So I seem to have misplaced my voice recorder, so until it surfaces, I will have to give a written version of my sermons:)
This past Sunday was Epiphany, a word which means "revelation" or "sudden realization". This is the commemoration of the moment Christ was revealed to the Three Wise Men. As a corollary, one could also say this day commemorates the revealing of Christ to the whole world.
A few things have to be realized about the Three Wise Men, sometimes called the Three Magi or Three Kings. They were likely not kings at all. More likely, they were emissaries of kings.
Their story is only told in the Gospel of Matthew (2:1-12). Although they are never named in the Bible, tradition has assigned them the names Melchior, Caspar and Balthazar. Legend also has it that they came respectively Persia, India and Arabia.
Realistically, there may have been more or fewer Wise Men. The Bible does not specify their number, but that there were three of them is inferred by the number of gifts they brought.
In reality, the gifts the Three brought were not anything special. Yes, gold, frankincense and myrrh were valuable, but they were fairly formulaic gifts which were given to any and all kings upon their ascension to the throne. They were symbolic of the different aspect of being a leader.
Gold represented the material wealth and prosperity which were wished upon kings and their kingdoms. Frankincense represented the divine nature of being a king (kings were seen to be ordained and anointed by God, and incense smoke was thought to bring prayers up to God), and myrrh was a soothing ointment significant of the wounds a kings would have to suffer during his life.
In modern terms, although the gifts were well in keeping with the customs of the time, they were about as personal and thoughtful as a box of chocolates, a bottle of wine, and I gift certificate to Winners.
But sometimes, all we are left with is the symbolism of gifts: what could you possibly give to a king that he doesn't already have? By definition, kings are wealthy and have everything they could ever want.
My family and I try to do something around Christmas. At this point in our lives, we have every material thing we have ever wanted, and so Christmas would become a futile re-shuffling of extraneous wealth had we not all decided to give gifts a little more deliberately. We all have our creative outlets, and so we try to give hand-crafted gifts to each other which come from our talents.
So although we may not be able to present Christ, our family, our friends, our job, out church, our community with gold, frankincese or myrrh, we need to consider what gifts we do possess.
One thing I have noticed in my discussions with people in and outside the church is that many of us are adept at pointing out our shortcomings, the things we dislike about ourselves. Ask most people what they dislike about themselves, and they will be able to name 10 things in under a minute. Ask them to name 3 things they like or respect in themselves, what gifts they have to offer the world, and it may take a while.
On this Epiphany Sunday, perhaps we can take the time to think consciously and affirm in ourselves and each other the gifts and talents that we actually have to offer...I guarantee you that you have gifts, and those gifts have been the answer to someone's prayer.
We need to know what we would be able to bring before a king.