Summary: Unexpected gifts, gifts that go beyond the usual fare, surprise our sensibilities and wake up our spirits.
Matthew 2:1-12 Useless Gifts
We’ve all gotten them. We’ve all given them.
probably have ½ dozen on top shelf of closet, in box under the bed.
Useless gifts. Unusual & unusable. knickknacks serve no purpose.
Generations of parents & grandparents joyfully received lopsided handmade ashtrays from little artists.
School teachers have orchards full of ceramic apples.
Business exec - paperweights, plaques,
"useless gifts" serve no purpose as individual items.
Yet useless gifts often have great value.
Their value isn’t rooted in what they are, but in what they represent -- love, admiration, respect, compassion, thanksgiving. PRAY
Matthew’s story of wise men traveling to far away place to pay homage to newborn King of Jews: 1st example of "useless gifts" being exchanged at Christmas time. Mary & Joseph were poor. Forced to set up temporary residence in Bethlehem, away from their home in Nazareth, because of Quirinius’ census
No family & friends, baby born difficult, dirty, depressing conditions.
Matthew describes magi arriving in the midst of desperate situation & pictures in detail their startling behavior at the sight of the baby Jesus.
Traveled long & dangerous road reach insignificant home Bethlehem. Magi show no signs of disappointment or dissatisfaction w/ scene they encounter at end of their starlight. - magi overwhelmed w/ joy.
Not just relieved their journey was over.
Not just pleased they had followed the course to its end.
Not just excited to see what and who was home.
They were overwhelmed.
These wise men who’d blindly followed a star-lit trail to small place are hit full in the face with the unmistakable aura of divine presence and majesty. Overwhelmed w/ Joy & Awe
Then magi enter this shining place & see -- nothing at all unusual. Inside house simply view child w/ Mary his mother (What could be more expected and ordinary than a woman holding her newborn infant?) But magi see w/ different eyes. star-crossed eyes.
Right there on dirt floor in humble dwelling, they knelt down & paid him homage. face-down-in-the-dirt, full prostration.
Can you imagine a more unlikely scene? Even more ludicrous, joyful wise men now unpack & display gifts they’ve brought for child.
Heard the story of what would have happened if there had been 3 wise WOMEN instead of three wise men, haven’t you? They would have asked for directions, arrived on time, helped deliver the baby, cleaned the stable, made a casserole, and brought practical gifts.
Thank goodness the magi did not bring practical, useful gifts. Mary didn’t get diapers, or soft blankets, or even a goat or a cow for milk.
gifts magi brought for baby Jesus were utterly useless for a newborn.
Gold. Frankincense. Myrrh.
Exotic, expensive, over-the-top gifts only found in Neiman Marcus Christmas catalog, presents whose presence before the child served only one purpose: to symbolize and celebrate Jesus’ true identity.
Gold- for a King
Frank incense – for a God
Myrrh for burial
Unexpected gifts, gifts that go beyond the usual fare, surprise our sensibilities and wake up our spirits.
End of school year, kindergarten teacher receiving gifts from pupils. Florist’s son handed her a gift. She shook it, "I bet I know what it is -- some flowers." ", "but how did you know?" "Oh, just a wild guess,"
sweet shop owner’s daughter a box of sweets."
son of the liquor store owner. package overhead, but it was leaking. finger and touched it to her tongue. "Is it wine?". "No"
taking larger drop of leakage to her tongue. "Is it champagne?" "No" one more taste before declaring, "I give up, what is it?" "A puppy!"
But can you think of any gift that would show a teacher how much they were loved and respected than for a little boy to give a puppy? A puppy is a gift of love and trust, admiration and compassion,
"The Littlest Angel." A grubby, slightly misfit little angel scrabbles around at the last minute to try and find a gift suitable for the newborn Christ-child. Other angels bring incredible gifts
In embarrassed agony the littlest angel reluctantly opens the small wooden box that’s the baby Jesus’ gift. Inside are all the things that the littlest angel thought were the greatest treasures possible -- a seashell from a long-ago trip to the ocean, a polished, gleaming stone, a collar and license from a beloved dog, a strand of the tail from a favorite kite. Child-treasures.
With great joy God announces that these trinkets are among the greatest gifts the Messiah has received. And like magi’s treasures, the littlest angel’s gifts were completely and utterly useless.