(The inspiration for this meditation came from Ephraim the Syrian, a 4th century Christian who wrote several excellent Nativity Hymns.)
At Christmas the question sometimes arises, “What do you get for the man who has everything?” For us, the question is, “What should we give to a God who has everything and has done everything for us?”
The answer is that we should give ourselves, body, mind, and soul, for it is more blessed to give than to receive.
Let us learn from the whole creation which was represented at the birth of Jesus Christ. The whole creation offered itself up to its Lord and Creator. The whole creation became mouths to Him, and cried out concerning Him. They came and did not fail to confess Him as the Creator of all things and the Redeemer of the fallen world. They came and gave themselves to Him.
In the Star of Bethlehem all heavenly objects came and worshiped Jesus Christ, bringing all of their honor and glory and power to His feet. The greater lights and the lesser lights, each of which is only a reflection of His eternal and immense glory, came from afar to see the God of gods and Light of lights become part of His creation. At His birth, the heavens declared the glory of God, and the firmament showed His handiwork.
The angels came, the heavenly host, the citizens of heaven. They shouted, and their voices were a great thunder that reawakened the earth on the Day of Birth. On behalf of every cherubim and seraphim, the 4 Living Creatures, the 24 elders, and every heavenly creature, they came to bring their praise, for which they were specially created.
The shepherds were there as well, bearing the best gifts of their flock: sweet milk, clean flesh, and proper praise. They gave Joseph the flesh, Mary the milk, but to Jesus the Son of God they gave the praise! Drawn by the Good Shepherd, the shepherds came as little lambs to become part of His one great flock that is made up of every nation on the face of the earth.
The shepherds came and brought their human occupation and labor on behalf of all mankind. They stopped leading and learned to follow the Lamb who was the Great Shepherd and overseer of their souls.
The sheep and lambs came, whole families together, on behalf of the animals of the world, all birds of the air and fish of the sea and every animal that creeps or walks upon the earth. They knew the voice of their Master, even when He was a baby, and they came to follow Him that we might follow their example.
The shepherds brought and presented a suckling lamb to the Paschal Lamb, a first-born to the First-Born, a sacrifice to the Sacrifice, and lamb of time to the Lamb of Truth and Eternity that sits upon the throne. The lamb bleated as it was offered before the First-born of all creation, before the High Priest and Temple made without hands. It praised the Lamb who had come to set free the flocks and the oxen from sacrifices. All the sheep brought their flesh and blood to the one who offered Himself instead of them and became the perfect Sacrifice.
The shepherds rested upon their staffs, the symbol of the authority God has given men. They blessed the Good Shepherd because He was the one who had reconciled the wolves and the lambs within His fold. They blessed the Babe who was older than Noah and who came to reconcile all creatures within the ark which was Himself.
Righteous Abel, the first shepherd, whose blood was first shed by wicked men like an innocent lamb, was represented there by the shepherds. His acceptable sacrifice was made acceptable by the blood of the spotless Lamb of God, and He was made righteous by the righteousness of Christ.
The rod of Moses came with them, for as the Red Sea was parted by Moses and His rod, the heavens were parted by the birth of Jesus. The rod of Moses praised the Rod of Jesse, and in it Moses praised Joshua or Jesus who came to lead His people into the true Promised Land. It sang of the victory of God over His enemies by the Prince of Peace.
The rod of Aaron was there, too. Though it was dead and wooden, it budded before the Source of Life. That which was dead became alive again and began to bear fruit. The Tree of Death, the Cross, became the Tree of Life and the instrument of salvation.
The wise men sought Him with all of their learning and wisdom and offered to Him again the mind of mankind. They came from far away to behold the One who is Wisdom Incarnate and who created what man cannot even understand. They came bringing gifts rich and rare but the greatest gift they gave was themselves. They gave their praise and worship and royal glory to the child who was the King of kings.
Their gold represented the wealth and treasure of mankind, which was worth nothing to them until they had become poor in spirit. The gold of the idols, the gold of Egypt, came and worshiped before Him. The gold which had become the idol and master of mankind came, proclaiming that it was not worthy.
Their frankincense was with them, the offering of the aromatic trees, to purify the air where He breathed. It came to Him who took away the pollution of mankind and made the earth a heaven suitable for mankind and God again. It was burned and rose, the prayers of God’s people, a sweet-smelling aroma in His nostrils.
Their myrrh was there as well, the perfume that went into the wine to offer it to mankind, the perfume that was used to bury the dead. With the myrrh came the remembrance of death, which would be put to death and buried by the One who had just been born.
Joseph came, the earthly father, to worship his son, the Son of God. He came on behalf of all earthly fathers and brought his faithfulness to the manger. He offered it with all of the other treasures that were brought. He came to serve the heavenly Son who was greater than the earthly father; he brought his obedience and courage in vowing to protect and raise the God made man. He offered his life to serve the Son.
Mary came, the earthly mother, and treasured all these things in her heart. She who bore the Son of God bore the hope of the New Creation, of souls born again and made acceptable to God again. She worshiped silently because God had come to be with her and had chosen to dwell with man. She offered her body as a holy vessel for her Child and offered her worship to the Son of God. She offered her faith, devotion, and service as an example for all born of woman.
These all came to Jesus at His birth, for all things come from Him and of His own we are to give to Him. These all came, offering the one gift that He had asked for: they came and willingly offered themselves to Him.
Let us come and give ourselves to Him, body, mind, and soul.
For it is more blessed to give than to receive.
Prayer: Father, thank You for Your love in sending Your only Son to earth to become one of us. Lord Jesus Christ, praise be to You because You are the Creator and Giver of all and at Christmas You gave Yourself to us. May I exchange with You the gift of love so that in all things I may be made like You and join in Your New Creation. Amen.
Resolution and Point for Meditation: I resolve to continue my Christmas meditations on the coming of Jesus Christ. Today, I resolve to meditate on how I can offer myself to the Lord more fully this year, the one gift He has asked for this Christmas.
© 2014 Fr. Charles Erlandson
Category: Give Us This Day