We exchanged Christmas gifts with my parents at their house last night. My youngest daughter was so excited because my parents had gotten her a remote-control yellow Camaro. She has been asking for a remote-control Camaro for months. To have it show up underneath the tree was bliss. We were finishing up a game of Pictionary on the Wii when my youngest came up the steps with her car and remote control in hand. She set them in the chair and burst into sobs. Looking over, I saw the antenna for the remote control -- in two pieces.
My daughter was distraught. It took me half an hour to persuade her the broken antenna was not the end of the world. She was upset that the antenna was broken, but she was most upset that this gift that my parents had chosen for her was in pieces. Despite the fact that we can replace the antenna, my daughter was upset that her special gift was broken.
I know my parents searched high and low for the "perfect" remote-control car for my daughter. They checked out remote-control cars online and in stores. They pondered the features and asked the salesperson for help. This was not a gift that was an afterthought. It was a considered, well-researched purchase.
Gifts are special when they are given with the recipient in mind. The wise men in the account of Jesus' birth knew this. Matthew 2:11 says "On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh."
Now, gold, frankincense and myrrh might seem like strange gifts to bring a baby, but the wise men knew their recipient. When we look at these gifts, we can learn a lot about gift-giving from the Magi.
Gold. They brought a gift that recognized Jesus' true nature. Gold represented royalty. By presenting Jesus with gold, the wise men were acknowledging His status as King of Kings.
When we give gifts, we want to acknowledge the recipient's true nature. We want to choose things that appeal to the recipient's likes and interests. I wouldn't give my older daughter a skirt for a gift because she's more of a jeans and T-shirt kind of girl. When we choose gifts with the recipient's true nature in mind, we let him know that we value him.
Frankincense. The Magi brought a gift of sacrifice. Frankincense was burned on the altar in the Old Testament as a sacrifice to God. The gift of frankincense acknowledged that Jesus would become a sacrifice.
We, too, can give a gift of sacrifice. We can give gifts that require a sacrifice of time or something else that's important to us. When we give a gift that requires a sacrifice of some kind, we let the recipient know that we think she is worth giving up something for. Gifts of sacrifice can be small or large. You can give a friend the gift of baby-sitting once a week, or you can give your kids' friends an outing with you as the chaperone. You can give up your daily cup of coffee to buy your friend a special gift. Gifts that require sacrifice are precious and priceless.
Myrrh. The wise men brought a gift that looked to the future. Myrrh was a resin used in the embalming process. By giving Jesus myrrh, the Magi were looking toward the future when Jesus would die and be raised again.
Whether it's a toy that grows with a child or an investment in a college fund, give gifts that look to the future. From music lessons to teaching cooking skills, think about giving gifts that teach a skill that will last. These types of gifts may stick with a child for a lifetime, even as they are fun now.
Help your kids choose gifts for others based on what the wise men gave. Make gift-giving a considered exercise, not a mad dash through the store. Gifts that are given with thought and planning make the recipient feel special.
The wise men knew a lot about gift giving. Follow their lead this year and give gifts that recognize the recipient's nature, require a sacrifice and look to the future. You might still have some broken antennas, but you'll also have gifts that last much longer.