Matthew’s story of the Wise Men who come seeking the newborn King is a familiar one, re-enacted in countless Christmas pageants every year. Amidst the costumes, animals, shepherds and mangers crowded into most depictions of the Nativity, the gifts they bring often are seen as just props for the Magi to carry. Yet they are far more than that.
Scholars believe the Wise Men came from ancient Persia (modern day Iran), and early Christian art often depicts them in Persian clothing. If so, their journey was long and arduous—and even as it neared its end finding “the one who has been born king” was not easy. He was not to be found in Jerusalem, the Holy City, as they expected, but in the tiny village of Bethlehem; even there they had to search for him.
Yet when they found the Child, they were prepared. Bowing down, they worshiped him. “Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense [frankincense] and of myrrh” (Matthew 2:11), gifts that they had carried with them all the way from Persia, extravagant gifts fit for a King.
We may think ourselves incapable of giving such gifts until we remember that the good news of Jesus’ birth also came to common folk like the shepherds, and that extravagance comes in many forms. For the shepherds, it came in the form of praising God. For you, maybe it will be in doing mission together in response to a disaster or on an immersion trip to learn about another culture. Your extravagant gift to the Christmas offering, whether large or small, supports the many ways Disciples across your region discover and share their gifts of ministry. Whatever gift you bring, give it joyfully; that’s the kind of giving that makes God smile, and therein lies the secret of its extravagance.
As we celebrate anew the Good News of God-with-us, the coming of our Lord, what gifts shall we bring? Whatever it is, may we present them in humble thanksgiving and with joyful extravagance!