The First Christmas Gift Matthew 2:11

They offered unto him gifts. - Matthew 2:11

The happy Christmas-time has come round once more, and for the past few weeks there have been little under-currents of excitement in our homes. There have been wonderful mysterious secrets, strange whisperings behind doors, and swift hidings of little bits of work when mother came suddenly and unexpectedly into the room. And there has been much guessing, too, as to what Santa Claus will put into our stockings on Christmas morning.

Now if Jesus Christ had not come down to earth there would have been no Christmas presents. We give each other presents at Christmas-time because it is Jesus' birthday. Long ago the Wise Men brought Him gifts and laid them beside His cradle. But Jesus is no longer the Babe in Bethlehem. So instead of giving Him presents, we give them to each other. And we know that when we are making other people happy, we are making Him happy too.

I want to talk to you for a little about the Wise Men and their gifts.

Who were these Wise Men? We really do not know. Out of the mysterious East they came, and into it they disappeared again. Some people say they were three kings who came to pay homage to the King of the Jews, and there is a wonderful legend of how in their old age they were converted to Christianity by the apostle Thomas. The legend tells us that they went as missionaries to savage tribes, that they were put to death by them, and that, long afterwards, a Frankish king took their bones home with him and buried them in his Cathedral at Cologne. But all we really know is that they were Wise Men and that they came out of the East to see Jesus. And that was the very best thing they could have done.

But what of the presents the Wise Men brought? Some people have found a special meaning in these three gifts. They say that the gold was an offering to a King, the frankincense an offering to God, while the myrrh was a gift for Christ's burial and foretold His death -

Gold a monarch to declare,

Frankincense that God is there,

Myrrh to tell the heavier tale

Of His death and funeral.

Perhaps people have got that idea from the purposes for which frankincense and myrrh were used.

Frankincense is a kind of gum or resin which is procured from an Indian tree by slitting the bark. It was mixed with other things to make incense, and this incense was poured upon the offerings which were offered up to God in the Temple and was burned along with them. So the sweet odor of the frankincense rose to God with the prayers of the priests.

Myrrh is also a gum procured from a tree. It is a spice and was used as a perfume and also in burying the dead. You remember how Nicodemus brought myrrh with him when he came to bury the body of Jesus.

Now I have said that Jesus is no longer a Babe in Bethlehem and so we give each other presents instead of giving them to Him. But there are some gifts we can still bring to Jesus, gifts that He longs to have.

1. We can bring Him gold. Gold stands for the most precious things. And what is the most precious thing we have? I think it is just our lives. So we can give our lives to Christ's service. We can help to fight the evil that is in the world and in our own hearts. We can help to make the earth better, and sweeter, and brighter. We can use the talents God has given us to make other people happier and wiser. And when we are doing this we are giving Jesus a gift more precious than gold.

2. We can bring Christ frankincense. I think frankincense stands for prayers. And this is an offering Jesus dearly loves. When He was on earth He loved to have the little children gather round His knees, He loved to listen to what they said. And He still loves to have them gather round His knees, and He still loves to listen when they speak to Him.

3. We can bring Him myrrh. Myrrh is used to purify and preserve, and so I think it stands for the things that are purest and most lasting. And what is the thing that is purest and most lasting? I think it is just the love and devotion of our hearts. For love has conquered sin and death, and lives for ever and ever.

There is a beautiful legend which tells how a little girl in Bethlehem took Jesus a Christmas present. She had heard the story of the Wise Men who had come from far to see the Baby King. And she, too, longed to go and see Him. But she could not visit a king without taking an offering with her and she had nothing to offer, for she was very, very poor. So she went out with her little bare feet and crept up close to the inn where the Baby was sleeping. And as she stood there in the cold snow she wept because she had nothing to give Him. Then, as she wept, out of the snow grew a beautiful white flower whose petals were flushed with pink. If was the first Christmas rose. And the little girl heard a soft voice speaking to her. It was the voice of an angel, and it asked her why she was so sad. She told him how she longed to see the Baby King and how she had nothing to offer Him. Then the angel showed her the beautiful flower that had blossomed at her feet. He bade her pluck it and carry it to the King, and he told her that the beautiful white flower was her pure desire and the pink flush her heart's love for the Baby.

And that is the gift that Jesus values more than any other - the gift of our love. We may have nothing else to give Him, but if we bring Him that He is content. It is a poor, shabby little gift at the best, but He does not think it poor or mean. He prizes it above all others, and He glorifies it and makes it beautiful and pure.

The Wise Men came from far to see Jesus, but we have no distance to go to give Him our offering, for He is here in our midst today. Just think how glad He will be to tell the angels who sang at His birth - "I have received the very best Christmas present today, for a little child has given Me himself."