Seasoning Our Giving
Enjoy the tree because next week it will be gone, the garlands, nativity scene and memorial ornaments will be put away till next December 7 (which is the second Sunday in Advent). At our house we've left up some winter decorations but the bulk of our Christmas is down and in the garage. Yet, today is the actual end of the Christmas season. It is the celebration of the coming of magi from the East to Jesus. It is the giving of gold, frankincense and myrrh to this one who is "King, and God, and sacrifice."
Matthew, who recounts this story from Jesus' birth, doesn't tell us much about these visitors. He never calls them kings. He doesn't say how many there are let alone give us their names. The idea of kings may have come from the Old Testament where Psalm 72:10 and Isaiah 60:6 tell of the Kings of Tarshish bringing gifts and Sheba will bring gold and incense.
There is an early fourth century catacomb depiction of three men, dressed in Roman gear, bringing gifts to the baby Jesus. A lot of speculation exists about the "star". Ideas from a comet, a worldwide visible event, to planetary alignments to a supernatural event all have their supporters and detractors.
Read Matthew's account again and you'll notice a couple of statements that will have you putting your nativity scene away. They entered a house and saw the young child. Yet all of this really is pretty unimportant when you catch the purpose behind Matthew's telling this part of the birth story.
His point was that those who were watching for Messiah should have seen Him. Those who were suppose to be the worshippers of God had missed God's greatest gift of love. Those who had the resources were upstaged by those on the outside, the pagan, the less-than's of the world—the Magi.
Season our getting this New Year by not becoming complacent. The sin of those scribes who told Herod about Bethlehem was complacency. They had grown so use to the way things were they couldn't conceive of God really doing anything. The world was the way it was and that's it. Rome was here to stay and would always be here. Here's a sidelight to think about, Just before Jesus is born Augustus orders a census which puts Mary in the right place for God's plans. Over the next couple of centuries Emperors like Nero and Diocletian systematically tried to eliminate this baby's followers. But by 325 AD, Christ had become the de jure focus of the entire empire. Not bad for a kid born in a dirty, peasant, backwater, Judean village huh?
Watch for what God is doing in your life and the world around you. This happens best when you're open to seeing God on His terms not yours. If you want to see God doing wonderful things in your family and you are constantly making excuses for bad choices by the same family members you are NOT seeing God at work. You're fooling yourself. Being honest and humble is key to seeing God work.
Season our getting this New Year by seeking God. If these Magi came from Iran to Jerusalem you're talking about a thousand-mile trip from modern Tehran. That was on foot and camel, donkey or horse; not 737 or train. I personally like some of the liberties taken in The Nativity Story especially with the magi. There's the scene when they figure out this king is going to be born and the one doesn't want to come because he can't take all his comforts of home. That sounds a bit like me at times.
I won't BS you; seeking God is hard work. Too many people want a God who is there to make them feel good. The truth is God calls us to sacrifice, to live like Jesus, to care for others, to love our enemies and to do good to those who hate us. There is very little promise of the niceties of life for followers of Jesus. What there is though is joy that goes beyond the circumstances of life; peace that passes all understanding; and God's Kingdom for those who keep on keeping on.
Here is a way to measure whether we seeking God or not. On what do you spend most of your time when you are not sleeping, at a job or school? This is because in our culture, free time is a valuable commodity and what we invest our free time in says a lot about us and our values.
After you answer that question go a step further. Of the total amount of this valuable commodity called free time, what percentage do I spend seeking God? This includes praying, reading the bible, reading Christian books, worship, telling others about Jesus etc. So if you've got five hours a day free time you've got 35 hours a week. That would mean that two hours here on Sunday account for a little over 5%. Do the same things for the time you pray, evangelism, and Bible study. If you're like me you'll be surprised if not shocked.
I'm asking this not to make us feel bad, but to make the point that we really do not seek God in a purposeful way. We go with the flow we don't swim against the current. We are happy with the status quo we don't want to be revolutionaries. We're content with scraps we don’t want to feast with the King of Kings.
I hope you're all up for a challenge this year. Beginning the first Monday of Lent, we going to attempt to read through the whole Bible in a year. We'll have the texts available for you in a couple of weeks but for the next four weeks we're going to be hitting hot and heavy the issue of the Word of God and why it's foundational to our growth as Christ's people.
This challenge is one way that you can step out in faith and attempt to seek God through His revealed Word. Another way is here before us in this bread and cup. Coming to this table is a living statement of faith and trust in Jesus and Jesus alone and so Paul tells those who would celebrate this to examine themselves and decide if they can truly come and proclaim Christ as Lord. You are invited to do so now as we come to the Lord's supper.
 Psalm 72:10 The kings of Tarshish and of distant shores will bring tribute to him; the kings of Sheba and Seba will present him gifts.
Isaiah 60:6 Herds of camels will cover your land, young camels of Midian and Ephah. And all from Sheba will come, bearing gold and incense and proclaiming the praise of the LORD.