Did the Wise Men Really Invent Gifting? What We Can All Learn From Them

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What if there were only three gifts under your Christmas tree this year?  What if only one of them were tangible and could be unwrapped?

Stay with us here. We're not suggesting you literally only put three gifts under your tree, but rather, challenge us all to remember how gift-giving came to be and how we can keep the spirit of the Christmas story and the three wise men alive in modern day. 

While we don't really know where the wise men came from or how long they traveled on their journey to see Jesus, we can make educated guesses, but it doesn't really matter. It's the gifts they brought to give to Jesus that we do know.

The Bible (in the book of Matthew) tells us that the wise men brought three gifts: gold, frankincense and myrrh. All three of these gifts were costly and valuable. Gold, the first gift; was a gift given to a king. Frankincense, the second gift; a fragrance used in the making of incense, was a gift given to a priest. Myrrh, the third gift; was used as an embalming agent on a dead body; it was gift for someone who was going to die. 

Scholars have varying opinions on the significance of the three gifts. Many believe their significance lies in the honor they represent, the implied status in the value of the gifts, and that the gifts were chosen for their special SPIRITUAL SYMBOLISM about Jesus himself—gold representing his kingship, frankincense a symbol of his priestly role, and myrrh a foreshadowing of his death and embalming. Still other scholars have suggested that the gifts of the wise men were a bit more practical and very customary gifts for kings and rulers in those times. Regardless, it's fairly certain that they didn't rush to Target on Black Friday with their lists. It was thought out. And it meant enough to them to travel at length, placing their faith in a star. 

Fast forward to 2018...During the Christmas season, we have a tendency to center our attention on gift giving and receiving. We like to give gifts we know the other person will like or can use, and we ourselves enjoy getting gifts for the same reason. In a society where Christmas decorations and sales begin practically before Halloween, its very easy to get caught up in rushing around getting every item crossed off our lists just so we can move on to the next item on our list. At times, it can be just too methodical, right?

Christmas comes with a message of peace for the home, the nation and the world as Jesus Christ taught the humanity about giving peace and happiness to others.

The tradition of gifting is the best way to celebrate the festive season and it makes moments memorable, right?  Looking beyond the gifts, though, Christmas comes with a message of peace for the home, the nation and the world as Jesus Christ taught the humanity about giving peace and happiness to others. The mood of Christmas just gets an added zest with the exchange of gifts, but it shouldn't be the focus. What if we shifted our GIVING frame of mind this way: 

1. GOLD = Something you need or want. 

2. FRANKINCENSE = Something to share. A well thought-out gift, gesture or even time devoted to another person. 

3. MYRRH = Something spiritual or personally significant. Something that betters your spirit or outlook. Perhaps a new goal or project? Maybe join a small group or set aside time either for yourself to reflect, meditate or pray OR time set aside with family, friends or others. 

We should all think about our gift giving this year. Is it about the gifts, the lists, the method or about being with those we love? Or embodying the spirit of Christmas all year long by showing peace to those we interact with. Regardless of our individual religious affiliations, we can share the "zest" of Christmas by gifting love and peace... all year long.

From all of us at the YMCA, we hope this Christmas season brings a deep and richer meaning to you and your family.