Monday, December 24, 2012

Jesus' Wish List

Furoshiki-wrapped Christmas giftI hate buying presents.  I am terrible at it.  I draw a huge blank.  Even for my children, I really have to rack my brain to think of what to buy.   As if that weren't bad enough, most of my gifts have to be transported internationally; they can't be too heavy, too bulky or likely to end up in pieces after being tossed off the back of a 747!  Finding the right thing is a real challenge.  

I wonder if the Wise Men struggled to pick out presents to bring the newborn king?  What do you bring to the guy who MADE everything?  I'm not sure how intentional it was on their parts but they brought perfect gifts!  They brought tabernacle gifts. 

What's the connection between Jesus and the tabernacle?  John explains in the beginning of his gospel.  He says that Jesus came to earth and "dwelt" among his people (John 1:1-14). My Greek teacher said that the verb means something like "camp" or "tabernacle."  (Thanks Dr. Neller) This word gives us two important ideas about Jesus coming to earth: He was merely sojourning, and just like the tabernacle He was the one place on earth where people could meet God.

So it is particularly fitting that the Wise Men brought gold, frankincense and myrrh.  The main ingredient of the anointing oil for the tabernacle was myrrh.  It was poured out to make the tabernacle holy (Exodus 30:22-33). Frankincense was one of the precious spices mixed together to make the incense burned before the Lord (Exodus 30:34-38). As for Jesus, he was poured out to make us holy and He stands as our intercessor so the Christian version of incense (our prayers) can be heard by God (Hebrews 7:25, Revelation 8:4).  Finally the tabernacle contained a lamp stand made of pure gold, and of course Jesus is the light of the world (Exodus 37:17-24, John 1: 1-8). 

Do you ever struggle to pick out a present to give to God?  I personally wouldn't recommend burdening your church treasurer with 10 pounds of gold bullion or bringing frankincense into the auditorium on Sunday Morning and setting it afire.  So what is it that God would like?

Micah addresses that very question. In poetic form he records the conversation between God and the Israelites.  God asks them what He has done to exhaust them.  The Israelites respond with this bit of sarcasm. 

With what shall I come to the LORD And bow myself before the God on high? Shall I come to Him with burnt offerings, With yearling calves?   Does the LORD take delight in thousands of rams, In ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I present my firstborn for my rebellious acts, The fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? (Micah 6:6-7)
Micah replies that God has already told them, "And what does the LORD require of you? But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God?" (Micah 6:8)  

So if your making a Christmas list (I am) and if you're wracking your brain thinking of what everyone might like (I am), the good news is God already told you. 

Do justice.  I know the world isn't fair.  Are you?  Do you see injustice or are you blind to it?  Do you take every advantage you can as your "right" or do you slow down and give place to those older, slower, gentler than you?  Do you practice scrupulous honesty with your employer or evenhanded generosity with your employees? 

Love Kindness.  Kindness is the hardest and most underrated of the commands God gave.  Every day we can find 10 more ways to be kind from our driving, to our greetings, to bringing a family member a refill on their coffee.  Call your grandmother. Spend a half-hour with the widow next door. Sit down and play Chutes and Ladder with your grandson.  The opportunities to be kind abound!  

Walk with God.  Walking with God is about keeping in step with Him.  It determines our pacing and our direction.  Choosing to walk with God requires the daily spiritual disciplines of prayer, bible reading and meditation. 

Balancing justice, kindness, and walking with God is tricky.  Many a person who tried to walk with God neglected to love their fellowman (the Pharisees). Many a person who tried to create a world of kindness and justice arrogantly disregarded the God who made the world. 

While I was shopping today I bought a present for Shawn the tech guy who keeps this blog running.  I think it reflects something deeply true about him.  The wise men brought gold, frankincense and myrrh - gifts that reflected the truth of the Christ who "dwelt/tabernacled among us."  If you are ready, you can give a gift to God.  It's a gift that reflects something true about God: His justice, His kindness, and His great desire for a relationship with us. 

Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE(R), Copyright(c) 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission

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