“On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh.” – Matthew 2
As Christians, we celebrate the birth of Jesus in December. One of the things we learn about the birth of Jesus is that he was visited by wise men who offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
Most scholars believe Jesus would have likely been one or two years old by the time they found him, and these gifts would not have been typical offerings to a young child. I won’t go into the theological arguments about how many wise men really existed, whether they originated from Yemen, Iran, or Egypt, or the cultural roles of Zoroastrianism and Judaism in the region at that time, but I encourage you to learn more if you’re interested. Religious history is a fascinating subject to study, no doubt.
What I will note is the number of gifts we believe were offered. Three.
Think about that for a minute. Jesus was being honored as a new-born King. He had been discussed in the scriptures by prophets, announced by a significant celestial event (referred to commonly as a New Star), protected by angels, and targeted by Kind Herod as a threat. He was kind of a Big Deal…and these visitors were not your average guests. They were wealthy, wise, and probably the equivalent of kings in their own regions. Yet, they offered only three simple gifts.
This is something I stress to my children each holiday season when their Wish Lists get longer and longer. I stole the idea from a dear friend many years ago, when she shared her family’s tradition of giving only three gifts to each of their children. “If it’s good enough for Christ, it’s certainly good enough for my kids,” she joked. But the thought has stuck with me as one that really makes sense.
Another friend shared a similar idea today on Pinterest, expanding the rule to Four Gifts (based on a blogpost by giventolove.com).
In a world of excess, materialism, and a fierce desire to keep up with the Joneses, I hope you and your loved ones find a way to simplify this Christmas season and focus on the many, many gifts that really matter in your lives — including each other.
For today’s family activity, learn more about the Magi or wise men who traveled to find Jesus. Make the hand print picture shown above (originally found on SimplyCindyBlog.com).
Help your little ones play dress up using robes and dish towels to roleplay the wise men’s visit to Jesus. Discuss the importance of giving to others, and let toddlers “wrap” three “gifts” for Baby Jesus (have fun letting them chose various items around the house they think are special).
Older children can learn more about the nativity story and spend time looking at the stars tonight. Your family can learn about the traditional holiday calendar for Christians.
Advent – (11/28-12/24) Preparation for Christ’s arrival.
Christmas Eve – (12/24) The Night Before Christmas.
Christmas Day – (12/25) Celebration of the birth of Jesus.
The Twelve Days of Christmas – (12/25-1/5) Twelve days starting Christmas night until the day before Epiphany.
Epiphany – (1/6) Also known as Three Kings’ Day celebrates the visit of the Magi.
For more information about the religious reasons behind the Christmas holiday as well as a great list of links to helping kids understand these traditions, visit: http://kingskidstuff.com/christian/wise-men-epiphany/#comment-36439