|Photo: Joel Calheiros
For several months now (practically since last December 26th) my children have been wishing and dreaming for Christmas. Is it their eagerness to hear the story of Baby Jesus and sing “Away in the Manger”? Do they relish the opportunity for generosity? Are they pouring over the toy catalog in search of the perfect gift for a child in need? No, sadly no. Somehow my youngsters have mistaken Jesus’ birthday for their own since they seem to think that they deserve most of the gifts. Perhaps Mom and Dad, along with doting grandparents, helped create this horrible misconception. Perhaps our commercialized culture cultivated the passion for presents. Whatever the culprit, one thing is certain: It is time to change.
Thus it was that I began searching for new methods of celebrating Christmas in our home. I sought a balance between deprivation and gluttony, and amidst the plethora of information on the World Wide Web, I discovered a most creative approach. Trina Conner Schaetz’ article “Begging for Myrrh” (Christian Parenting Today, Winter 2002, http://www.christianitytoday.com/cpt/2002/005/1.30.html) suggests turning the Christmas morning gift opening into a reminder of the gifts Jesus received from the wise men. It also effectively limits each child to a modest three gifts instead of the usual piggish piles. Each gift reflects the special symbolism found in the gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
Because of its extreme value, the wise men’s gift of gold represents Jesus’ kingship. Your child’s “gold” gift may be his most expensive and most wished for gift. Its importance symbolizes his own importance to your family as the gold symbolized Jesus as the King of kings and Lord of lords.
Frankincense is best known biblically as an ingredient of the incense that burned in the tabernacle. It symbolizes our prayers, worship, and communion with God. The “frankincense” gift should be something that helps your child worship or learn more about God, something that aids in her meeting with God. Perhaps a devotional book, a Christian CD or DVD, a prayer journal, or maybe even a Bible game would make good “frankincense” gifts.
Myrrh was commonly used to scent perfumes, anointing oils, and embalming ointment. Interestingly, Nicodemus used myrrh to prepare Jesus’ body for burial. (John 19:39-40) Myrrh signifies that Jesus was born to eventually die for our sins. Your child’s “myrrh” gift may include items that “anoint” his body. The author of the article suggests things like special soaps, perfumes, colognes, or lotions. Perhaps even things like bubble bath, hair bows or barrettes, or make-up would be applicable. I might stretch the symbolism to include a needed item of clothing—something that is worn on the body.
I look forward to this Christmas too because I now see in it a powerful opportunity to curb my children’s material desires while teaching them lessons about Jesus.