Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Gifts For A King.

This year has seen the birth of a royal baby.  If you were given the task of finding a gift for him, what do you think would be appropriate?  Certainly he will need all the things that every baby needs.  But if you were to get him something special what would that be?  Most people would probably think of something very expensive or something highly unusual.  That was certainly the case when a group of Babylonian philosopher scientists brought gifts to the infant Jesus.

There is a degree of mystery as to what drove them on the long journey from their homeland to Israel.  It is quite possible that their studies had led them to the Hebrew Scriptures and the great hope of Israel that one day a  King would emerge who would hold the key to all the mysteries of life.  But how did the Magi connect this hope with the unusual cosmic disturbance that occurred on a particular night?  We do not know but the ‘star’ spoke to them of the King’s birth and the need for them to make the journey to honour him. 

They brought gifts.  There is no explanation why they brought gold, frankincense and myrrh.  Perhaps the gospel writer believed that no explanation was needed.  Gold, highly valued, durable, to wish the infant King a long reign.  Frankincense, used in religious ceremonies, to wish the King a close walk with his God.  Myrrh?  This was used to preserve dead bodies.  What has this to do with the freshness and the promise of new life?  Were the Magi given some insight into the nature of this King’s mission?  That his death would be in some way significant?

All we know is that all of the gifts were appropriate.  This King was destined to reign forever and ever.  Of all human beings he was closest to God, indeed God in the flesh.   His death opened the way for humanity to be renewed in body, mind and spirit.  There is a sense in which the gifts told the whole story of the King.  How close are we to that story?     

In T.S. Eliot’s poem Journey Of The Magi they returned to their homeland changed, ‘no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation/With an alien people clutching their gods.’  Will there be a change in us as once again we are brought to the familiar story this Christmas?  The story of a God who became one of us, who lived our life, who died to open up the way for us to be at peace with God, who has risen to assure us that our journey of life will continue beyond death.