Love is the Message
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I remember the Christmas I received my first cashmere sweater. It was from The Gap and it lay so perfectly folded in the box beneath the colorful, holiday tissue paper.
My mom is a self-proclaimed professional shopper, and rightfully so. She has a knack for finding great buys, now to the grandkids' benefit. I think she enjoys the toy section just as much as they do, if not more! It also helps giving gifts is her natural love language, so we all benefit from it this time of year. My dad is less about shopping but generous just the same.
While the adults take turns unwrapping one gift at a time, we let the kids "go for it!" We figure they practice so much self-control passing out presents, and the squeals and ooh's and ahh's that fill the room amidst all the sounds of paper tearing and boxes ripping open, make it fifteen minutes, as quick as it is, of pure joy.
Will gets to experience the chaos and fun that is the Cofer Christmas this year. I have a feeling it will be a lot to take in, but if one of the kids get a toy train set this year, oh, he's going to be down on the floor playing with it for hours and hours.
...and hours... The man loves trains, what can I say?
Shopping in NYC with my mom this Fall, I came across a cashmere sweater which reminded me of the one I had received years before. Folded neatly on the retail shelf, the sweater was quite simple. Hand-stitched on the front were the words, "Love is the message."
Though it was only September, I immediately thought of Christmas and how these four words sum up the meaning of Christmas:
Love is the message.
Like the words on the sweater, God hand-stitched this very message of love to cover our hearts. Unlike the sweater, it's not a temporary covering but an eternal one if only we choose to believe.
I reached for the tag, knowing a cashmere sweater would be pricey, but I was taken back when I read $499.
So, in true Candace fashion, I thought, "Let's Try That!" I'd love to point you to a video I made for this, but I realized after I made the sweater that the video didn't actually record. Wahh, wahhh. It happens, so here's a pic instead!
This holiday season, I want to spend some time talking about gifts - those we give and those we receive.
On the first Christmas, that holy night in Bethlehem, gifts were given to Jesus. In Part 2 of this series, we talked about how the wise men knew how to find the Son of God. They understood the prophecies of old and knew a star would be a sign of this holy birth.
If we grew up in church, we know about the star and we know about the three gifts. Because we know of the three gifts, we often hear there are "three wise men" or the "three magi." Not to disrupt the nativity scene you just put up, but the number "three" in association to the number of wise men is not actually in the scriptures.
It's much more probable for there to be many and for them to travel in an entourage together. This was no quick trip across town, this was a journey! Traveling with them would be officials from the East to serve as protection.
The Greek word magos means spiritual advisors or priests. These men were appointed over the state religion as priests of Persia (modern-day Iran) by Darius.
If you followed along in The Bible 101 series, you'll remember how we said the Old Testament brings colors and richness and depth to the New Testament. In other words, we can't read the New Testament in isolation. It's the same with the wise men. When were wise men a critical part of the Old Testament history and prophecy?
If you're thinking Daniel, you'd be right. In interpreting the dream of Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, Daniel received great favor and was given the title as "Chief of the Magio."
It's unknown but possible these magos who came to visit Jesus on the first Christmas were descendants of those who had been taught by Daniel.
Arriving, the wise men tell Joseph and Mary they saw the star and came to bow down and worship Jesus. Again, this is connected to the Old Testament and serves as a preview of what's to come as described in the Psalms:
May the desert tribes bow before him and his enemies lick the dust. May the kings of Tarshish and of distant shores bring tribute to him. May the kings of Sheba and Seba present him gifts. May all kings bow down to him and all nations serve him. - Psalm 72:9-11
They worshipped in their time but also with their gifts. These would not be small items, but likely more accurately described as treasure chests full of gifts! Three specific gifts are mentioned: gold, frankincense and myrrh.
It's interesting to note the number three is symbolic of the divine. We see this in the Trinity of God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit. But, it's not just the number but the gifts themselves are very foretelling:
Gold symbolizes the deity of Christ. Gold was used when making idols of other gods in ancient times as well as for the Ark of the Covenant.
Frankincense is a white resin or gum that comes from the bark of a tree. When burned, it was very fragrant and was used as incense in worship. This gift points to the holiness, excellence and devotion of Christ and His sacrifice, serving as the burnt offering to atone for our sins.
Myrrh is obtained in a similar manner as Frankincense and was a spice used in the embalming process. This gift speaks to the suffering to come on the cross.
As I'm sure you're recognizing, these are not the gifts given at normal baby showers. A new mom does not expect to receive the spice that is used when preparing a body for a funeral. It's quite upside down, isn't it? But this was not an ordinary birth. These gifts spoke directly to the significance, the holiness, of this child as the Savior of the world.
In leading the wise men to bring these gifts, God was also providing for the practical needs of Joseph and Mary and baby Jesus. The treasure chests which were presented to them totaled great financial wealth, which would be used to finance their coming exodus to Egypt to protect the child from the mass murder of all first born sons under the age of two in Herod's order. Additionally, these gifts would supply their living expenses for a number of years, even after returning to Israel.
As symbolic as these gifts were for the identity of the child, they also served as God's provision and care. Joseph and Mary did not have the financial means on their own; God would have to provide. They trusted the character of God more than what they could see. And through the gifts brought to them, God was saying, I AM Jehovah Jireh. I AM the God who provided the ram for the sacrifice for Abraham. I AM the God who provides the sacrifice for the sin of humanity.
I am not the God of confusion. I would not ask you to do this and then not provide for your every need.
I AM the God who provides.
Friend, I don't know what is heavy on your heart, what you're asking God to provide for you or a loved one, but I do know we can take God at His word. He was and is Jehovah Jireh. He was and is the God who provides. In trusting God as our provider, we can lean into His spirit of generosity and shift our eyes off of ourselves and onto others. From my experience, as we reach out and meet the needs of those around us, we will find God uses the unexpected to provide for our own needs.
It requires trusting what we cannot see.
It requires faith.
I'm praying for us to be a people of faith, who trust God and are not overwhelmed with our own needs because our hope is in Jehovah Jireh. May He be our strength and may we experience newfound joy, even in our own times of need, as we help meet the practical needs of others. May we cling to the peace He has given us as we take a deeper look at the details of the first Christmas, seeing how each has been hand-stitched by God Himself. May we rest knowing love is the message of Christmas and we know this love only because God provided. He provided His Son Jesus for us.
The good life, well it starts with a good day. Then another. Then another. Let's choose to live #TheGoodDay one day at a time.
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