Thursday, December 2, 2010

Pastor's Perspective - An Odd Baby Gift

A Sunday School teacher was telling her class of fourth-graders the Christmas story about the Three Wise Men bringing gifts to Baby Jesus. A little girl who had recently become the big sister of a brand-new baby brother said, “Well, I guess gold and all that stuff are all right, but I’ll bet Mary really wished somebody had brought some diapers!”

Although the time of the actual arrival of the Wise Men is debated among scholars, the gifts they brought the Christ child are clear. Most shocking and perplexing is the gift one had the audacity to bring – myrrh. In ancient times, myrrh was a fragrant lotion or anointment that was closely identified with death and the unpleasant practice of embalming. At a glance, this seemed to be quite a gift-giving disaster of judgment. What would Miss Manners say about bringing such a grisly gift to a young couple celebrating the arrival of their firstborn? Knit booties, yes. Embalming fluid, no! Yet, this unidentified traveler from the east delivered a gift that accurately identified the real reason the child had come in the first place - Jesus came to die.

Nothing stirs up more emotion in the human mind as the volatile mixture of children and death. Children are the manifestation of life, energy and vibrancy. The two do not mix. Young ones seemingly are impervious to peril. Our blood turns cold when we hear about a child dying – a life cut short. The grief is immeasurable. Yet, make no mistakes about it, the central figure of nativity scenes across Solano County came to die a death and pay a penalty none of us could pay – individually or collectively.

My challenge to you is to stop and look closely at the nativity scene gracing your living room or lawn. No, really look at it. Peer beyond the lowing cattle, the bowing shepherds, the regal magi, the smiling parents and the swaddling clothes. I challenge you to see the nativity scene for what it really is – a divine rescue – evidence of sin’s devastation – evidence of a God’s amazing grace and unfailing love. In the manger is not just the sweet cuddly fodder of Hallmark cards. It’s so much more! In Bethlehem’s manger lays your sins and mine, my salvation and yours.

Merry Christmas!

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