Christmas is Finally Making Some “Scents” (Part Two)

christmas gifts

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.

christmas hot chocolatechristmas fireplace

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.

christms dinner

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.

jesus as kingchrismas gold, incense and myrrh

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.

jesus as high priest

jesus as kingCross

“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.

glasses on BibleWS AT CHURCH

(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.]

God Sees Us as

“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).

angry fist

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?

jesus has risenpraying hands

“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.

me writing

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.)

May the Peace of Christ be with You! image0

Lydia

Christmas is Finally Making “Scents”!

Christmas Nativity

(My dad explaining the Nativity when I was a child)

During these several weeks, I have invited you along on an “Advent-ure” with me through the four Sundays (weeks) of Advent. I have shared my thoughts and readings and my research and studies about the Birth of Christ and what His Birth means to me personally. Advent is a time to celebrate Christ’s Birth and to actively anticipate His Second Coming by living a life worthy of His calling – a life that shines His Light to a needy world filled with darkness.

Jesus, Mary and Baby

At the very beginning of the Christmas Season, we looked at the contrast between the British royalty of today and all the pomp and circumstance that comes with being royalty, with a peasant couple of long ago who were given the awesome responsibility of having God’s Only Begotten Son, the King of kings and Lord of Lord’s, to be born to them and parented by them. What a spectacular (televised) wedding Prince William and Princess Kate had. What humble beginnings Mary and Joseph had, with Mary already pregnant by the power of the Holy Spirit, and both Mary and Joseph not knowing what this all meant, at first. When Prince William and Princess Kate gave birth to their first son, Prince George, it is for certain that mother and baby had the best of care, in the best hospital in England, and the Royal Family – Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip, Prince Charles and Camilla, Prince Andrew, Prince Harry and other royal relatives – came to welcome the child who one day may be the King of England. When Jesus was born to Mary, it was in a little town called Bethlehem, in a stable where Mary wrapped the new born Baby Jesus in swaddling cloths and laid Him in a manger for a bed. It was big news when Prince William decided to be in the birthing room with Princess Kate. I was not there to be sure, but I think Joseph was not only there when Jesus was born, but He also delivered the Baby who was already King. Besides Mary, he was the only human being in Mary’s “birthing room.”! Instead of royalty, Jesus was welcomed into the world He created by barn animals, shepherds and “a great company of heavenly host” who did not stay very long (See Luke 2:1-20).

shepherds in the fieldsAngel's with Shepherds

There are four Sundays (weeks”) in Advent which ends on Christmas Eve (December 24th), BUT WAIT! THERE’S MORE! (as TV “infor-mercials” say). There are the Twelve Days of Christmas, which begins on December 25th and ends on January 6th (or the Sunday closest to January 6th). The Sunday closest to January 6th is called “Epiphany Sunday.” It is also called “Little Christmas” or “The Feast of the Three Kings” in the Roman Catholic Church. In some Christian cultures, “Little Christmas” is BIGGER than the Christmas celebrated on December 25th. Gifts are exchanged on Epiphany Sunday to mark the time when the Magi came with gifts to the Baby Jesus. “Epiphany” means (among other things): “sudden realization: a sudden leap of understanding, especially through an ordinary but striking occurrence” (Bing Dictionary). According to WIKIPEDIA, “The word ‘epiphany’ originally referred to insight through the divine…” Dictionary.com says that Epiphany is “a Christian Festival observed on January 6, commemorating the manifestation of Christ to the gentiles in the persons of the Magi; Twelfth-day.”

