I love Dave Barry. As long as he is alive I will not have the weirdest brain on the planet. Here is his take on the secularizing of Christmas greetings.
Once again, we come to the Holiday Season, a deeply religious time that each of us observes, in his own way, by going to the mall of his choice.
In the old days, it was not called the Holiday Season; the Christians called it “Christmas” and went to church; the Jews called it “Hanukkah” and went to synagogue; the atheists went to parties and drank. People passing each other on the street would say “Merry Christmas!” or “Happy Hanukkah!”or (to the atheists) “Look out for the wall!”
These days, people say “Season’s Greetings,” which, when you think about it, means nothing. It’s like walking up to somebody and saying “Appropriate Remark” in a loud, cheerful voice. But “Season’s Greetings” is safer, because it does not refer to any actual religion. Some day, I imagine, even “Season’s Greetings” will be considered too religious, and we’ll celebrate the Holiday Season by saying “Have a nice day.”
There is a lot of humor and an uncomfortable amount of truth in those paragraphs. And while I might be attending the mall of my choice with my beloved today this is also a deeply religious time for me. For me this is a time to celebrate and marvel at the concept of God becoming man. The past two posts have offered some gift ideas to give Jesus on His upcoming birthday. It is an odd concept indeed that we generally give Christmas gifts to everyone but the one who is having a birthday. So if you are a late arriver we have been looking at the gifts of the Magi (wisemen) to see if we can get some last minute ideas. The first gift was gold and the second gift was frankincense. The third gift given by the magi to Christ child was myrrh.
Myrrh is an aromatic gum produced from a thorn bush and it is obtained in the same manner as frankincense. The bush is gashed and the resin bleeds out and is collected. However, if frankincense represents sweetness, myrrh represents bitterness, at least to the taste. Myrrh was used chiefly in embalming the dead, (John 19:39) Nicodemus brought Myrrh and aloes to wrap the body of Jesus.
Myrrh was a commodity of great value for early commerce.
As they sat down to eat their meal, they looked up and saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead. Their camels were loaded \with spices, balm and myrrh, and they were on their way to take them down to Egypt. (Genesis 37:25)
The Psalms tell us that myrrh was a valued perfume.
All your robes are fragrant with myrrh and aloes and cassia;
from palaces adorned with ivory
the music of the strings makes you glad. .(Psalms 45:8).
Myrrh kept its fragrance for several hundred years when stored in an alabaster pot. Myrrh also had medicinal qualities, sometimes mingled with wine to form a painkilling drink. That was offered to Jesus on the cross to ease His suffering.
Then they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it. (Mark 15:23)
So the Magi brought myrrh as a gift of great value but also as a foreshadowing of the human suffering that Jesus took upon Himself when He came into our world. So what can we give to Jesus in response to His willingness and love to take on suffering and death on our behalf? How about giving the gift of being willing to die to our self…our selfish desires…our own agenda? It is a daily choice that followers of Jesus make to live like that. We ought to consider others as more important than ourselves (see Rom. 12:10). We can’t do that unless we first learn to die to ourselves. The Message has an interesting take on Colossions 3.
So if you’re serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it. Pursue the things over which Christ presides. Don’t shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ–that’s where the action is. See things from his perspective. Your old life is dead. Your new life, which is your real life–even though invisible to spectators–is with Christ in God. He is your life.
Jesus is my life. And I want to be serious about living this resurrection life in 2009 and beyond. During the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season I need to take time to remember that. So let’s review our potential shopping list for Jesus on His birthday. Perhaps you would like to give Jesus the gift of more time with Him. How about the gift of really believing that Jesus is Lord over all…not Lord over what you and I select? Perhaps you are ready to take the faith step of being willing and ready to die to your desires so that you can serve the needs of others.
Happy Birthday, Jesus! He gave us a gift that we cannot repay when He surprised earth by bringing Heaven to this planet on Christmas Day. So it seems appropriate to wrap a little something for Jesus and present it to Him this year.