Today is the Feast of Epiphany – or, Three Kings. The Wise Men. This particular celebration has us hearing of the three Wise Men, having travelled from the East, finding the Savior as a baby in a manger. At the time, they brought significant gifts for their status – gold, frankincense, and myrrh. They brought their best, to acknowledge their God – our God – made man. They met a meager, tiny, helpless baby as He lay in His mother’s arms. As our priest pointed out this weekend, this telling of the story represents Christ’s manifestation as Savior, not just to Jews, but also to Gentiles – since these Magi traveled so far.
My favorite Christmas carol of all time is Little Drummer Boy. As we approached today’s feast day, and I listened to this year’s favorite rendition by for King & Country, I contemplated the lyrics – “I have no gift for him…,” and, “I played my best for him…”
How often do we receive compliments from others and are quick to dismiss them. For example,
“Anni, you are so organized!”
Response: “Well, you should see my house!”
“Anni, you are such an amazing baker!”
Response: “Oh, it was nothing – I just whipped it up.”
There are two problems with these often-repeated responses. First, there is the concern that we may be “humble bragging.” This term refers to wearing a false sense of humility… in a manner which increases one’s pride. Kind of, “Oh, you shouldn’t have,” or, the Southern sentiment of, “Bless your heart.” You don’t really mean the words, “It’s nothing,” or shifting the subject to another area. In a way, it’s a way of fishing for someone to go deeper in a complimentary fashion.
However, the majority of this particular blog post is meant to focus on the secondary problem – one which brings me back to today’s Feast Day, and my favorite Christmas carol.
Christians will point to the gifts of the Holy Spirit, originally bestowed upon us at Baptism, found in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10. But, the verse found in 1 Corinthians 12:7 speaks the most, “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” Furthermore, 1 Corinthians 12:11 sums the gifts up perfectly, “All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses.”
Every. single. one. of. us. in the world have been given gifts.
Just as the Wise Men brought their best gifts so many years ago, so too, do we have our best gifts to offer Him. Just as the Little Drummer Boy has little to give, his example showcases the pride Jesus finds when we play our best with the gifts we have been given.
When we downplay the gifts we have been given by finding excuses to negate the compliment, or when we try to boost our own pride by subconsciously digging deeper for other compliments, we are discounting and discrediting the Giver. We are turning our backs on the gifts.
Ultimately, we are telling God we don’t recognize our strengths as the gift they are, given for His glory.
Not all of us are monetarily wealthy.
But, all of us have gifts.
The gifts could be as small as being able to write eloquently, or speak articulately. They could be baking, or they could be creating crafts with small children. Some could be able to use canvas mediums to paint and draw, while others are able to look at a list of numbers and add them to a balance without batting an eyelash. Others are good not just with mathematical equations, but also involving scientific elements, while others are amazing with writing and arranging fabulous sounding orchestras.
One mom may have impressive patience with her small children. Others may have the ability to organize their household, and the homes of their friends. One mom might have an uncanny ability to memorize not just their own anniversary, but the birthdays of all her friends. Another mom may have the gift of being able to arrange successful activities for her family members, and for her local community.
Using the talents we have been gifted, we are to do what the Little Drummer Boy does every rendition – to make Christ smile…
Melt His heart…
Make Him grin…
Make Him delight in your embrace and acceptance of the gifts He so graciously bestowed on each of us.
We are all sinners, and much like Jesus instructs the woman of ill repute in Luke 7:50, “And he said to the woman, ‘Your faith has saved you; go in peace,‘” we must have faith, and let it move us to action.
Through Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross, we have all been saved. And, through that selfless action, we have the gift of salvation. Yet, as James 2:17 reminds us, “So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.”
Part of allowing the works to be fruitful is to embrace our gifts. Recognize them and accept them. When accepting them, embrace them.
Much like the Wise Men we heard about today, and the Little Drummer Boy, we are able to make our faith known – if not to others, then to Christ Himself. God Himself will know whether or not we embraced His gifts and used them to the fullest potential available.
We don’t have to use our gifts to become rich and famous. We are simply called to use our gifts to make a difference. We aren’t called to save the whole world. Rather, we are meant to use the gifts we have to change the world around us.
The next time we receive a compliment, I challenge you, dear reader, to graciously accept the compliment with a simple “Thank you.” And, even greater if you are courageous enough to point back to our Lord by saying something to the effect of, “Through the grace of God…”
On today’s Feast of Epiphany, I encourage you, dear reader, to join me in writing down three gifts – three talents – you have been given, which can be used for the Glory of God. Place that list prominently, and use it to guide you in creating your resolutions for 2019.
If you’d like a handy resolution worksheet in a printable form, don’t forget to subscribe, and confirm the subscription, to my (usually only monthly) newsletter. I laminated mine, and posted it in a prominent location for me to see routinely, and encourage you to do the same.
Make this the year you focus not just on yourself, but also on your relationship with Christ. Search for Him, the way the Wise Men did so many centuries ago.
Christ started out just like you and I – a small babe in a mother’s arms, totally dependent on her care, love, and affection. Because He received all three, He was prepared to embrace His calling when the time came; and, even if we have not received the same care, love, and affection, we still have the same opportunity to embrace God’s call for each of us, through the acceptance of the gifts He has given.
Let us all use 2019 to present our individual gifts to the manger.
Let us each play our best for Him, in order that He may smile.
For your listening pleasure, and contemplative pleasure, I am linking the YouTube video of for King & Country’s Little Drummer Boy below!