This week was the first of our celebration of the advent of the Christ. Each week, four leading up to Christmas, we take the time to focus on the reason for all the merriment. While we mark the weeks for the coming of Christmas, we also recall the coming of our savior. This week we consider HOPE.
“Uhg, stupid wise men!” I thought to myself as, once again, I had to place them back on their feet. Our nativity set has been a part of our family since the kids were babies. A gift from my mother-in-law, it is a little wooden stable, a few shards of hay, and little plastic replicas of the major players in the nativity scenario. While I know the actual timeline for events of those days places the wise men arriving to meet Jesus a few years after His birth, we still set up the traditional scene…Mary, Joseph, baby in manger, shepherds, cow, camel and yes, the wise men. As I positioned, and repositioned, each figure in an effort to produce the perfect display, I kept knocking the wise men over. I picked one of them up and rolled its tiny figure in my fingers. I looked into its little painted face. In his statuesque hands he held a small, gold colored, bottle. I wondered if this was supposed to be the myrrh.
Myrrh, a fragrant substance commonly used for embalming at the time of Christ’s birth. It was, by way of its value, a gift fit only for a king…but an odd choice for a baby gift. I like to imagine the scene as if they were presenting it at a baby shower.
Picture Mary, a glowing new mommy, opening gifts from friends and well wishers. No doubt she would react with pleasure as she unwraps various offerings of handmade clothes, blankets, toys and trinkets. Her heart may be relieved when some of the gifts were meant to aid in the family’s financial needs, such as when she unwrapped the gold a wise man brought. I picture the house filled with laughter and giggling as everyone coos over the little one, while Mary and Joseph open the gifts….then there is a hush. Mary and Joseph hold a bottle of Myrrh in their hands, the burlap it was wrapped in falls quietly to the floor. Their faces ashen, they look in one another’s eyes in a way the crowd cannot understand, in a knowing kind of way. All conversation ceases, no more giggling or cooing. The awkward silence is broken when someone finally shouts out, “Okay, who’s the wise guy who brought the MYRRH? Did they run out of blankets and rattles at Bagdad Babies R Us?”
What would happen if someone brought a gift like that to a baby shower these days? A wedding gown for a new baby girl? A pair of size 10 men’s shoes for the baby boy? The deed to a burial plot? In this context it seems highly unacceptable as a gift, but as I looked at the painted bottle in my tiny wise man’s hands I found myself thinking of HOPE.
The gift of myrrh is said to be symbolic of the eventual death of Christ, but it is important to remember that His death was/is our HOPE, because in dying, He set us free from our sins. At Christmas we do not just celebrate the birth of Christ, if that were so, His birth would be no greater than any other. This season we celebrate that His birth was God’s gift of HOPE to us. He would be born, live, die and conquer death. In Him we have hope for forgiveness of our sins, “for while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us”.
That hastily painted bottle, sculpted against the plastic wise man in my hand, will always remind me that in the birth of His son, by the grace of God, I find forgiveness and hope in all things.
The Myrrh reminds us, that while some welcomed a new baby,
the world welcomed so much more….the world welcomed HOPE, unshakable, saving HOPE.
“My soul waits in silence for God only, for my hope is from Him. He only is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold; I shall not be shaken.” Psalm 63:5,6