Posted tagged ‘Magi’

What Might Jesus Wish For On His Birthday?

December 24, 2016

                                                                                            December 24, 2016

                           

Most people reading this will be opening up some kind of wrapped gift tonight or tomorrow…or whenever their family and friends gatherings take place. Let’s be honest! We all enjoy opening presents…even if there’s underwear inside!

In celebration of Jesus’ birth the Magi brought him three gifts that are mentioned in scripture: gold, myrrh, and frankincense. Each was a gift with a purpose as it related to Jesus. The gifts recognized his royalty, his priestly function, and his death.

I wonder what might be on Jesus’ gift wish list this birthday? What might Jesus hope for? I know I’m being a bit presumptuous in answering that question, but bearing in mind the purpose, personality, and teachings of Jesus, this is what I THINK he would want.

An Avalanche of Understanding- I think Jesus would be taken back by the lack of understanding that is present everywhere…and the absence of even wanting to understand. Political division, divisive people going at it in church, parents not understanding their children and vice versa, communities not understanding the plight of the homeless, well-to-do folk not understanding poverty, and just about everyone not understanding someone else’s point of view. I think Jesus might even expand his sermon on the mount to include “Blessed are those who seek to be understanding for they shall be filled with wisdom!”

    A Tsunami of GenerosityWe live in a time of “moderate Scroogeness!” Most of us would be offended to be described as Scrooges so we show “some generosity”, while hoarding everything else. I’m not talking about giving a buck to every panhandler you meet, but rather a willingness to be generous. Jesus talked about giving up our coat to someone in need. Recently my wife Carol brought about half a dozen coats to me and asked which one or two we should keep. She was going to take the rest to a place that was collecting coats. My first reaction…to myself!…was “I might still need that!” Carol’s generosity also had wisdom mixed in. “How many coats can you wear at one time, Bill?” Many of us are prone to hoard what we have instead of allowing our resources to fulfill their purpose. I think Jesus might say something like this: “The poor you will always have with you. That is not an excuse to dismiss them, but rather an opportunity to bless them.”

    An Appetite for Spiritual NourishmentI think Jesus would desire the gift of seeking him, walking closely beside him, and wanting more of him. His desire would be less entertainment centers and more worship centers, less choreographed worship services and more spontaneity, less “the look” and more the walk. Like when we grow old and instead of a gift card we’d just like to sit with our grown up children and talk, perhaps Jesus’ wished-for gift would be ongoing conversations with people who are interested in knowing him better, desirous of a journeying relationship wth him. A dear friend of mine recently told me that the younger generations often want a big splash of spiritual excitement, but Jesus asks us for a continuos relationship that asks for $5 at a time. In other words, Jesus desires a spiritual appetite that is steady, long, and forever…not just for a weekend every once in a while.

Three gifts! One that speaks to our mind, one that speaks to our heart, and one that speaks to our spirit. Or put another way, one that speaks to those we differ with, one that speaks to those who need us, and one that speaks to the One who we need.

Happy birthday, Jesus!

Peace of Mind or Pieces of Our Mind

December 14, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                  December 14, 2015

                                 

There’s a difference between “peace of mind” and “giving someone a piece of your mind.” The first can come to a person as a gift from God. The second comes from a person who isn’t afraid to hold back their rage and discontent.

The shepherds received peace of mind. King Herod wanted to express a piece of his mind to the exited Magi. Jesus came as the Prince of Peace, but was subjected to pieces of the minds of Pharisees and religious leaders.

In our churches today there is a growing urgency to surrender our agendas, conflicts, and unrest, and allow the peace of God to embrace the people of God.

Peace of God? Piece of someone’s mind? Peace that surpasses all understanding?

When someone chooses to give a piece of their mind the Body of Christ needs to identify it for what it is…someone’s personal agenda…someone’s pet peeve…someone’s perceived truth derived from rumor…someone’s bitterness manifested.

When the peace of God is evident a calmness descends upon the journeyers. There is an assuredness that God is guiding and creating a way that will one day is evident.

When someone gives a piece of their mind there are usually pieces that need to be picked up afterwards. When there is peace of mind the awesomeness of God begins to be realized.

Manger Implications

November 26, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                  November 26, 2015

                                     

Last night a group of us were decorating the church sanctuary for Christmas. Wreaths, Christmas tree, and nativity sets. Our church has about four different nativity sets which get positioned in different spots around the room.

As we decorated and started to place the manger scenes we discovered that a couple of the sets were incomplete. In one box Mary came up missing! She had fled the scene! In another there were twin baby Jesus’s! A third set had a Mary and Joseph who were dwarfed by Goliath-sized magi.

I was game to place the different manger scenes as they appeared, but was outvoted by the rest of the decorators. What a perfect time to make people think about the implications of the birth scene of Jesus by putting out the manger scenes as we had them.

A single parent manger scene with only Joseph! What would that have looked like for Jesus? For one thing he wouldn’t have had siblings, but, more than that, Mary seems to have been the nurturer in scripture. By the time Jesus was gathering his disciples Joseph has been gone for a long time. It can easily be said that Mary was second in importance to the Christ-child as part of the nativity scene cast.

Twin Jesus’s! That would have blown everyone’s minds! I can’t even comprehend the gospel story with twin messiahs.

The more I think about it the more I’m glad I was outvoted. There seems to be enough “messing with people’s theology” going on these days!

In our own minds we’re prone to re-create the story. The gospel has had people deleting from it for years. Just as Catholics perhaps over-emphasize the role of Mary, many Protestants aren’t sure what to do with her. She gives birth and then in our theology comes up missing after that.

Twin Jesus’s! Many of us live our Christianity based on that: one Jesus for Calvary and the other Jesus to convince us that life will be comfortable and worry-free if we simply believe in him.

