Nicodemus was shocked at the necessity for being born again, Jesus pointed out that things born of the flesh were carnal, while those born of the Spirit have a divine nature. When Nicodemus still could not understand, Jesus prophesied His own crucifixion, giving the purpose and the outcome for such an act. Spiritual re-birth of mankind depended upon the offering of God’s Son, even as Moses lifted up a serpent in the wilderness for the cure of Israelite snakebite. Faith, coupled with obedience, looking upon that artificial snake, brought deliverance. In a like manner was Christ to become a symbol of the sinner’s sacrifice, not only to die in his stead, but as a fulfillment of Mosaic Law.
Christ was not payment of a debt; He was a gift of God’s love toward the redemption of fallen man, the supreme example of unmerited favor, the eternal symbol of grace without measure. By way of comparison, Matthew Henry said: “It was made in the shape of a fiery serpent, and yet had no poison, no sting, fitly representing Christ… made in the likeness of sinful flesh, and yet not sinful; as harmless as a serpent of brass.” No greater gift could have been conceived, but that trip to the cross would not end the matter. Next would come the Resurrection and the Ascension, victory over death, hell and the grave.
Luke told of the shepherds, then described the visit of Simeon and Anna to the Temple where they recognized the Messiah. After that we have no record of events until the arrival of Persian philosophers in the thirty-seventh year of the reign of Herod the Great, possibly two years after the birth of Christ. We cannot say whether Joseph, Mary and the child returned to Nazareth, or remained in the area of Bethlehem, but the Magi knew where to search, having read: “There shall come a Star out of Jacob, and the Screptre shall rise out of Israel.” Arriving in Jerusalem, they did not ask “if” but “where” the king of the Jews had been born, and learned that Micah had written: “Bethlehem, Ephratah…out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel.”
There was hint of Herod’s intentions when he inquired as to the exact time of the star’s appearance. He would use that information to decide who would live or die among the children. Now, armed with additional information, the Magi were further rewarded by the reappearance of their star, and soon found themselves at the temporary home of Joseph and Mary. Toil of the road seems as nothing, since they have come to the end of the way.
See the gifts of the Magi! They brought things peculiar to their own country, valuable, but “such as they had.” Someone has pointed out that they gave gold, as tribute to a king; frankincense, as sweet odor to God; and myrrh, to imply that this body would someday die. Nor did they give without worship. And while the average convert cannot contribute greatly to the cause of Christ, the act of giving must never be separated from worship. Cost does not determine the value of gifts in God’s sight. Jesus once said that a widow’s mites were more valuable than any other thing given one day in the Temple. She had given all she had. And if God could so love the world as to give His Son, and if that Son would so love as to give His own life, it is not surprising that those who truly love Father and Son are ready at any time to give their all in divine service.
At Christmas much thought and finance is directed towards the buying of gifts. And while there is joy involved with “swapping presents, at times these acts resemble the heathen practice of “potlatch” – a contest to prove who can afford to give away the most. Of course, in this practice it is the merchant who profits most.
Many give in “self-defense”, because they receive a present. There is no merit in this or in giving only to those financially able to return a comparable gift. The giving of Christ was far beyond anything man could ever give in return, and it was prompted entirely by love.
Those who buy baskets for the poor, give clothes to the needy and bring cheer to the lonely, more properly represent the spirit of Christ and Christmas. When Jesus comes again He will be interested in how we have treated our fellowmen, and those blessed to inherit eternal life will have on their record those things done to His “little ones”! It is probable that commended for such things, the righteous will wonder just when this occurred, not fully realizing that those “blessed” in the name of Christ are at that moment His representatives and His recipients.By: Buford Johnson, Seasonal Subjects Page. 98
Background Music Credit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LEhpsLS50N4
Image Credit: http://blog.chron.com/mormonvoice/files/2011/12/wise-mens-gifts.jpg