The tradition of giving gifts emerged from the gifts brought to the Christ child by the Magi from the East. Matthew relates the story by writing that as they followed the star they came to Bethlehem. Then “. . . on entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh” (2:11). Today, nearly twenty centuries later, we too pay homage to those we love by providing gifts that merely shadow the relationship, esteem, and love we hold for the other person.
The gift God gives the world is an opportunity to be freed from the exile of wars, rumors of war and all the rest of the world we live in and its anxiety producing fruits. Listen to this story, which turns out to be something of a divine Christmas gift.
The Cold War, says former Senator Sam Nunn, ended “not in a nuclear inferno, but in a blaze of candles in the churches of Eastern Europe.” Candlelight processions in East Germany did not show up well on the evening news, but they helped change the face of the globe. First a few hundred, then a thousand, then thirty thousand, fifty thousand, and finally five hundred thousand—nearly the entire population of the city—turned out in Leipzig for candlelight vigils.
After a prayer meeting at St. Nikolai Church, the peaceful protesters would march through the dark streets, singing hymns. Police and soldiers with all their weapons seemed powerless against such a force. Ultimately, on the night a similar march in East Berlin attracted one million protesters, the hated Berlin Wall came tumbling down without a shot being fired. A huge banner appeared across a Leipzig street: Wir danken Dir, Kirche [We thank you, church] (Philip Yancey, What’s So Amazing About Grace; Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1997, p. 135).
View full post