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At our Christmas Day service, we looked at Matt 2:1-12 and the subject of ‘Precious Presents’. Most of us are familiar with the idea that the gifts brought to Jesus by the wise men or Magi have a symbolic meaning: gold representing the fact He was born to be King, frankincense emphasising His priestly role in offering Himself as a a sacrifice and myrrh looking ahead to His death and burial. But these gifts can also have meaning for us too.

Gold was undoubtedly chosen because it represented wealth and financial security. For us, it is a reminder that God has promised to provide for all our needs (see Phil 4:19, Matt 6:24-34) and we need to be confident that He is both our provision and our provider. If we seek Him above everything, He will look after our material needs as well as every other need.

Frankincense reminds us that life is all about worship really. Idolatry simply means putting something before God and John warns us against this (1 John 5:21). The measure of our love for anything is our willingness to lay it down at God’s command. We need to be willing to see life as revolving around God and not ourselves and to bring ‘our everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering.’ (Rom 12:1-2, The Message)

Myrrh, that bitter perfume which, in the words of the carol, ‘breathes a life of gathering gloom’ (‘We Three Kings’), was probably a bewildering gift to Mary: who celebrates the birth of a baby by thinking ahead to his death? Similarly, Simeon’s prophecy that her own heart would be pierced must have seemed baffling. We need to understand that sorrow and suffering will always be a part of life in a sin-stained world and have a faith that can withstand shaking. Life can be tough at times, but we have an eternal hope which can sustain us. . (2 Cor 4:17-18)

The challenge for each one of us is to take the presents; learn the lessons; live the life that God has shaped for us, being secure in His love and empowered by His Spirit.