3 Gifts to Give Next Christmas
#3GiftstoGiveNextChristmas is the podcast for January 7, 2017 (Christmas). The gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh can give some ideas on how to fill the stockings and wrap some things under the tree for next year. What do they represent? Listen here and find out more: Download it into your phone. #Matthew2 #Gold #Frankincense #Myrrh #BabyNames #Magi #Caspar #Melchior #Balthasar #Fulfillment #Isaiah #Micah #Jeremiah #Exodus #Messiah #Savior #Tithe #Prayer #Service
Full Text of Podcast, Open Here
For The Church of Saint Raphael the Archangel, Munster, IN and My Spiritual Advisor, this is Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 1/7/2018 The Epiphany.
Please pause this audio and read Matthew 2:1-15.
Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar are not names I pulled from last year’s “most popular baby names” for 2017. Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar are the names of the three Wise Men who come to worship the King of the Jews. These guys are very interesting fellas. They are Persian astrologers, Magi, who divined that the King of the Jews was to be born under a star that moved against the astrological pattern. It is a star that appears in the west, not east, moves southwest, not west, and stands still exactly over the manger of Jesus until the Magi get there.
They are Gentiles who come to Jewish scripture scholars to get the information they need to get to the King of the Jews. They go to the competitor King, Herod, and unabashedly tell him what they are up to. Yet, they do not report back to Herod, because they know what we know: Good news has enemies. The Gospel has enemies. Jesus, even at his birth, lying in a manger, has enemies.
The story itself tells us how a Galilean from Nazareth is actually a Davidic King born in Bethlehem, who flees to Egypt, and returns after one of the long line of enemies of the good news kills roughly 20 babes and toddlers in Bethlehem. The prophets Micah, Hosea, Jeremiah, and the Book of Exodus are all fulfilled in this scene. Matthew establishes that this child, this fulfillment of Scripture is universally understood to be the King of kings, kings of Israel and kings of Persia.
These Magi of Persia come and lay prostrate before him. They offer him gifts which they lay before him as we do each week. He is worshiped by the Wise Men. Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar, whose names became tradition in the 8th century, yet, whose presence was testified to, come to worship the Lord of lords, the One whose birth has a supernatural occurrence: the Star appearing in the West, not the East.
So, we have a universal supernatural King and Lord who is born as a baby in humility, vulnerability, and gracious condescension. He is worthy of their gifts. They are gifts that serve as examples for our response to Jesus’ coming today.
They bring Gold. They do not withhold even their wealth from the God of the universe. They offer him everything he would need as provision for his mission here on earth. The Gold has a purpose. It is not to buy off God. It is to recognize that the earthly mission needs earthly provision. It also recognizes that the mission of the Christ is a cooperative venture. Humanity is going to be relied upon, just as they were when they offered their first 10% of their crops and herds to God at the Festival of Weeks and Rosh Hoshana. The gift of gold says, “We withhold nothing from you, Lord. You are Lord over every area of our lives, even our money. From you I have been given this blessing, to you I return a blessing.”
They bring incense to the Lord of the Universe with a purpose. We are told in Revelation 8, when it says, “Another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer; and he was given much incense to mingle with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar before the throne; and the smoke of the incense rose with the prayers of the saints from the hand of the angel before God.” Incense is also mixed with anointing oil and nard to prepare bodies for burial. We hear echoes of Jesus, laid in the tomb, smelling of the incense of the saints with their prayers taken to the grave to be transformed by the resurrection. From the very start, the Magi knew of the offering of the saints, the offering of Christ, as he lies in the trough in the manger. They lay prostrate and gave their prayers as they offered the incense themselves.
Myrrh, the anointing oil; which reminds us of the anointing of Jesus as the Messiah, as David his forefather was anointed King of Judah. It reminds us of our own anointing to follow the mission of the Christ to renew the face of the earth. It reminds us of our establishment of communities that live as “People of the Way”, the “Way of the Lord”, the “Way of the Kingdom”, a way of life that is marked by our anointing in our Confirmation. The anointing of Confirmation is our anointing into service.
We serve others. We serve the faith community because we serve the Lord. It is an act of service to travel across the desert, following a star that is inexplicable, to a place we do not know, to bow down in front of a baby in a manger. This is what the Magi did. This is what we do every Sunday.
Three gifts are given which are a pattern for us in our service to the Lord. We are Christians. We, too, offer gold; that is, our tithe to advance the Kingdom of God here on earth in preparation for his Second Coming. We, too, offer incense, in our daily prayers, our communal prayers, in the prayer of the Mass [or worship service]. We pray for ourselves, for those close to us, for members of the community, those who are sick, in prison, hurting, lonely, those in leadership, those who ask us, those who do not know to ask. We pray without ceasing. We come to church and light the incense as it rises with our prayers to the Lord in heaven, as the Bible tells us.
We accept the anointing of Confirmation for service, sacrificial service, just like Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar. We feed the hungry, clothe the naked, heal the sick, visit those in prison, tend to the poor and needy, give to the community of faith, and more. We serve as lectors, altar servers, deacons, priests, bishops, evangelists, healers, teachers, and more. We serve because the life of following Christ is one of laying down our lives, prefigured in our baptisms, like Christ began to lay down his life symbolized by the gift of anointing myrrh from the Magi.
Join me for the coming year to dedicate our gold, our frankincense, our myrrh as emblematic gifts of our tithe, our prayers, and our service to the Lord. He is King of kings. He is Lord of lords. He is worthy of the same sacrifices which he gave for us, even as he came down to be one of us from the Manger to the Cross. Join me in giving three good gifts to our Savior, our King in the coming year and for a lifetime. Amen.
This audio is under the copyright of My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated and may not be used, reduplicated, or distributed for commercial use without the express written consent of My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated. My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated, 2018.
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Mark Kurowski, M.Div.
Spiritual Director, Author, Blogger, Podcaster, Theologian