Aside from the fact that Christmas Day isn’t His actual birth day, and aside from the fact that neither Jesus nor the Father ever asked us to celebrate that day, allow me to ask a pertinent question: If Christmas is a celebration of Jesus’ birth, what do you suppose He might want for His birthday?
The magi who came from the east brought three gifts to Him that were not simply valuable, but honorable. The gifts were an expression of the magi’s faith. Traditionally, magi had been Babylonian sorcerers and astrologers –a product of Babel’s rebellion against God as recorded in Genesis 10-11. It is not an exaggeration to say that Babel was Satan’s capital on earth. Not only was Babel the birthplace of all idolatry, but it was also the chief exporter and educator in idolatry. People would come from all over the world to be educated in the ways of the magi, but only those who had been born or adopted into a magi family could then be trained and enjoy the status of a magi.
The magi were a special caste in eastern society, considered the wisest people on earth and were feared for their “supernatural” power by the pagan world. The magi had certainly enjoyed being a privileged and feared priestly class and exacted heavy fees on their patrons. One such magi is mentioned in Numbers 22 (Balaam). The magi’s very existence stood as an organized, intentional rejection of the One True God –until God sent Daniel to Babylon.
At the very center of all pagan wickedness, God established that He alone is God through the prophet Daniel. The entire kingdom of Babylon was entrusted to Daniel by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. Daniel was considered the wisest man on earth and his integrity could not be questioned. When the kingdom changed hands, the Persians were likewise astounded by Daniel’s abilities –much to the dislike of the traditional magi. Daniel was resented and considered an “illegitimate wise man” by the traditional magi. But other magi grew to respect Daniel and the One, True God he worshiped. These magi naturally developed a rival school of Wisdom, Wisdom derived from the Word of God. They looked to the stars, awaiting a signal from Yahweh (unlike their rival counterparts who worshiped the stars and practiced divination –all condemned by God’s Word: Deuteronomy 4:19). From the Word, they took literally the words of Genesis 1:14 and believed that the “season” of the coming Prophet, Priest and King would be marked by a sign in the heavens. They also took literally the words of Numbers 24:17, believing that the birth of this coming Ruler would be marked by a star in the heavens. It’s astounding to think that these magi were much more sensitive to the coming of the Messiah than the Pharisees and teachers of the Law. These magi were so sensitive to the role of the Messiah that their gifts reflected their acknowledgment of who He was. And their birthday gifts were honorable. Gold is the most appropriate gift to give to a king. Frankincense and myrrh were necessary for the work of a priest or a prophet. Not only did these gifts reflect what Jesus would be, but they reveal the depth of insight behind the gifts.
They knew where He had come from because they had come to worship Him (not just “pay Him respect” but actually worship). They knew that He would be a king and that he would die for the iniquities of the world because they had brought myrrh –a necessary ingredient for anointing oil (for a priest, a prophet or for a king, administered by a prophet) and a necessary ingredient used to prepare a body for burial. And they knew that He would establish a Kingdom that would be an Everlasting Kingdom. They came, even though Phraates IV was currently the King of Parthia (a murderous and paranoid ruler who killed much of his own family to secure the throne). They came even though Herod (another murderous and paranoid ruler) was king over Israel. They came even though Caesar Augustus was Emperor over all the territories of Rome –the arch enemy of Parthia. And contrary to tradition, there were probably many magi who came to see the One born King of the Jews, likely with a huge entourage (the typical way the Parthians would travel at that time to avert the dangers of the day, which included crossing enemy lines); this is why all of Jerusalem was so alarmed when this company entered the city. And their gifts were likely lavish, not held by three tiny containers as often depicted by nativity sets. Despite all the dangers, they came. And their gifts and intentions reflected their hearts: They had come to honor the Anointed One at His birth. They came to honor the Child who was the Prophet (predicted by Moses), the Priest (coming in the order of Melchizedek) and King (who would reign on David’s throne). And since Christmas season is now our attempt to celebrate the birth of Jesus, what gift would we bring Him to honor Him?
I would like to make a suggestion: What if we gave Him our hearts for forty days to serve the Kouts community? The Bible is filled with forty day events that serve as times of testing, purification and dedication. Could we give Jesus forty days for His birthday? This is what I suggest: For forty days we would pray to have the keen insight of the magi. That we would seek that perfect gift for Jesus –one we know He would find delightful, one that would truly bring Him honor (aside from the contemporary, materialistic frenzy that invades so many homes). And if we honor Him well and God blesses our efforts, maybe we could even continue our gift giving for the King into January –and transform what is usually considered a depressing month into an occasion for rejoicing.
I’m not suggesting difficult programming. I’m not suggesting a difficult-to-organize event. I’m suggesting an attitude of servitude individually and together for our community around us –which we love so much. Let’s love Kouts even more with our love for the King. Adopt this attitude on an individual basis: Look for everyday occasions to serve others –anyone. Be a cheerful (hilarious) giver. When you get together in groups (Sunday school classes, Bible studies, small groups, -anytime we get together in smaller groups), discuss what you might be able to do together for the Christmas season. Let it be somewhat spontaneous. If time is a factor, put your Bible study aside for one week and use it to serve others outside the church. Go where you know unbelievers like to gather and shower them with kindness. Love the lost. Love the community. Serve the King. This, I believe, could turn into the best Christmas season that we have ever celebrated together if we take this seriously. We have much to be thankful for; let’s give others a reason to be thankful. Give it a try, and see what happens.
Why should we do this? Because you said we should! This isn’t my idea. This is the idea of many in the church. And the idea of serving the community is compelling (visit the web site and see the results of the survey: “What do you think we should do this Christmas? / Results from the Christmas Poll: Forget programs! Let’s do outreach in the community!”). I think this might be that one special gift that Jesus will always treasure. And I don’t know about you, but I would love to see Jesus overjoyed by the gift we give Him.