Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Extravagant Gifts

The little men keep staring at me, decked out in lavish gowns cast in sterling silver. I see them each time I turn the bracelet so that the manger is on top of my wrist, in the prominent place it deserves. I see the three men journeying towards the manger, undoubtedly filled with gratitude that they have finally found the child for whom they have been searching after making the trek from Jerusalem to Bethlehem. My eyes behold their boxes - the chests of gold, frankincense and myrrh. I know the value of gold and how an ounce costs more than a thousand dollars these days. I wander again about the fragrant gifts of frankincense and myrrh and imagine baby Jesus enjoying the scent of the oils used on my head when I get a haircut that begins with a scalp massage. Would Jesus prefer the scent of peppermint over mango or would he go back and forth depending upon his mood?

The little men keep staring at me as they bring their gifts to the manger. This little parade across my wrist beckons me to ponder anew what gifts I am called to bring to Jesus. What extravagant gifts am I invited to offer to Jesus in the New Year no matter the cost or the sacrifice?

We have named this specific day of the wise men's arrival Epiphany. Epiphany is the 12th day of Christmas, January 6. The word comes from a Greek word much like its English counterpart which means "manifestation." The pieces of the puzzle came together on the 12th day as wise men recognized that this child was God's very Son, the one the prophets wrote about long ago. God's Son, the king of the Jews, has finally arrived on the scene. A baby blanket or plush toy are not gifts fit for a king. Kings deserve finer gifts - gifts of gold and costly oils.

But what gifts can we bring? What gifts am I being called to offer?

As I get older I realize the most costly gift I have is the gift of time. The 24 hours in each day and the seven days in each week never seem to be enough. There rarely is enough time to spend with my precious husband, enough time to ponder the passages of scripture before my fingers hit the keyboard, enough time to visit members of the church, enough time to sing praises and bring petitions to God, enough time to express gratitude for Christmas gifts and friendships, enough time for the gym, enough time to volunteer, and the list goes on and on. I am feeling called to offer Jesus more time - more time in prayer, more time in study, more time seeking to bring justice to the needs of the world, and more time seeking to embody mercy in our city.

This past year has also taught me the value of our health. Paul told the people of Corinth that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit. We are taught to believe that the third person of the Trinity dwells within us - that the Spirit fills our arms and legs, our hearts and heads, our veins and brains. You would never know that God dwells in me by the way I treat my body. I have too often treated my body as if it will last forever - as if I'll always have the same amount of energy or the same amount of health regardless of what goes into my mouth, how much time I spend doing cardio each week, or how many pounds I pack on each year. I feel called to bring Jesus the gift of a healthy body. I long to treat this structure in which I live, move and have my being as a temple - as they very best home in which Christ's Spirit can dwell.

The little men will stare at me for two more days before I place them in the felt case that goes inside the orange box that will be put inside my middle drawer until next Advent. I'll allow them to march across my wrist for two more days until I decide that the bracelet is not to be worn all year but only during December and early January. The lady who sold it to me informed me that I'll need to polish the bracelet - that it will tarnish after a while. I'll be ready with little cloths to dust the manger and to wipe Jesus' head clean come next Advent. But, all the while I'll be praying that the gifts I long to bring are not put away for a time. Sure, I'll need to polish them throughout the year - confessing the places where I have fallen short, asking God for guidance and direction, praying for strength and discernment - but I pray that this year will be different - that Jesus will see the gifts being brought to him regularly - extravagant, costly gifts.

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