Gifts of the New Year
Are you starting the New Year by experiencing the lasting gifts of Christmas? We are leaving the Advent and Christmas seasons and entering the season of Epiphany this Sunday. The word Epiphany is a Greco-Roman word that originally meant a designation for the public appearance of state officials in provinces. The literal meaning is to manifest, clarify, or show forth. The first-century church embraced the term as a signifier for the manifestation or the brilliant appearance of Christ as of flesh in and for the world. Therefore, the Season of Epiphany follows the Season of Advent for the Messiah has arrived and we find ourselves in His illumination. Christ’s arrival brings to us the lasting gifts of life and much more.
Most often when we think of the Season of Epiphany, we remember the Magi or Wisemen from the east that traveled to see the Christ child. It is important to realize though that the Magi didn’t just come to bring the baby some gifts. Instead, their journey was one of worship. They came to fall on their faces to bow before the light of all the world. Interestingly, these men were outsiders, yet they saw that with the arrival of Christ came lasting gifts. The insiders, who knew and expected Him never bothered to look. The Magi came to worship for they knew that in the words of R.W. Emerson, “The only gift is a portion of thyself.”
What the Gifts really Meant!
Scriptures point out that when the Magi arrived, their response to God was to worship. So, first, they worshiped and then to extend their worship, they gave their gifts. The giving of gifts should always be considered a precious thing for it is a tangible way of sealing what you have already presented to a relationship. Gifts become an act of gratitude and celebration of the relationship showing the condition of the heart. In addition, gifts always point beyond themselves to both the person giving and to the person receiving. The Magi remind us that we are both, a receiver that wants to give.
The lessons of the Magi are plentiful but none more than realizing that by finding Christ there is a pure joy not because of what He brings to us but because of the perfection of who He is. The Magi teaches us that it is not the gifts we bring that matter but the worship that proceeds the gifts. This thought aligns with the quote by Presbyterian minister, Eugene Peterson, “Worship is an act that develops feelings for God, not a feeling for God that is expressed in an act of worship.” The Magi came to worship not to bring gifts, the gifts were the extra, a celebration of the relationship that reveals the heart.
It is through the gifts of God and His most precious gift, the one that brings each of us light; Christ, that we find inner joy and peace. But all should worship Christ not for what He brings us but the true essence of worship by honoring Him for who He is. This is the worship of being willing to give Him what is most valuable, ourselves.
When they saw the star, they were filled with joy!Matthew 2:10 (NLT)
Learning to Give and Receive like the Magi
Reflecting the light and glory of Christ can be modeled after the lives of the Magi by seeking Jesus, worshiping Him, and then offering our gifts to Him. True worship begins by recognizing His divine perfection and giving back to Him what is most valuable to us simply because He is the just and almighty Creator of the universe. He deserves no less than the best we have to offer.
It is important that as we begin a New Year, we re-examine our worship of Christ, dissecting it painfully to determine if we truly give Him the best we have. Like the Magi, we too, are searching for a glimpse of His presence and will find Him not in a grand palace but in the shallow, humble, and dirty places along with our sins. Our gifts we offer come through justice, mercy, and compassion for others and we should present these using the best we have. For it is important to remember that when the light is seen, a glimpse of what is possible reveals itself for when the vision of God’s depth of love shines, there is only one response, worship.
Won’t you challenge yourself in the New Year giving first worship and then gifts to Him as an act of gratitude to celebrate your relationship showing your true heart? Seal your convictions in knowing that gifts always point beyond themselves to both the giver and receiver. Find your motivation with the knowledge that with Christ and His glory you are both the receiver and the giver simultaneously. Surround yourself in the comfort of a life with Christ bringing His light to all through your gifts of justice, mercy, and compassion for others as He reveals Himself fully inviting you unto Him.
Happy New Year!
Love in Christ,
The discipline of gratitude is the explicit effort to acknowledge that all I am and have is given to me as a gift of love, a gift to be celebrated with joy.Henri Nouwen
What are Your Thoughts?
Do you need to reexamine your idea of worship? What gifts can you offer Christ in the New Year? Share your thoughts on the worship you plan to offer Christ that produces gifts that reveal Him to others.