introduction: Gift Giving
Introduction: GIFT GIVING
WARNING: Reading this document may result in your abandonment of traditional holiday celebrations, risking resentment by family, friends, and even perfect strangers. This may occur if you appreciate the actual circumstances of Christ's birth, and also reflect upon the origin of traditional holidays. Further, you may acquire a serious interest in the Biblical festivals, briefly outlined herein, which portray Jesus Christ's central role in the plan of God.
by Roger Day
Picture in your mind this manger scene that was spotted one December outside of a McDonald's restaurant. Present are the baby Jesus, His parents Joseph and Mary, some shepherds, three men wearing crowns and carrying gifts, Ronald McDonald, the Hamburgler, and other McDonald's characters. Above the roof of the open-sided wooden barn is a five-pointed star. We all know that Ronald McDonald was not present at the birth of Jesus. But adding McDonald's characters is not the only thing amiss with the scene just described. Jesus was not born in the winter, and certainly not on December 25, an ancient day of pagan worship. There were no kings or wise men bearing gifts at His birth. They had not followed a star from the east, and no star was in the sky hanging over the barn, at least according to the Bible. Some historians believe that the barn itself was probably built primarily of stone, if it was not a hillside cavern. Wise men came along months later and found Christ as a young child in a house. The common ideas about Christmas are not well informed by either the Bible or historical records. Let's compare the myths surrounding Christmas to the actual events surrounding the birth of Christ, as a case in point. And then let's consider how we should best worship God. GIFT GIVING: It is most unfortunate that in 1863, Rev. John Henry Hopkins Jr. published his hymn 'We Three Kings of Orient Are.' Like the manger scene described above, this song title has propagated an incorrect image. They were wise men, important officials, or nobles, but not kings. They were< from a land east of Jerusalem, but not the Orient. They did bear three types of gifts – gold, frankincense, and myrrh - but there were probably well more than three wise men that came to worship the Christ, accompanied by a massive entourage. The story of the wise men is fascinating, as we'll see. But notice something very important about what they did that seems to have escaped those celebrating Christmas in the modern world.
They gave their gifts to Christ, and not because it was His birthday, but because He was the One that was born to be a King (John 18:37). It has been customary throughout history, and to the present day, to bring a gift when one has an audience with a head of state. But the wise men were inspired to bring more than token gifts to the Messiah.
Christmas would be quite different if everyone gave their gifts to Christ instead of to each other. But how could that be done? Christ is not visibly present on the earth at this time, although we can count on His promise that He will one day return from Heaven to rule the earth as King of Kings and Lord of Lords (Rev 19:15-16, 1 Tim 6:13-16). But we are in luck! Christ taught that if we help those truly in need, He would consider it as though we had helped Him (Matt 25:31-46). Of course, we should be helping those in need all year long. If all gave gifts to Christ by way of helping the needy, shopping patterns would be altered. The types of items purchased would shift, and the volume of purchases would likely decline. At present, a shopping frenzy begins before the Thanksgiving holiday. Bell ringers, decorations on city lamp posts, and Christmas songs playing in the stores and on the radio, remind everyone that it is time to shop. Buying gifts is the obligation of the season. And children live with the exciting anticipation of Santa Claus placing toys for them under the family Christmas tree.
At the time of the winter solstice, and predating the advent of Christ by hundreds of years, the Romans exchanged gifts and decorated trees with orbs representing the sun god. These practices continue, underpinning the Christmas holiday. The absorption and renaming of several pagan festivals as Christian is an undeniable fact of history. Greater detail than what is presented
in this writing can be found in reference works such as The Two Babylons by Rev. Alexander Hislop.