Magi following starmary and jesus house

The Christmas Story (His Story) is making a lot more sense, now that we see kings coming to welcome the King of kings into His world. How could God allow His Only Begotten Son, the Creator of The universe, enter into His Creation without any royal recognition? There must be something more than a stable and shepherds to the story of Jesus’ Birth. And there is! We see “them” as part of every Nativity Scene and we sing about “them” in Christmas Carols and we read about “them” in the Gospel of Matthew in “The Visit of the Magi”:

glasses on Bible

“After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi [Wise Men] from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the One who has been born King of the Jews? We saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.” When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ [Messiah] was to be born. ‘In Bethlehem in Judea,’ they replied, ‘for this is what the prophet has written:
“‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a Ruler
Who will be the Shepherd of my people Israel.’”
(from Micah 5:2)
Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, ‘Go and make a careful search for the Child. As soon as you find Him, report to me, so that I too may worship Him.’ After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the Child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed [MEGA-JOYED]. On coming to the house, they saw the Child with His mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped Him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route. When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. ‘Get up,’ he said, ‘take the Child and His mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the Child to kill Him. So he got up, took the Child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod” (Matthew 2:1-15).

Angel in Joseph's dream

Before we go any further, we need to order the sequence of events concerning Jesus’ birth and what followed: 1. Jesus was born in a stable, in Bethlehem, and shepherds came to visited Him on that night (Luke 2:8-20); 2. When Jesus was eight days old He was circumcised (Luke 2:21); 3. “When their time of purification according to the Law of Moses had been completed [FORTY DAYS, according to Leviticus 12:1ff], Joseph and Mary took Him to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord” (Luke 2:22), in accordance to Exodus 13:2ff and Numbers 3:13, 8:17. (Please excuse the “poetic license” for the title of my last post. “On the fortieth Day of Christmas…” just didn’t sound right.); 4. The Magi inquired about the star to Herod (Matthew 2:1-2); 5. The Magi found Jesus and worshiped Him and gave Him gifts of gold, [frank]incense and myrrh (Matthew 2:11); 6. Both the Magi and Joseph were warned in a dream about Herod’s plot to kill Jesus. On that same night, the Magi “returned to their country by another route (Matthew 2:12) and Joseph escaped with Mary and Jesus to Egypt; 7. (One of the most heinous acts in all of Scripture) “Herod gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under (Matthew 2:16b).

IMG_1956

When I see the “Three Kings” in the manger scene, I think, “Finally! Finally, Jesus is getting the recognition He deserves. We sing, “We three kings of Orient are: Bearing gifts we traverse afar – Field and fountain, moor and mountain – Following yonder star” (By John H. Hopkins, Jr.). But, did the Magi visit Jesus at the stable? Were the Magi really kings? Who were they, how many were they and where did the come from? How did they know about a Jewish Messiah? And why did they bring the specific gifts of gold, [frank]incense and myrrh? What is God telling me through the Magi? In order to keep one of my New Year’s Resolutions, you’ll have to wait until next time for the answers to these questions. I will say this one last think: Two of the three gifts, the [frank]incense and myrrh make “scents”. The gold makes sense too. I’ll explain next time.

partrich in pear tree

[A special note: On many websites there is false information on the origins of the song, “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” The song was not used as a “catechism” song written in code to help young Roman Catholics learn the tenants of their faith, during the time period it was crime to be Catholic (1558-1828). This is what Phil Hamilton, from the Austin Library Research Department, wrote in a response to this false information:

“The Austin Public Library research department found information in the book “Twelve Days of Christmas: A Celebration and History,” by Leigh Grant, ISBN 0-679-74038-4. It says the words from this song first appeared in a book titled “Mirth without Mischief.” That book came out in 1780 (or 1783) in England. The tune apparently dates back much further and came from France. That 1780 book describes ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’ as a ‘memory and forfeits game’ played by children at that time. The leader recites the first verse, the next child recites the second verse, and this continues until someone missed his or her verse and had to pay some kind of penalty in the game. ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’ became popular at the “12th-night parties’ that took place in the Christmas season. For more information about the origins of this song and the false information that has been circulating via the internet, you can check out http://www.snopes2.com/.%5D

Have a Very Merry “Little Christmas!” -Lydia image0

“…Jesus said, ‘If you hold to My teaching, you are really My disciples. Then you will know the Truth, and the Truth will set you FREE” (John 8:32).

imagesCAPBEZO8Jesus' Baptism