When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy; and going into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother, and they fell down and worshipped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered Him gifts, gold frankincense and myrrh. Matthew 2:10-11
This week we have discussed the major figures in the story of the Nativity—We’ve talked about the willingness of Mary to serve God by bearing His Son. We’ve spoken about the willingness of Joseph to trust in God’s plan. We mentioned how the shepherds went to the manger to see Christ, even though it didn’t change their lowly position as shepherds. And we mentioned the Magi and how they took joy in the star which led them on their long journey to Christ.
Each of these figures offered a gift—Mary offered service; Joseph offered trust; the Shepherds offered joy and the Magi offered patience. And each of these gifts was given from a grateful heart.
Today we shift the focus to another figure in the Nativity story—YOU. What will you bring to the manger this year? Most of us have now completed our Christmas shopping, the presents are wrapped and under the tree, and thoughts of Christmas dinner dance in our heads. Our children are eager for Santa Claus to come and to tear the wrapping paper off of their gifts.
But what about the most important gift—have you prepared to receive it? What about your gift to Christ? Have you prepared to offer it? What role will you take in the Nativity story this year? Hearer? Sharer? Ignorer? Encourager? Follower? Helper? The Magi brought gifts that befit a King and the Lord. What gift will you bring?
There are many lines of the Christmas story. Which one is yours?
The Inn-keeper—There is no room in my inn for You.
King Herod—My spirit is troubled.
Mary—I am the handmaiden of the Lord.
Joseph—I will trust in You.
The Shepherds—Let us go to Bethlehem and see.
The Magi—I will follow the star, wherever it leads
The Angels—Glory to God in the highest
There are two very important gifts waiting for you to unwrap this Christmas. The first is the Gift of Holy Communion, which will be offered in every Orthodox Church at least once in the next couple of days. Will you be there to receive this gift with a grateful heart? If you hadn’t prepared to go to church and receive, it is not too late, plan from TODAY, from this moment.
And the second gift is the gift of hope. And this gift is as close as a prayer. One of my favorite Psalm verses comes from Psalm 147: 45:
He determines the number of the stars, He give to all of them their names. Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; His understanding is beyond measure.
Look up at the stars tonight, and realize that if God gave each of them a place, He has also made a special place for each of us. We all have a special place in the eyes of God—whether we are a shepherd, one of the Magi, a carpenter, a doctor, whoever we are. If we open the inn of our hearts to Christ, we too will experience His power and glory, we too can enjoy the miracle of Christmas.
After Holy Communion is distributed at the Divine Liturgy, the priest offers a petition that says “Having partaken of the divine, holy, pure, immortal, heavenly, life-giving and awesome mysteries of Christ, let us worthily give our thanks to the Lord.”(Divine Liturgy, Holy Cross School of Theology translation). As you are thinking about what gift you will bring, meditate on the phrase “worthy thanks.” A grateful heart offers worthy thanks to God. And that can come in the form of humility, forgiveness, patience, commitment, recommitment, spiritual joy, charity, prayer, repentance, compassion and many other things. Which gift(s) will you bring to the manger this year? Which will you commit to giving throughout the next year?
We put so much emphasis on gifts—on receiving them and on giving them. There are a few “spiritual shopping days left.” Your gift is ready—come and receive it. And bring your gift of worthy thanks to the Lord.
Lord, thank You for the gift of Your Son. As I prepare to celebrate Your Nativity once again, these are the gifts I would like to present to You, my Savior, on the anniversary of Your Nativity (list things you wish to offer Christ). Please Lord accept my gifts and please give me the strength to offer them to You on a continual basis, not only at the Nativity but throughout the year. Amen.
Prepare your heart, the feast of the Nativity is soon upon us!
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