Christmas is full of gifts. Many people try to buy just the right gift, the gift that best suits the person they’re buying it for. Yet, it can be quite a challenge to know our friends and family well enough to get that perfect gift. I am sure some of the gifts you received this year were ones you loved, others you sort-of liked, and perhaps a few you even, shall I say, hated. When that happens, we are faced with another challenge – how to react to those gifts. It seems that the gifts we least expect (maybe even from a person we least expect it from) are the ones that let us know that person really knows us.
This week in church we are celebrating Epiphany. We look to the Magi, often called Wise Men, and ask, “What does their story tell us about Jesus?” One of the most powerful parts of their story was their gifts. Their gifts, at first glance, seem amazing. They are certainly high dollar gifts, but were they fitting for Jesus? The answer is… no they weren’t. Jesus came as a humble king, but their gifts were more fitting for a king concerned about wealth and status. Common gifts, really, that one would give to any king with little thought. In one way, it teaches us that the Magi didn’t realize who this king (Jesus) was, but yet they did recognize Him as a king. They also knew they wanted to see Him, and they recognized the warnings to not play into Herod’s trap.
This week my family takes to time to reflect on the one year anniversary of Maddy’s birth, our daughter who was born after already going to be with Jesus. I remember how the gifts poured out into our house last year. Many of those gifts were flowers. It was what people gave when they didn’t know what else to do – they sent flowers. Our house was full of them, so much so that it smelled like a flower shop. At times we didn’t want to see another bouquet of flowers because it was a harsh reminder of what we were going through. At times we didn’t even know where to put them. And in the end, we had a hard time figuring out which ones to dry out.
This December I started a new tradition. I made sure Mindy always had fresh flowers in the house. What was once a painful reminder of sadness was now a powerful reminder of love. In that season we learned how the people of God surrounded us. We learned how the love of Jesus surrounds His people! We saw how we were taken care of and how God brings amazing stories out of painful moments. Now the gift of flowers is seen as a deeper gift of love, and a reminder that a gift once given as a common gift had a deeper meaning behind it.
This year we could look at the Magi’s common kingly gifts as ones that tell us they didn’t really get who Jesus was, or we could recognize that they knew this was something big. They knew they wanted to meet this king, and that missing it was a bad idea. They knew they wanted to bring something to this king. And as they were warned in a dream not to head back to Herod, they knew this wasn’t just any king. Amazing how common gifts can have a very uncommon meaning!