Matthew 2:1-12 (ESV)
The Visit of the Wise Men
2 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, 2 saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” 3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; 4 and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. 5 They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet:
6 “‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.’”
7 Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. 8 And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.”9 After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was.10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. 11 And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. 12 And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.
“They opened their treasures and offered him gifts” (Matthew 2:11).
What’s the best gift you have received this Christmas? How about the best gift you have given? Most likely, it wasn’t this year’s must-have item, which everyone lined up to buy. Rather, it was one you chose specifically for that person, something that reflected his or her personality perfectly.
In many cultures, Christmas gifts are given not on December 25th but on the feast of Epiphany. The tradition is meant to honor the Magi, who gave the infant Jesus gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. These gifts had symbolic value, but they were probably quite helpful as well during the the Holy Family’s flight into Egypt.
Thinking about gift giving at Epiphany can help us shift the focus a bit. Just as the Magi gave Jesus presents, we too have the opportunity to offer the Lord some gifts of our own. Of course, now that he has ascended to heaven and is no longer in need of anything, we face a quandary: What gift can I possibly offer the Creator and Lord of the universe?
The familiar verse from the poet Christina Rossetti has it right: What can I give him, poor as I am? Give him my heart.
There are gifts we treasure not so much because they are appropriate for us as recipients but because the giver has put so much love into them. Think of the toddler offering his mother a dandelion, the older child who has carved his initials into a wooden paperweight, or the author who autographs the first copy of his book to present to his mentor. In the same way, God is delighted when we offer him what no one else can give: ourselves.
No one can praise God in quiet the same way as you. No one can follow him down the exact same path. No one but you can love the same set of people. This is how we give Jesus a gift that fills him with delight.
Lord Jesus, I give you my heart, the heart you created to love you. Amen.