In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet: ‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.'” Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.” When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road. [NRSV]
If you think about how much time we spend thinking about the perfect gifts to give, looking for the best deal, waiting in lines or for the deliveries to arrive, wrapping and transporting our gifts. There is a great deal of investment in every gift, no matter the monitory value of the gift itself.
Do you ever read about Mary and Joseph giving each other gifts? Did the shepherds draw names and play games to see who gets which gift? Do the Maji just find the best deal along the way or at the last moment?
Gift giving can hold many different meanings.
The obligatory gift is an oxymoron. Gifts ought be given of free will and love and not obligation. But if you don’t give someone a gift there is hell to pay in the not giving. Can you imaging only giving gifts to some of your family and not to all of them. What would be the message if you didn’t explain why.
- Did you run out of money or just didn’t want to spend your resources.
- “Its not the gift its the love or thought that counts” But how do you express your thoughts and love? Is it clear to the recipient?
- Did you run out of time, ideas, opportunity? Could you not make a home-made card from a used piece of paper that expressed your heart?
- “We can’t buy everyone something” My great-grandmother in her late nineties still bought a bar of soap for every member of her nearly 100 member extended family. “It is something I know you can use, so use it and think of me.”
- Did you get everyone something, or many somethings, but you gave them what you wanted them to have or to become?
- Gifts are a tradition: I bought my father Old-Spice Soap-on-a-rope for years just because he seemed to like them on Christmas morning. I was helping him carry some boxes to donate and found three soaps-on-a-rope from the past three years and I got the message.
Gift Giving Is a Tricky Business
What do we learn for the Wise men? Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh
Wealth, Extravagant Royal spa treatment and Glade Tomb-fresher
Gold has been a standard of exchange and value, beauty and tender for thousands of years. Frankincense comes for the roots of a small shrub that contains trace amounts of fragrant oil and was burning in the palaces of the king Herod daily and made as offerings to their gods without end. Myrrh, smells like dried prunes and was used in preparing a tomb.
- Gold is completely practical: A gift card.
- Frankincense: Extravagant Generosity, acknowledging Jesus as true King.
- Myrrh: A Preparing for Jesus’ death, even at his birth. Telling the whole story
- The Star-watching Travelers Journey: You have to leave home, journey in faith and uncertainty, and follow the signs you have.
Reframing our Gift Giving Practice
If you take a painting or photo and removed it from the frame and mat and exchange the boundaries, you will see the image in a new way with new meaning.
So go with the same gifts we have given: What if we connected why we give the gift with the hope we have for the gift.
“I gave you this tie, because I want you to look your best, feel confident and want you to think of our love when you wear it.”
Is that what you meant the gift to be? or did you just need something to go with a shirt.
“I gave you this game, because I want you to know joy and to share time at home playing with me. I want to spend more time being with you.”
Is that what you meant the gift to say? of did you just know they were hinting like crazy for that game.
“I gave you this vacuum cleaner because I am unimaginative but I do like a clean house and I want it to be easier on me to keep the floor and our home clean for you.”
Is that what you meant to gift to do? of did you just know the old one blew out and you needed a new one anyway.
Keep the Magi Model in mind:
Not just with Christmas gift, but all gives, seasonal, birthday and church gifts..
Practical AND Extravagant AND with a Purpose, Explained.
So Now You Tell Me..
So John, why didn’t you tell us this before Christmas. I don’t have a great answer but I will say: It is never to late to explain our gifts.
Don’t assume the message is conveyed that you hoped for the person. Tell them.
Finally. . be known as doing all three parts in your giving
Practical AND Extravagent AND with a Purpose, Explained.