I wonder whether, in the clumsy and hurried packing of a small family with a small child, fleeing for their lives with the essentials and little more, listening over their shoulders for the alarm, the tramp of boots, the metallic clang of steel; in their hurry and their need and their fear, I wonder if they were able even to take with them the myrrh, the frankincense, the gold.
The magi had brought it many miles; from at least far enough away not to know any better, despite their proverbial wisdom, than to consult Herod. They had journeyed for who knows how long – days, weeks, months? Years? Perhaps their whole enlightened lives, since they first looked up and recgnized, realized the stars speaking to them in their bright semaphore; perhaps they had always been on this pilgrimage, their destination, their destiny to meet God, born king of the Jews, a baby human, nestled at his mother’s breast.
That must have been confusing; disorienting, you might say.
The remarkable thing is that nevertheless they trusted the instincts and the star’s bright semaphore, the sign that had drawn them to this place, this child; apparently unencumbered by disappointment, anxiety or regret, they laid at the feet of a nondescript infant in a nondescript town outside of the great city, out of earshot of the temple and out of sight of the palace; they laid there on the ground the treasures of their accumulation of days and years and miles: the myrrh, frankincense, the gold they had brought across the wilderness, braving bandits and who knows what treachery to offer their gifts to God.
And after all that effort and expectation, and after all that time, and all of those miles, and all that money, they asked for no surety that their prayers would be answered to their satisfaction. They asked no place at the right hand of the child who must need wise advisors; every king who was any king had them. They asked no favour, no future; they left without even finding out whether their gifts would go with the child, or be bartered or used as bribes on their escape to Egypt, or abandoned and left to benefit those other families of Bethlehem who were about to suffer devastation. Did the gold go to buy off one or more of Herod’s soldiers? The wise men didn’t stay to find out.
They offered their all at the cradle of God, of Jesus. They offered their journey, their blisters, their tribulations. They offered their time, the days, and the nights spent under starlit skies. The delays on the dark nights when clouds covered the moon and hid the stars from sight. They offered their treasure.
An act of true worship: offering all to God, without ever stopping to check whether God would use it to their liking; they sought nothing in return for the labour and love of their lives, except to know that God has, indeed, come into the world, and to see the face of God look back at them, brighter than any star.
Wise, wise men, indeed.
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“without ever stopping to check whether God would use it to their liking”
Lovely. I experienced someone saying last week, “I’m moving and I don’t have any use nor a place for “X” in my new home, but I have to take it, because “Y” gave it to me and it will hurt her feelings.”
Really? The transactional nature of gifts at Christmas is so troubling to me. I refuse to participate.