Sunday, January 8, 2012

Regifted by Jesus

Today we celebrate the arrival of the Magi with three great gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. If we compare the gospel text to the prophecy of Isaiah we see that there is a small but important difference. In the prophecy if Isaiah there are only two gifts, gold and frankincense. There is no myrrh. The images of King (gold) and God (incense) made sense in the faith and culture of the people of Israel. Myrrh used in embalming and prophesying the crucifixion would have made no sense. The Messiah die. God die. These would have been completely illogical statements. And we see in the gospel how Jesus is rejected because of them. With Matthew's use of myrrh, he links Christmas and Good Friday, the birth and the crucifixion. What does this have to do with our life today? It turns out Jesus is the great re-gifter. Though baptism we are incorporated into his body. We become one with him and share everything that is his including the gifts received from the Magi. We share in the Kingdom of God. We share in the divinity of God. All well and good. But we also have to share in his death. The gifts it turns out are and unbreakable set. It's all or nothing. This not only means that must pass through death to life in the ordinary sense, but also that there must be the dying of everything in us which is contrary to the gospel. Every aspect of ourself or our life that does not correspond to the gospel must be allowed to pass away. To use an image from scripture, "As gold tested in fire", not only tested but purified. In these last two days of the Christmas season, as we prepare to move into Ordinary Time, we carry with us the gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Let us use them wisely.