Daily Advent Devotions from Church Street UMC

Friday, December 25, Morning

By Nancy Carmon

Three Simple Gifts

Read Matthew 2:1-12

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose 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 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 shepherd my people Israel.’”

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 search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”

After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

According to tradition, the Wise Men brought three gifts to the infant Jesus – gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Simple yet expensive gifts, gifts suitable for royalty. Gold is certainly a gift for a king. Frankincense is incense used in many churches during worship, and myrrh is an embalming oil, a symbol for death and suffering. All reflect the spirit, life, and death of Jesus. These three simple gifts symbolize both Jesus’ kingship and humanity. How did these men know the perfect gifts to bring? These three simple gifts might reflect gifts given to any newborn. Gold is appropriate because a child is certainly royalty to the new parents. And don’t new babies take lots of money these days! Frankincense reflects the many prayers whispered before a child’s arrival and during a child’s lifetime. Myrrh because death and suffering come to us all.

Covid-19 has certainly both simplified and complicated our lives. It may make this holiday unique in many ways. Holiday celebrations may be curtailed. Black Friday will be different as well as shopping for gifts. Family celebrations and travel might be problematic for many of us. Decorating our homes (and churches) requires energy. Traditions will be altered. This year will be a unique Christmas. It may be a simpler Christmas for many of us. 

That first Christmas was simple. A child was born among the animals of a stable. He was destined to become the Savior, the Christ. He was a king, and he was human. He was given three simple gifts. What gift can we bring to him this Christmas?

Prayer

What gift can we bring, what present, what token? What words can convey it, the joy of this day? When grateful we come, remembering, rejoicing, what song can we offer in honor and praise? 

Give thanks for the Past, for those who had vision, who planted and watered so dreams could come true. Give thanks for the Now, for study, for worship, for mission that bids us turn prayer into deed. 

Give thanks for Tomorrow, full of surprises, for knowing whatever tomorrow may bring, God gives us his word that always, forever, we rest in his keeping and live in his love. 

This gift we now bring, this present, this token, these words can convey it – the joy of this day! When grateful we come, remembering, rejoicing, this song we now offer in honor and praise! (“What Gift Can We Bring?” – UM Hymnal #87)

This devotion was written in honor of the UMW Service Circle. 

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