In preparation for Christmas, I thought I’d post some Advent devotional thoughts here. Hymn numbers are taken from the 2008 Baptist Hymnal from Lifeway.
“And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, “KING OF KINGS, and LORD OF LORDS.” (Revelation 19:16 NASB)
The beginning of Christmas is not found in the manger. The beginning is not even found when Gabriel comes to Mary or the Angel appears to Zechariah. The beginning is found, well, at the beginning. Remember the one back in Genesis 1 where God creates all the heavens and the earth? That one.
Preparing for Christmas this year, start with the first three Christmas gifts. Leave aside everything else, for the time being, and focus on the gifts the Magi brought to the Baby Jesus. The gifts were gold, frankincense, and myrrh (Matthew 2:11). There is much to say about these gifts. Let's start with gold.
Gold is a precious metal in almost any society in history. It does not tarnish, does not corrode, and there is a limited supply of it in existence. Over gold, wars have been fought, kingdoms have been bought, and countless lives exchanged for it.
Gold has such a striking effect that the first artifact used by Neil MacGregor to illustrate world history is, in fact, a gilded mummy case from Ancient Egypt. The presence of gold shows the presence of royalty across many cultures.
Gold drove the myriads of “Forty-Niners” to California, brought the Gold Rush to Dahlonega, Georgia, and drew all types north to Alaska. Songs exalt it as the symbol of love and permanence, businesses call their benefits packages “golden handcuffs,” and many people criticize the “golden parachutes” of executives.
Gold is hailed as the safe haven of investment, though the rules are tricky about it. It is frequently blended with other metals to make jewelry, used in electronics, and even placed on football helmets and in fancy meals. The estimates, according to the Discovery Network website How Stuff Works, are that all the gold ever mined would not fill half of the Washington Monument.
Let’s face it, this is precious stuff here on earth. We don’t really play with it; we don’t treat it like we treat ordinary metals like steel or aluminum. We certainly don’t travel long distances to hand some gold over to a displaced set of new parents in another country.
Yet this is the first recorded gift of Christmas. It’s presented to a baby who doesn’t have a bed, much less a lockbox. He’s born out in the stable, not in the palace. Yet He’s given gifts like He’s a king. Gold is a kingly gift and one not to be tossed about for just any carpenter’s son.
So why gold? Because the recipient is no lightweight. He is the King. Do the Magi know this? Maybe notwith perfect clarity, but they know enough. They know they come to honor a king.
For starters this Advent, let’s consider this: even by a generous estimate, we don’t know the half of the character and nature of God. We come this year towards Christmas as the Magi followed the star and bearing their gifts. We know that, at the end of the journey, at Christmas, we come before the manger and before the King.
We can start there. Do not think that degrees in theology and stacks of books are the opening necessity of Christmas. The opening necessity is far simpler: to come before the Baby in the manger, to come before the Christ Child and offer what you have. Recognize that He is the King of Kings, even if you cannot fathom all that this means.
You will find this: He will not leave you in the dark. He will show you more about Himself as the years go by than you could ever imagine.
Scripture passage for the day: Isaiah 55:8-9
8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.
9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
Hymn for the day: Thou Didst Leave Thy Throne (Hymn #217)
Prayer: Lord God, I ask You to help me. I know that You are the King, but all that this means escapes me. Help me to grow in my understanding and commitment to you. I will grow in my understanding of your Kingship. I ask that You work in this world through me. In the name of Christ I pray, Amen.