The Third GiftThanksgiving is almost upon us this year, which means that the Christmas decorations have been up at the local mall for at least 6 months. Well, maybe not quite that long, but it sure seems that way at times, and it's earlier every year. But anyhow, it's now the season of crass commercialism, huge sales, going into debt, elevator music suddenly becoming acceptable to play by anyone, and overweight males to put on a costume and try to be nice to screaming kids all day.
Oh wait, there's this event from 2000 years ago that's sorta mentioned in some of the songs before they got elevatorized and stuck in the sub-basement. What was his name, Jesus? Born in a manger and all that. A sweet little baby, totally unthreatening to everyone, not able to do anything.
Flash forward some decades, and that little baby's now challenging people to follow a higher moral standard, telling people that the only way to get to God and Heaven is through him, and then dying, nailed to a tree for the sins you committed. Ouch, serious stuff that might force you to think and change your life. Can't have anything like that in this season, can we? Back to the elevator music reminding us to buy things themed around that unthreatening baby.
The three wisemen that dropped by Bethlehem after the birth were there to welcome this child, the King of the Jews. Fine, still ancient history, not going to affect the holidays much, right? These wisemen gave some gifts. Gold, given to some poor parents, much like modern charities. Frankincense, what's that? An incense, to be mixed with some others and burnt at the Tabernacle. So far, not much is that new, or that shocking.
And then we have the third gift. Myrrh. Another aromatic resin. Used for embalming corpses. Nice gift to a young mother who's just given birth to her firstborn? If the pricetag had been left on, this gift could have been taken back to the store and exchanged for something a little more in line with the season. In any case, it's that death thing again that people try so hard to avoid. Jesus, God's son, that baby in a manger, killed excruciatingly as the only acceptable substitute sacrifice for mankind's sin. Then, rising triumphantly from the clutches of death to show the Devil exactly who's in control around here.
Is the reminder of Jesus's death harsh? Perhaps. Unnecessary? I pray not. Christmas is inextricably linked to Good Friday-- they're both about the same person. Jesus needed to be born so that he could be fully God and fully human. Everyone can identify with a newborn baby, we see them all the time. But, Jesus also needed to be born so that he could die. The world tries its best to avoid thinking about the latter, as it's not something they want to relate to at all. Yet, relating to it is just as easy: confess your sins and ask Jesus, the risen savior, into your heart.
We are in a joyous season, just as with Easter. But, let us not stray from remembering the extreme act that came three days prior to Easter, and how the more painful event is more significant to all of us. Jesus chose, under extreme pressure, to follow through with the path laid out before him. Jesus chose to be a willing sacrifice. Jesus chose to take the guild of your sin away so you could enter into Heaven. I hope you choose also to thank him for that act, and never forget it.
 Exodus 30:34-36