the end of the straw on the very top of the hot chocolate and sip slowly, without making a slurping noise. I have perfected this technique and use it for all my hot drinks.). How comforting it is to smell Christmas cookies, apple pie, Polish ham baking in the oven and traditional Polish cabbage soup being prepared on the stove top (The smells of the sautéing onions and the boiling imported dried gourmet mushrooms that are getting ready to be added into pot of sour kraut and boiled-until-mushy chick peas are out of this world. You don’t have to be Polish to have your mouth watering by the perfectly melding of delicious flavors. Just try it. You might like it.) What a blessing it is to smell the evergreen tree indoors; a reminder that there is still greenery (life) growing, even in the dead of winter, and there is more life on its way. How relaxing it is to sit by the fireplace and smell the fragrance of wood burning and enjoy the warmth that it brings.
Christmas scents is what makes sense out of Christmas. Jesus became one of us on that Christmas so long ago and continues to bring “peace [on earth] to men on whom His favor rests” (Matthew 2:14b). This is why the “Visit of the Magi” makes so much sense to me. The two most important things to focus on, in Matthew 2:1-12 is: 1. The gifts of the Magi, and 2. The Magi were not Jewish, but Gentiles. Before going to other sources, it is important to look at what the Scripture passage tells us. Matthew tells us the Magi came from the east, from another country (2:1). The passage also tells us that they did not come to a stable: “On coming to the house, they saw the Child with His mother Mary…” Theologians tell us the Magi came after Jesus was dedicated in the temple (Luke 2:22-24), when Jesus was forty-one days old, after the time of purification for Mary and Joseph was finished. Theologians also use Herod’s heinous act when “he gave orders to kill all the boys of Bethlehem and it’s vicinity who are two years old and under” as a timeline for figuring out when the Magi visited Jesus. So, their visit could have been when Jesus was between forty-one days old to two years old.
For me, when the Magi visited Jesus is not as important as what they did: “…they bowed down and worshiped Him. Then they opened their treasures and presented Him with gifts of gold and of incense [frankincense] and of myrrh” (2:11b). From their gifts, we can safely conclude that the Magi were rich. More importantly for me, we see that two of the gifts were scents – incense and myrrh – and one of them was gold which was often given to a king (historians tell us). Historians and theologians tell us that incense symbolized Jesus as our High Priest and myrrh was used as a burial ointment which foretold of Jesus’ death. The Magi, not the religious leaders of His own country, recognized Jesus as the Messiah (Savior and Lord); our eternal High Priest (Hebrew 4:14-16 and 7:24-28), the One Who was to die and bring peace between God and mankind (Ephesians 2:13-18), and our Everlasting King (Hebrews 1:1-13). The Magi were a sign that Jesus came for all of mankind who would believe and trust in Him for their salvation.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His One and Only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
What is God telling me through the gifts of the Magi? The Gold tells me that Jesus is my King. I want to honor Him with my life, in all that I say and do and think. The incense tells me that He is my High Priest. I want to thank Him each day for saving me “completely…because He always lives to intercede for [me]” (Hebrews 7:25). The myrrh reminds me of the perfect sacrifice He made for me, by dying of the cross for my sins (Galatians 2:20). I want to thank Him each day for loving me so much that “He gave Himself” (died) for me. As someone with a disability, what gifts can I give Jesus? I am in a wheelchair, I have a brace on my right ankle and a “bum” left knee, my hands don’t work “right” and my speech is slurred (Some of you are hearing violin music right about now.). What can I give Jesus? I can give Him myself, because that is all He wants and that is why He died and that is why He lives. I can give Him myself by treating others as He treats me, with kindness and compassion, with patience and encouragement, with unconditional love; by never giving up on the people in my life and by always being ready to forgive, and by never giving up on myself and accepting Jesus’ forgiveness and grace.
(I am giving out candy before church starts to celebrate RED SOX
winning 2013 WS)
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so must you love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35).
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices in the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres, Love never fails” (I Corinthians 13:4-8a)
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not be conformed any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good and perfect will” (Romans 12:1-2). [All of Romans 12 talks about giving oneself to Jesus and what that looks like.]
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3-4).
“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, Who loved me and gave Himself up for me” (Galatians 2:20).
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy [set apart] and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Colossians 3:12-13). [See also 14-17]
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (I John1:9).
The above Scriptures are gifts we can give to Jesus, no matter what our abilities or disabilities are. These gifts, however, often go against our human tendencies to “fight for our rights,” “prove people wrong,” “make people pay” and on and on our sinful nature goes. It is only by the power of the Resurrection that any of us can die to self and live for Christ. Living for Christ and giving myself as my gift to Him is my goal in life. How about you?
“I want to know Christ and the power of His Resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, and so, somehow, to attain to the Resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained all this, or have been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me” (Philippians 3:10-12).
The following hymn is also my prayer:
Take My Life and Let It Be
By Frances Ridley Havergal
(Stanzas 1, 4, 5, 6)
Take my life and let it be Consecrated,
Lord to Thee; Take my moments and my days – Let them
Flow in ceaseless praise, Let them flow in ceaseless praise.
Take my silver and my gold – Not a mite would
I withhold; Take my intellect and use Ev’ry
Pow’r as Thou shalt choose, Ev’ry pow’r as Thou shalt choose.
Take my will and make it Thine – It shall be no
Longer mine; Take my heart – it is Thine own, It shall
Be Thy royal throne, It shall be Thy royal throne.
Take my love – my Lord, I pour At Thy feet its
Treasure store; Take my self – and I will be Ever,
Only, all for Thee, Ever, only, all for Thee.
What about those questions: Who were the Magi? Where did they come from? How did they know about a Jewish Messiah and …and…? The “Magi Minutiae” will be covered in my next post. I promise! I just don’t want Christmas to end. (B.T.W. Sometimes, I burn a stick of incense or light a scented candle when I’m writing or just relaxing. I find it very soothing. The incense or candle is on my dining room table and I’m either in my bedroom typing or in my living room relaxing. That way the scent isn’t too strong, for me anyway.)