When I was thirteen, I went through a phase where I desperately searched for a hobby—something I could claim as my own…my identity. I wanted people to look at me and tell their family and friends, “Hey! Do you know who that is? That’s Shawn Vander Lugt, the renown coin collector or model railroader or stamp collector or latch hook expert or toilet paper tube collector.” Yes…I admit it:
“Hi, my name is Shawn Vander Lugt. When I was thirteen, I collected toilet paper tubes.”
I distinctly remember what launched this frantic need for a self-defining hobby. The Christmas before my thirteenth birthday, my brother received an art set, pads of paper, charcoals, art pencils, and so on. My brother is an artist…and an extremely gifted one. He would show off his work at family Christmas gatherings and everyone would “Oooh” and “Ahhh” at his latest masterpiece. God blessed my brother with a gift…a talent that far exceeded anything of which I was capable. My brother embraced this gift from God; he uses it regularly and is productive with it. I have no doubts that when God holds my brother accountable, God will say to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!” (Matthew 25:21).
I was proud of my brother’s gift, and never jealous of it. However, I wanted to possess my own gift, a gift that I too could embrace…one for which I could be held accountable. I wanted to make my God proud. Ergo…on that great and triumphant day, when I fall on my knees before my Lord, I wanted to show God my impressive collection of toilet paper rolls. I wanted God to say to me, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few toilet paper rolls; I will put you in charge of a million toilet paper rolls.
Wouldn’t that be AWESOME?
I eventually gave up my impulsive pursuit for a hobby and later discovered my perfect gift. The gift for which someday I hope God will say to me, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!”
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem, wise men from the east paid Him a visit. Upon coming to the house, they saw Jesus with His mother, bowed down, and worshiped Him. Next, the wise men presented Jesus with three gifts: gold, frankincense and myrrh.
These three gifts weren’t just random Christmas presents. They were more like my brother’s art set. They embodied Jesus’ identity and ultimate purpose. They were the perfect gifts. Hebrews summarizes Jesus’ purpose and his fulfillment of these gifts most eloquently:
GOLD: Jesus, the King of Kings
“The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs. But about the Son he says, “Your throne, O God, will last forever and ever; a scepter of justice will be the scepter of your kingdom.”
—Hebrews 1:3-4, 8
FRANKINCENSE: Jesus, the Great High Priest
Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven,Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
MYRRH: Jesus, the Savior of the World
“He [Jesus] did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption. The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God! For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.”
Every Christmas, we remember the perfect gifts Jesus received from the wise men. These gifts embodied the Gospel message in its entirety. Corresponding to Jesus’ royalty and authority over the world, His position at God’s right hand as our mediator and High Priest, and His authority over sin and death through His death and resurrection, the gifts of the wise men were perfection. The wise men NAILED IT!
This year, when you’re out doing your last-minute Christmas shopping and you have that new vacuum cleaner for your wife at the checkout stand, think about the message you’re giving. Is this gift the best expression of your wife’s purpose? What gift embodies who she is as a person? What gift embodies who you are as a person?
What is your gold…your frankincense …your myrrh?