December has a holiday that is celebrated around the world – Christmas. Christmas is all about recognition. Maybe you have a box full of cards and letters that were received at Christmas the year before so that you can remember to recognize the thoughtfulness of people who greeted you. Maybe you have a list of people who you intend to recognize with a gift. These customs are so common that many are tempted to think that Christmas is a marketing scheme to sell everything from cards, trees, decorations, candy, and jewelry to… well, everything. It’s all about putting businesses “in the black” (Black Friday) and sometimes ends up putting people in debt and depression.
Want to put some love and kindness, along with recognition into your Christmas customs? Let’s go back to the origin of this giving and see if the Christmas spirit has anything to do with marketing…
The story is found in the Bible, the book written by Matthew and it goes like this…
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem village, Judah territory – this was during Herod’s kingship – a band of scholars arrived in Jerusalem from the East. They asked around, “Where can we find and pay homage to the newborn King of the Jews? We observed a star in the eastern sky that signaled his birth. We’re on a pilgrimage to worship him.”
When word of their inquiry got to Herod, he was terrified – and not Herod alone, but most of Jerusalem as well. Herod lost no time. He gathered all the high priests and religious scholars in the city together and asked, “Where is the Messiah supposed to be born?”
They told him, “Bethlehem, Judah territory. The prophet Micah wrote it plainly:
‘It’s you, Bethlehem, in Judah’s land, no longer bringing up the rear.
From you will come the leader who will shepherd-rule my people, my Israel.’ “
Herod then arranged a secret meeting with the scholars from the East. Pretending to be as devout as they were, he got them to tell him exactly when the birth-announcement star appeared. Then he told them the prophecy about Bethlehem, and said, “Go find this child. Leave no stone unturned. As soon as you find him, send word and I’ll join you at once in your worship.”
Instructed by the king, they set off. Then the star appeared again, the same star they had seen in the eastern skies. It led them on until it hovered over the place of the child. They could hardly contain themselves: They were in the right place! They had arrived at the right time!
They entered the house and saw the child in the arms of Mary, his mother. Overcome, they knelt and worshiped him. Then they opened their luggage and presented gifts: gold, frankincense, myrrh.
In a dream they were warned not to report back to Herod. So they worked out another route, left the territory without being seen, and returned to their own country. (from the Message Bible)
Tradition has added details to this story that may or may not be accurate. We don’t know if these visitors were kings or even if there were three of them. They arrived after the birth of Jesus and came from a distance so they didn’t find him in a stable. But they found him and they recognized him as a king with gifts that were valuable and designed for royalty. For more of the legends surrounding these scholars visit www.whychristmas.com/story/wisemen.shtml A good explanation of the spiritual side of the story can be found here www.bible.org/seriespage/3-visit-wise-men-matthew-21-12
These travelers went to a great deal of trouble to recognize Jesus as a king. Time, effort and cost were evidenced in their travel and the gifts they gave, and we can use their example to recognize others in meaningful ways.
Give with the right motive, not out of seasonal obligation.
Give with intent and thoughtfulness, as evidence that you value the recipient.
Give the best you can give.
Give the gift of time, and presence – not only material things.
Give with excitement and enjoyment.
Following these suggestions might result in doing less shopping but you might find that you have a more peaceful holiday that way. Maybe that’s why those original visitors were called “wise men”. What do you think?