Sunday, 1 January 2017

Three gifts of welcome

We are always using our imaginations to determine our understanding of the three gifts from the 'wise men'.  We are told that the three 'gold, frankincense and myrrh' (Matt 2.11b) represent power / Majesty / Kingship; priestly ministry / mystery / spirituality; Death / Finality / sorrow.  Indeed all of these things are present in these gifts.  We have always associated gold with the trappings of power either through gold crowns or through wealth. incense is associated with things spiritual whether as a Buddhist or as a Catholic.  Myrrh is not something we associate with much nowadays other than a rather expensive resin found and harvested in the Yemen and East Africa.  It is associated with death through its use in embalming but otherwise is a gum resin incense similar to frankincense.  So what is the distinctiveness of these gifts today, especially when we contemplate the welcome of a new child of God through baptism?  Do they only have relevance for us because the 'wise men' gave them to Christ or do they have relevance for all newborns?  I would suggest, that just as for Christ, these gifts are as appropriate for any newborn coming into the human family.  They remind us of those things that are part of our normal lives or should be if we lived as whole human beings.

The three gifts. Do we acknowledge them in our lives?

Gold is a reflection of power and authority.  We automatically see this in terms of political or physical power / authority but is this what we are really made for as part of God's creation or is this what we have made of God's creation for ourselves?  We only see things in our own manner and in our own vision not in the vision of God.  Power for us is power over but power with love is power with.  The symbol of power is just that a symbol, it does not tell us what power, we make an assumption as to the power that matters.  In welcoming new life into the church family we need to remind ourselves that the Christian has power.  Not power over but power with. as a child is brought up within the Christian faith its Godparents and parents and other friends need to remind the child that the power of love is a power that is used with not over others.  Once we start using power over others we start using people and things.  We treat others as objects not as people, we begin to be blind to God's image and replace that with a image of ourselves and our wants.  In a child we have hope of a better future; a future that is balanced by power used wisely with others for the benefit of all.

So how about frankincense we know that Christ has become our high priest, our spiritual leader, how can frankincense have any meaning for us?  If we are to live whole lives than we must also live lives which encompass the whole.  In our modern pragmatic society we have lost an understanding of the mystical and the spiritual.  We have lost the wonder that comes with this most unpragmatic side of life.  This gift reminds us that to be whole we need to use our imaginations and our spiritual sides.  We lose something of ourselves every time we deny our dreams and our spiritual yearnings.  We are diminished people as a result as we look down upon those who have a flamboyant and interesting life style choices.  We see them as being somewhat different and so fear or ridicule them.  Yet, we are made to be spiritual, to develop our understanding of the mystical and God as we are made in God's image.  We need to teach our children to be whole, to accept the fantastical, spiritual, and wonder in their lives.  In this way they become complete and bring hope into our dull lives.

Myrrh reminds us of the one thing we seem to shy away from and not mention.  Death is a part of life.  Without death we cannot have life for it is in death that we find new life.  Yet, the one thing we do not speak about with our children is the presence of death in our lives.  It is only when we confront death that we begin not to fear death.  The gift of myrrh to our children is the gift of understanding the presence of death in our lives and being able to embrace this without fear.  In our fear of our mortality we create the abnormalities of life which protect us from death but also prevent us from experiencing the hope and the joy that comes with resurrection.  If we cannot allow things to die we are preventing and denying the possibility of hope in hew life. Christ teaches us that death is the pathway to resurrection life.  We who are resurrection people need to understand and embrace the fact that all things die.  Only through death do we come to the hope of resurrection.

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