Christmas Cards

Three wise men
By: jdcharles63
Date: 06/01/2019

This is the first Sunday of the new year, but it is also the last day of Christmas, the 12th day.  In the church calendar it is known as Epiphany, and it marks the coming of the wise men from the East to worship Jesus at Bethlehem.

I like Christmas cards showing the wise men. I don’t send so many cards now, but I used to enjoy shopping for them, and looking at the front illustrations and the messages inside.  And there are two points about Christmas cards I would like to make today.

 Firstly, have you ever noticed that the bold and brightest illustrations are often the least realistic?  They may have a colourful abstract design of decorations, or things of legend or fantasy, like elves and flying reindeer.  And those bright and colourful cards often have a message which is bland and superficial, like ‘seasons greetings’.

In contrast, cards with a realistic illustration of the manger scene have less visual impact, they look a bit drab.  But they are far more likely to have a serious and meaningful message about the real impact of Christmas.

 I think this reflects the way people may respond to Christ at Christmas.  We can be tempted to put our own colourful gloss on the Christmas story to make it more appealing to our wishful thinking; to see it in terms of worldly power and spectacle, as shown by the stories of legend and fantasy about Christmas.  If we do this, we are left with a message which is appealing on the surface, but lacks any real meaning or essential truth.

In a similar way, we can be tempted to look to God to change our lives in a highly visible and spectacular way.  But just as the realistic and drab cards are the most meaningful, so it can be when we allow God to take us just as we are, and where he has placed us.  God may not change the look of our front cover, but when we let him write his gospel on our heart, and rule over our lives, he gives us real meaning, joy and hope, as he uses us, wherever we are placed, for his good purpose.

 The second point is – I like those cards with the wise men because their response to Jesus points to the reality we now celebrate at our Lord’s table.

In Matthew 2:11 we read, “they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshipped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh.”

Just like the wise men, we need to recognize Jesus as true God and worship him.

Their three gifts showed three essential aspects of Jesus.

 Gold is a gift for a king, and Jesus is the king of all kings, above all earthly powers.  So, we owe him complete obedience, he needs to be the Lord of our lives.

Incense is a gift for a priest, it was used in Old Testament temple worship and sacrifices.  The priest acted as a mediator between God and mankind, he approached God for the people, and made temporary sacrifices on behalf of them.  Jesus is our great high priest, he has made the complete and sufficient sacrifice for all of humanity, and we now have direct access to God through him alone.

 And finally, myrrh is a gift for one who is to die, it was used for embalming.  This last gift points to Jesus death on the cross at Calvary, where to save us from sin, he took on himself the penalty for our sin, he suffered the death due to us, and so fulfilled the righteous requirements of the law.

But the miracle of Calvary is that he rose again from the dead, he overcame the power of sin and death, and won eternal life for all who believe in him and commit their lives to him.

Romans 6:4 reads “We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.”

 It is this great miracle of Jesus, as our Saviour, which we now celebrate at his table, as he commanded us.


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