On this first Sunday of the New Year we celebrate the revelation of God incarnate as Jesus the Christ. It’s on this feast of the epiphany that we hear the story of the three magi bringing gifts to the new born child. Because the magi (representing the non-Jewish people of the world) come from the East, it is also the manifestation of Jesus’ physical presence to the Gentiles.
These wise men bring gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. These were standard gifts to honor a king in the ancient world. Even in the time of Jesus gold was considered a precious metal. Frankincense was used for incense or as a perfume. Myrrh was used as an oil for anointing.
Some scholars think, “In addition to the honor and status implied by the value of the gifts of the magi, …these three were chosen for their special spiritual symbolism about Jesus himself – gold representing his kinship, frankincense a symbol of his priestly role, and myrrh a prefiguring of his death and embalming…”
On a lighter note there is an old joke that asks what would have happened if it had been three wise women instead of the wise men. The answer goes something like this: They would have asked directions and arrived on time for the birth. They would have helped to deliver the baby. They would have cleaned the stable, brought a casserole and brought diapers and formula.
Regardless of what was brought to the infant Jesus, there was significance in the gospel story that calls each of us to bring our best offerings. We have been gifted in many ways throughout our lifetime. It is our turn to return to God what we have been given. If we are financially well off how do we share with those who have little? If we are well educated how do we share our knowledge to better our immediate world around us? If we are musically or artistically talented what do we offer to beautify the world around us? If our personality draws others to us how do we use our influence to make others feel good about themselves? If we are among those who feel we are not very gifted can we be open to receiving what is offered to us by others?
The list of questions can fill the rest of the page. Each one of us has to reflect on what we can offer back to our generous God and then act on it. Life is not a free ride. We are obligated to contribute what we have to God and neighbor. Be generous as your God is generous!
In what ways are you gifted?
How can you share what you have with others?