The custom of giving gifts at Christmas probably began when wise men arrived from the east with lavish gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh for the newborn King. These important, wealthy and educated men had traveled far with camels and servants to find and worship the newborn King of the Jews.
But there were not three of them.
There were many more than that—in fact, there were so many in the caravan that all Jerusalem was stirred by their arrival! They brought camels, servants and perhaps pack animals, too. They were important enough to have an audience with King Herod. No, there were not three wise men who came to worship.
But there were three wise women.
They were as unimportant as the wise men were important and as poor as the wise men were rich. All three had been shunned by society for falling short of cultural expectations. All three were insignificant women of little note, but oh, how wise they were. They, too, came to worship the newborn King of the Jews.
And they brought gifts. Costly gifts.
Not expensive gifts; no, these gifts were more costly than any purchased present could be.
The first, Elizabeth, brought, not gold, but a godly lifestyle. She had worshipped her God in difficult circumstances that were beyond her control. Every time she had the opportunity to ‘fault’ God for the losses of her life, she didn’t. Instead, she chose to believe God, to trust Him, and to keep walking in obedience to her Lord.
Elizabeth was middle-aged, or possibly elderly, and married. She was quite possibly the most godly woman in the Bible. The comment of scripture on her life is that she was “upright in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commandments and regulations blamelessly” (Luke 1:6) Wow, that’s quite a commendation!
Upright in the sight of God. He knows the just from the unjust. She was just.
Observing ALL the Lord’s commandments and regulations…how did she do this? Wow!
OK, I get the message, she was a godly woman. Oh, and the next sentence says that she did it in spite of a tremendous handicap and cultural limitation—in a era that revered motherhood, she was childless. Because of this, her contemporaries assumed she was a secret sinner, but God, who knows all, knew her true righteousness. Every time she had the chance to curse God and die, she chose to believe—to trust and wait for God to answer their prayers. For they were a praying couple and they had often asked God for a child.
She had a good husband, in fact, she had a godly husband. He was a priest in Israel and both of them were descendants of Aaron. They served their community well. They served their God well. They were not in debt, they had no enemies, they were probably well liked by all who knew them even though oddly, they had no children.
When an angel appeared to Elizabeth’s husband, Zechariah, to tell him that their prayers had been answered and that Elizabeth would bear a son, though he was dubious, she believed. She had walked through a lifetime of believing God. She said, “The Lord has done this for me. He has shown me His favor. He has taken away my disgrace of being childless.”
The second wise woman, Mary, brought, not frankincense, but faith. Quite simply, she believed God. And she gave the gift of willingness, yieldedness to God’s plan.
She was barely out of her girlhood and was engaged to marry Joseph, a carpenter. They had their plans—to be well respected, to work hard, to build a family and to stay in the neighborhood near family and friends. Mary was a righteous woman; she was a virgin.
The direction of her whole life changed that moment the angel came to her. She had a choice. She could have kept the life dream she had, but instead, she humbly accepted God’s plan for her life which meant she would be considered to be guilty of sex before marriage resulting in an illegitimate baby. She accepted the fact that Joseph might not marry her in her pregnant condition. She was willing to be ridiculed and ostracized in order to be obedient to what God asked her to do.
Yes, it must have brought her huge joy as she raised the Son of God in the flesh. Just imagine, he always obeyed when she spoke to Him! He was never selfish. He would have been the easiest child on earth to teach, to nurture, and to love because He was sinless. I’m sure she was rewarded for her obedience in every possible way, but stepping into this motherhood cost her a great deal.
She brought the priceless gift of obedience at the cost of her reputation.
And the third wise woman, Anna, was an expectant elderly widow. She was a woman on a mission! Messiah was coming and she was going to live long enough to meet Him!
Anna had been married, but her husband lived only seven years and she never remarried. God had shown her that she would not die without her old eyes seeing the Anointed One, the Son of God, Jesus the Messiah.
Anna is the only woman in the Gospels to be called a prophetess. In a time when the northern tribes had lost their identity, she could trace her ancestry to the tribe of Asher. Her father’s name indicates that he was a godly man: Phanuel, ‘the face of God.’ Her own name is a derivative of Hannah, meaning ‘grace’ or ‘favor.’
And so she “lived” at the Temple for she knew that He would some time appear there.
After she met the baby Jesus, she told everyone she could about the Redeemer being born. She couldn’t keep such good news to herself!
She gave the gift of mission, of evangelism, of telling others the good news about the gospel. She was an old woman on a mission.
This year, as Christmas approaches, what gift do you bring to Christ the Redeemer?
I can tell you a couple gifts that He would like to receive from you and me. But I warn you, though they are not expensive, they are costly.
The gift of godly living, like Elizabeth gave, is a gift Jesus would like to receive from you and me. Godliness doesn’t just happen automatically when we believe on Jesus and count on His sacrifice to pay for the shame of our sins. Godly living begins by purposing and planning for how we are to grow in godly ways. We need the Scriptures to grow—we need a plan for meeting with God regularly. For some it will become daily—when I had small children around my feet, I tried to meet with God several days a week. Now my children and grown and I can meet with Him daily. There is no more important hour in my day.
Godliness doesn’t happen automatically, a little more each year. We have to purpose to meet with our God and know Him if we want to be like Him.
Mary gave faith. She believed God. She trusted him with the outcome of her life. We can follow her example by being obedient to God’s outrageous call for our lives—going to a mission field without a husband, staying married to a difficult man, giving birth to and/or adopting a whole passel of children, or directing large amounts of our income to the work of God.
Anna gave her whole life to the mission of the gospel. She spoke joyously to others about seeing the Messiah. Her Savior had been born. She wanted to tell others about Him. We can do the same as we share with our friends and co-workers that we know the One who can forgive sin, we know the One who can set us free from addictions and sinful patterns.
We can give Jesus these gifts at Christmas, like the three wise women did.
If we do, we will be wise women and men.