By Rae Lynn DeAngelis
“This is a day you are to commemorate; for the generations to come you shall celebrate it as a festival to the LORD—a lasting ordinance.” (Exodus 12:14)
Is it just me or does Christmas come faster every year? It seems like I just put the Christmas decorations away, and here I am getting them out again. Don’t get me wrong – I LOVE CHRISTMAS! It really is the most wonderful time of year.
I enjoy the lights, music, holiday parties, family celebrations, and gift giving, but all I really want for Christmas is more focus and time spent with Jesus – the real reason for the season.
Unfortunately, it’s way too easy to get caught up in the commercialism of Christmas, even when you don’t want to.
One year in an effort to steer away from the commercialism, my husband and I decided to borrow a strategy that some dear friends implemented in their family’s gift giving. Just as Jesus was given three gifts (gold, incense, and myrrh), we would give our children three gifts.
When implementing this kind of strategy you really need to think carefully about each gift you give.
“After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, ‘Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him….. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh.” (Matthew 2:1-2; 11)
I had a silent conversation with God. Was there as a specific purpose for the Magi’s three gifts? Did they hold some kind of special significance?
What God showed me next was a profound lesson, one that changed the way I understood Christmas forever.
God prompted me to look closely at the three gifts brought to baby Jesus. I felt the Holy Spirit saying, These gifts are very important, Rae Lynn. They are the same gifts my children can offer me.
Almost immediately, God reminded me of something I learned years earlier when studying the Old Testament, so I went to the book of Exodus and read the specific instructions God gave Moses for building the tabernacle. I remembered that gold, incense, and myrrh were all used for different purposes in the Tabernacle.
“The LORD said to Moses, ‘Tell the Israelites to bring me an offering. You are to receive the offering for me from each man whose heart prompts him to give. These are the offerings you are to receive from them: gold, silver and bronze; blue, purple and scarlet yarn and fine linen; goat hair; ram skins dyed red and hides of sea cows; acacia wood; olive oil for the light; spices for the anointing oil and for the fragrant incense; and onyx stones and other gems to be mounted on the ephod and breast piece. Then have them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them.” (Exodus 25:1-8)
In the Old Testament, God’s dwelling place among His people was in the tabernacle, also referred to as the temple. The New Testament tells us that through Jesus’ death on the cross, His saving grace, and our obedience to God’s plan of salvation, we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of God then dwells within us; we become His temple.
“Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)
Since our body is now God’s temple, the place where His Holy Spirit dwells, I wondered what insight the Old Testament tabernacle might have for what is important to God concerning His dwelling place.
“Pure gold’ was one of the common elements found in the tabernacle. Pure gold is obtained through a process called refining. I wondered if process of refining gold held some clues about ways that I could honor God with my body.
When gold is found in its original form, it is coated with a black film. The process for refining gold begins by the refiner placing the gold over heat from a fire. As the gold is heated, the black film melts away, revealing the gold’s more familiar appearance. However, even in this state, the gold contains many impurities. In order to remove the impurities, the refiner must heat the gold to an even higher temperature, causing the impurities within to rise to the surface. The refiner then skims the impurities off the top, bringing the gold to its purest state. Here is the really cool part: The refiner knows the gold is in its purest form when he is able to see his reflection in it.
Does this sound familiar? When we first come to Christ, we seldom resemble a child of God. God accepts us as we are with all our ‘impurities,” but hopefully, after some time, we do begin to take on the appearance of God’s children. We learn how we should be living our lives through the study of God’s Word, prayer, worship, service, and fellowship with other Christians. But God is by no means finished with us. Even after implementing those things, we still have deep-rooted sin that God wants to bring to the surface and remove. Just like the refiner of gold, sometimes God must turn up the heat in order to accomplish this.
It is one of the reasons God allows us to go through hardships in life. He is able to refine us through trials and difficulties so we look more like Him.
Although we cannot refuse the refining fires, we can refuse to be transformed by them. God respects our free will and will not force us to change.
I don’t know about you, but I want to be transformed into the image of Jesus. I want to become a reflection of Him, a reflection that can be seen by everyone around me. When people see me, I want them to get a glimpse of Jesus.
What an awesome gift we can give to God – our lives refined into pure gold, shining forth His reflection!
Next week we will take a look at the symbolism found in the Magi’s other two gifts – incense and myrrh. All three gifts show us special ways that we can honor our Lord and Savior, not just at Christmastime, but the whole year through.
To be continued…