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. (Matthew 2:11, NIV)
What makes a gift meaningful? The effort or thought put into it? Its significance or cost? Are the gifts we give truly meaningful or simply the result of a frenzied rush to buy them regardless of the significance or cost? How do we know the recipients will even appreciate our gifts?
A friend of mine begins her Christmas shopping in July. Yet even with this five-month head start, she still braves the Christmas Eve crowds in search of that last-minute prize. Oh, the struggles we endure and the anxiety we experience during the Christmas season. The tradition of exchanging gifts has become so stressful and meaningless it distorts our vision of the real reason we celebrate Christmas.
Gifts of the Magi
The wise men endured a long journey and went to great expense to present their gifts to Jesus. The great distance they travelled confirms their effort. The meaning behind each gift reveals their significance – gold fit for a king, frankincense symbolizing a sacrifice, and myrrh signifying the preparation for burial. However, these gifts were not meaningful simply because of the effort, thought, significance or cost. Rather, we find their true value in how the wise men gave their gifts to the “Word made flesh.” Before presenting their gifts, they first gave of themselves by humbling bowing and worshipping Him.
I recall a preacher once saying that the true measure of people could be found in their checkbooks. The underlying reference was to “where your treasure is, there your heart (and checkbook) will be also” (Matthew 6:21). Using any financial computer application, it is easy to run annual totals and calculate percentages on where we spend our money. I recommend this as a year-end activity – it may reveal your priorities, goals, and true treasure of your heart.
Beyond the monetary value, all the gifts in the world pale in comparison to the gift of yourself. Giving quality time, effort, and support to others is quite commendable. However, superseding that is the giving of yourself wholly to God. As you consider your gifts this year, make sure Jesus is on your Christmas list. Then give Him the most meaningful and valuable gift you can – you.