Gifts

wise men

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 2:11

 
‘Tis the season to be giving gifts. Like the Wise Men from long ago, we present our loved ones with gifts each Christmas. The gifts that were brought before the young Messiah, held great significance. The gold was representative of Jesus’ kingship. The incense points to Jesus’ priesthood. And the myrrh was an indication of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. All three were costly. All three were given as an act of worship.
But what about the gifts that we bring to the Messiah? What is it that you and I have that can be presented to the Prince of Peace? I can think of another trio of gifts that would be pleasing:
Acts of service
Acts of devotion
Acts of faith
I may not have gold to give, but I can serve. The two greatest commandments are to love God and love people. How we choose to do that on a daily basis are acts of service. When we put ourselves in a position of lifting others up, we are making an offering that is pleasing in God’s sight.
I may not have incense to give, but I can be devoted. We are instructed to love God with ALL of our heart, and with ALL of our soul, and with ALL of our mind, and with ALL of our strength. When we stop holding back and finally submit to our Lord all that we are, the good, the bad, and the ugly, we position ourselves to be forgiven by the great High Priest.
I may not have myrrh, but I can be faithful. When circumstances don’t make sense; when we are in a season of loss; when we have given every last effort, when we don’t know what else to do, we can still be faithful and trust in the One who gave himself for each one of us.
Friends, whether today is a day that you can be surrounded by those you love or you’re in a place where your heart is hurting (maybe it’s a combination of the two), know this: whatever you have, your joys and your sorrows, out of your wealth and your poverty, in your health and in your illness, the gifts you bring will be treasured beyond measure.
Bethany Ligon

This Can’t Be the End

Luke 23

Luke 23 38 NIV
What is it about cliffhangers that people enjoy so much? Writers of television series, movies and series of books know the power that a good story with a delayed ending has on an audience.
Several years ago I went to go see the movie “Catching Fire” the second story of the Hunger Games trilogy. At the conclusion of the very last scene, as the screen went to black, the lady that I was sitting next to exclaimed, “What!?! That’s it?!?” Even though I had read the books, I had forgotten how this particular book ended and I admit that I was also taken aback. So much so, that the next day one of my students was reading the book and I had to borrow it to reread the last chapter to confirm that the movie held true to the book.
Equally shocking was the ending of “Avengers: Infinity War”. How was the universe going to function after The Snap? I would have to wait an entire year to see how the story would come together in the final installment of the Avengers series in Endgame.
Neither of these experiences compares to the reality that people who knew and followed Jesus would have gone through at the time of his death. Was this it? What about the promised Kingdom? What about his anticipated rule and reign over all the earth? This couldn’t be it! But if we stop reading at the end of Luke chapter 23, then we put ourselves in the same position as those first believers.
But hang on just a minute. A really good story teller hides in his or her stories hints and clues of what’s to come. In “Infinity War,” Dr. Strange states that there is one scenario in which Thanos can be beat. It’s this single line that gives viewers a teeny tiny glimpse into what could come next.
Jesus is NOT that obtuse. Thank goodness!!! In fact, Jesus makes it crystal clear what will happen and the order in which it is to happen. In his conversations with his disciples Jesus plainly tells his disciples that he has to go, but that he will return for them. In John 14 Jesus reassures his men that what might seem like the end, is definitely not the end.
So when we read in Luke 23 verses 50-56 of Joseph of Arimathea claiming the body of Jesus and the women who had traveled from Galilee to prepare Jesus’ body for burial, we can take confidence that while it was a very dark day, the Light will shine once more, because Jesus really is KING of all.
Bethany Ligon