The Strange and Ominous GIft

This week we are working through the first week of Epiphany on Sacred Margins. Each Monday we are posting reflections to think about during the week. This week’s focuses on the Magi and their gifts. You can also click here to read an overview of the season of Epiphany on the liturgical calendar. 

800px-Adoration_of_the_Magi_Tapestry_detailEpiphany is the time we celebrate the Magi and their gifts. It is a celebration of outsiders bringing gifts to welcome the Messiah. These new age astrologers from distant lands come to a barn to worship a Jewish baby. They are the wrong people practicing the wrong religion and using the wrong methods to get to Jesus. They stand as a reminder that Christmas is not just for one tribe of people, but for the whole world.

And these strange visitors come bearing strange gifts. As Chris said yesterday, the Magi’s gifts were all a hint of who this child would become. So today, we come to the final gift, “myrrh.” Myrrh would be a very odd gift to bring to a baby.

Perhaps even offensive.

Because myrrh’s primary use as a spice was in burial rituals. It would be like bringing a white lily to the hospital after a birth. It is ominous and strange.

But these gifts tell us something about the child. This child was born to die.  As a parent, those words are difficult to even type. (Check out one of my favorite expressions of this if you are in a weepy mood.) But there is suffering in this child’s story.

But it is not just any kind of suffering.

It is suffering for a purpose. It is suffering with meaning and redemption. This gift is what makes the other gifts possible. Through death, Jesus will take up his place as King and Mediator. But there is suffering in the story.

And there is suffering in our story too.

On one hand, the myrrh is a beautiful reminder of suffering not having the last word.

On the other hand, it calls us to the kind of life we are supposed to live. Myrrh marks the road of the cross. The Liturgical year is a way of us entering into the life of Jesus. It is the way of learning to make his life our life. And the life of Jesus is one of dying so others can live. It is suffering with a purpose.

Most of the time in my life, my suffering is without purpose. I let the stress and strain of less important things get to me. In fact, I probably label many things as “suffering” that are undeserving of the title. Or perhaps the suffering I experience is brought on by my own chaotic choices.

The myrrh reminds us of purposeful suffering.

Paul pulls this all together in our reading of Ephesians for the week.

His suffering was for the Gentiles. Just as the Magi represent Christ’s birth being for the whole world, here we are reminded so is his death and suffering. It is a death and suffering that gives life. It is the sacrifice that takes those who are on the outside and reminds them they have a place at the table.

And ours should be as well.

So how does this week hit you? Is it a hopeful reminder of suffering or is it a call to sacrifice? We want to share this journey with you so we would love to hear how God is speaking in your lives.

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