Giant magi and “little people Mary and Joseph!” An appropriate and relevant picture to describe how prominent our faith journey is compared to other elements of our life.

Incomplete manger scenes are disturbing for many reasons!

Fruitcake

June 13, 2014

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                       June 13, 2014

 

                                            

 

I don’t know which aunt brought it, but it was always there, sitting on the counter in the kitchen just waiting to be sliced into.

I don’t know who came up with the idea of fruitcake, but it was partially good. I didn’t much care for the candied cherries and pineapple pieces that invaded its goodness. The pecans and top side crusts were my favorite parts, but I had to take the good with the bad.

One time I pilfered the exposed inners of the circle of all the pecans I could see. My sin was discovered and atoned for by having to sit in a chair for almost a lifetime before I was paroled.

Fruitcake was always a part of our Christmas. I believed it was one of the Magi gifts brought to the Baby Jesus. I didn’t know what myrrh and frankincense were, so I figure one of them was a foreign name for fruitcake presented on a platter. That’s the only reason I could come up with that it only appeared at Christmas in our house.

It was also the only time during the year that I was allowed to have cake for breakfast, not much of a treat since the pieces of pineapple made my face twitch. A glass of milk and a piece of fruitcake got the day started.

When we weren’t able to go back to my family’s roots in eastern Kentucky at Christmas my mom would whip up a fruitcake at home. I knew when it was coming. The kitchen counter would be layered with the ingredients, all ready to fulfill their purpose. It also was the indication that Christmas wasn’t going to be held in a different state. We wouldn’t be traveling up river past Pomeroy and Gallipolis heading for the crossover into West Virginia and then Kentucky. An absence of pecan bags at home was a sure sign we were going to do some piling in the car.

Fruitcake was a symbol of the mixed blessings of Christmas. It was a gift, good and bad, like opening a box filled with Matchbox cars, and then the next opened gift containg socks and underwear. I never understood why underwear had to be wrapped up…kind of like why fruitcake had to have those pineapple pieces.

I would have been fine with a “fruit-less cake!”

The Five Wise Boys

December 20, 2013

WORDS FROM W.W.                                               December 20, 2013

 

 

The five young boys started their stroll down the center aisle of the church’s sanctuary. They carried gifts made out of plastic and cardboard, but painted to look like expensive presents from Dilliard’s. Boys have a tendency to drop things. Better to have a plastic container painted gold than a gold container containing something fragile.

There were five of them, each wearing a decorative hat or head wrap to convey their roles as the three wise men…plus two!

It wasn’t necessarily the plan! The program called for three boys dressed up to be like the “We Three Kings!”

“We Five Kings” or “Us Bunch of Kings” just didn’t quite have the same ring to it. Nevertheless, there were five of them marching down the aisle in all their glory.

Magi #4 and Magi #5 had shown up for the first time that morning…and been invited to carry some fragile-looking cardboard containers to the manger scene. They were a little apprehensive.

“We haven’t practiced.”

One of the other wise boys asked the question: “Can you walk and chew gum at the same time?” He got two cautious nods. “Then you qualify! Just follow us and we’ll lead you to the right spot.”

“After all,” added Wise Boy #2, “the Magi followed a star! They didn’t really practice either, and they made it okay!”

The first wise boy took Magi #4’s hand and said “It will be fun!” He tugged a little bit to get him to follow.

The two additional characters had come to church that morning with their mom and dad who had just become homeless. A world of confusion and closed doors had greeted their parents as they tried to keep the family together, safe, and fed. The journey to the sanctuary manger scene that morning has been preceded by visits to filled homless shelters, tapped-out agencies, and declined appeals.

Christmas looked dark.

Mom and Dad and their two boys carried all their possessions in two suitcases and four backpacks, and they walked from one place to the next. Desperation was starting to seep in to their minds. Fears about survival were becoming constant.

And then the parents met someone who said, “Let me see if I can help you!” A roof over their heads, food in their hands, and an invitation to come to church. The genuineness of the helper convinced them that this was not a superficial offer, but was undergirded with concern for their well-being.

And so they had come. Someone had picked them up and brought them…and soon after the wise boys had multiplied by sixty-seven percent.

After the program as the five boys stood around munching cookies and not worrying about crumbs on the carpet, Wise Boy #1 said, “Hey! I wonder if this is how it happened in the original Christmas story? Do you think the wise men picked up people on the way and invited them to join them?”

Wise Boy #2 responded, “It doesn’t seem right that they wouldn’t have. Why keep good news a secret?”

Worship That Is Dangerous!

December 19, 2013

“Where is the one who has been born long of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.” (Matthew 2:2)

 

“The elephant in the room” in King Herod’s court was that there was a different star in the sky then his. If Herod could have been voted deity status he would have gladly accepted. In fact, he expected to be worshiped like a god. To have wise men from a long distance away come looking for someone else who they deemed more important than Herod spelled trouble.

It disturbed him, and when he was disturbed he was usually perturbed! Having Herod perturbed was a recipe for disaster for some unfortunate people around him.

Worship is at the core of the church and for followers of Christ, but worship is recognizing that it is about someone other than myself. I’m not the focus. Some people get perturbed with that.

Recently I read an article about some “rock star worship leaders” who were having a tough time. Some of them, brought into mega-church settings to lead worship, were getting disenchanted…and some were getting fired…because they were trying to create a concert-like atmosphere that brought the spotlight upon themselves. In the concert scene of our culture that was the norm, but in church the focus of worship is on the One we are sining to.

Here’s the weird thing! If we focus our worship, individually and corporately, upon the Lord, it will have a strange side effect of inspiring ourselves. Some people don’t get that, and some people are pretty perturbed by that, but “wise men still seek him!”