The Gift Worth Giving
Text: Matthew 2:1-3, 7-11
Fred Buechner once wrote: “The gifts that the . . . Magi, brought to the manger in Bethlehem cost them plenty but seem hardly appropriate to the occasion. Maybe they were all they could think of for the child who had everything. In any case, they set them down on the straw—the gold, the frankincense, the myrrh—worshiped briefly, and then returned to the East where they had come from. It gives you pause to consider how, for all their great wisdom, they overlooked the one gift that the child would have been genuinely pleased to have someday, and that was the gift of themselves and their love” (from Peculiar Treasures and Listening to Your Life).
After I reread Buechner this week, I reread the Christmas story, or more appropriately, the Epiphany story, in Matthew’s Gospel. In Matthew, there is no mention of the how many Magi traveled to Bethlehem, though tradition often identifies three, Melchior from Europe, Caspar from Arabia, and Balthazar from Africa, with each Magi carrying a separate gift for the child born in Bethlehem. Whether three or six or sixty traveling Magi, Buechner’s point holds true.
For all my life, the Magi have gotten good press, had music written about their journey following a star, and even have inspired some beautiful artwork. I can remember in Sunday School classes as a child learning about frankincense and myrrh, most teachers knowing that we would soon enough learn more than enough about gold, cash, treasure.
I cannot remember one teacher or preacher ever critiquing the Magi until I first read Buechner’s words years ago: “It gives you pause to consider how, for all their great wisdom, they overlooked the one gift that the child would have been genuinely pleased to have someday, and that was the gift of themselves and their love.”
I share this thought not so much to slam the Magi who at least showed up and there is always something to say for those who show up. Their gifts, though, did not really match the occasion. Nevertheless, they saw firsthand the birth of the King; they gave their gifts and they left.
What the Magi did not seem to see in the cradle was love wrapped up in human flesh, the love of God wrapped up, love for them, love for you, love for me. Maybe if they had, they would have done more than give their beautifully wrapped presents and then returned home. Maybe they would have looked for ways to give themselves to all in need far beyond Bethlehem.
In the Christmas season, it is amazing how much time is spent trying to select just the right gift to give. And on this New Year’s Day, I think of how many resolutions I have made over the years that are not worth the thought or the resolve, but after reading from Matthew and listening to Buechner again, I know the gift I want to give and the resolution I am making for 2023. I resolve to give the gift of myself and my love for those who are most in need, people I know well and people I have yet to meet and may never meet. And I invite you to join me in that resolution and pledge to gift that precious gift. Just imagine what the gift of God’s love can make happen here at Cove, happen in you, happen in me.
The gift of God awaits us at this table. May this gift feed us, feed our hearts, feed our imagination, feed our desire to give to others the gift of our loving selves, a gift always worth giving.
Happy New Year!