Faithlife
Faithlife

Epiphany

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The gifts offered

C.S. Lewis once wrote, “The proper aim of giving is to put the recipient in a state where he no longer needs our gift.”[1]

What then is the aim of the Wise Men?  What state are they trying to put Jesus into?  What will he no longer need to deal with because of their gifts to him?

Gold has an interesting history in the bible. 

The graven image of the calf god, made by Aaron during the Exodus was made from gold.  Gold earrings were taken from people to be melted down to make the calf.  The Ark of the Covenant was covered in gold, both inside and out. The inner sanctuary of King Solomon’s Temple was overlaid with gold.  Most of the furniture was gold-plated, and gold was sown into the garments of the High Priest, his crown, breastplate and ephod were all made from gold.

Frankincense first came to the Israelites from outside.  The Queen of Sheba brought it during a trade mission during King Solomon’s reign.  It could be used to make incense and then used secularly as a perfume.  However there was a special recipe, one that could only be used during worship.  Frankincense itself was set next to the Bread of Presence.  This bread was renewed each week in the Temple.  12 loaves were laid out as an offering to God, reminding people that God is the one who provides and sustains.

Myrrh was also used in the production of incense.  However, it was also used at the time of death, in the embalming process.

So then, what could these gifts from the Wise Men have saved Jesus from?  The gold could have saved him from being our High Priest, the one who offers himself as a sacrifice for our sins.  The frankincense could have saved him from being the one who offers himself up as bread to provide for us and sustain us.  The myrrh could have saved him from death.

So, everything that would be costly to Jesus, could be avoided with these gifts.  They could change the path that he is on.  With these things, he could have had a normal, ordinary life, without the end at the cross.

What if the gifts were used?

However, for our sake he couldn’t.  This was his role to fulfill.  We need him to do all those things.

Imagine for a moment, if Jesus wasn’t our High Priest, the one who offered himself for our sins.  What then would happen when we commit our first sin?  With no forgiveness, our sins would count against us when we die.  None of us, not one of us would ever see the joys of heaven.

Imagine for a moment, if Jesus wasn’t the one who provides for us and sustains us.  Who then would be responsible for doing that?  We would be responsible for ourselves.  The world would be a colder, heartless place—one where self-interest won out over the needs of others time and time again.  It would be a violent world that we would be living in.

Imagine for a moment, if Jesus hadn’t have died the death that he did, but lived to a ripe old age and died of “Natural Causes”.  There would have been no humiliation on the cross.  However, there also might not have been the need to show the world that Good will always triumph over Evil.  There might not have been the Resurrection, which has become our hope that death is not the end, merely a new beginning, one that is glorious and good.  Death might just remain simply Death—the end—nothing else.

That’s not the type of world I want to live in.  However it is the world that many people do live in.  It is a world without hope for a better tomorrow.  It is a world where the individual looks out only for themselves, and doesn’t care about how much hurt they perpetrate on others.  It is a world where grudges are held and build up—a world where people are bitter and spiteful.

What gifts would you offer?

In this bag, I have three gifts.  They are not modern day equivalents of Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh.  They are things though that if they were truly given to him, he would no longer need.

Let me see.

The first gift is ...

... our telephone directory here at Holy Cross.  It contains the names, address, phone numbers of the people connected to our congregation.  I want to offer not the directory itself, but what it represents—all of us.

Imagine for a moment what the world would look like, if Jesus didn’t need us—if the world naturally operated in a way consistent with his teachings.  We wouldn’t need to take the Good News to everyone we meet, because everyone would have it.

The second gift is ...

... a water bottle.  It contains plain ordinary water, taken from the tap in the sacristy.  Not that I think Jesus needs a drink, but water is crucial for our survival.  From what I’ve read, the percentage of our bodies made up of water ranges between 55% and 78%.  More than half of our bodies is made of water.

Imagine for a moment, if we gave more of ourselves to Jesus than the typical 1%-3% of our income.  Imagine if we gave 10%.  I won’t go so far as to suggest that we could give between 55% and 78% because that would just be silly.  Imagine what the world would be like, and how God’s will could be lived out.

The third gift is ...

... a laptop.  Not that Jesus needs a WiFi or Bluetooth connection to get his messages, nor do we need them to get messages from him.  Computers though represent what some of our finest minds have been able to produce, our thirst for knowledge, and our deepening understanding of how the world works.

Imagine for a moment, if we gave our best work, research, thought, and progress to Jesus.  The world would be such a different place.  Instead of research being used to produce weapons of mass destruction, research would be used to help bring peace.  Instead of the church being stagnant, it would be constantly changing and evolving.

Those gifts actually wouldn’t be too bad to give.  They might bring in the world that God had intended from the beginning.  These gifts would certainly change how we do things, and hopefully for the better.  They might help us be faithful to God’s will.

This week, take some time and think of the gifts you offer to Jesus.  What would you wish that Jesus would no longer need?  In figuring that out, we will be one step closer in helping the reign of God come to our world.


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[1] The Four Loves, chap 3, para. 78, p. 36

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