As part of my students’ preparations for Christmas, I put together a prayer service that incorporated clips from the film, “The Nativity Story,” Scripture passages, reflections, prayers, and Christmas carols. One of the scenes, which is incidentally one of my favorite in the movie, occurs when the shepherds and the three kings come to visit Jesus Christ after His birth. As the shepherds approach, looking rather disheveled and uncivilized from all of their time in the fields with their sheep, Joseph moves to protect Mary and the newborn Christ. With a look of confusion and apprehension, he rises from his place beside the mother and child and takes a stance that clearly communicates his desire to protect his family. The shepherds nevertheless continue to approach, and some fall to their knees before the Christ-child while others stand aloof gazing at the scene before them in wonder. Despite their proximity, the shepherds can only tentatively raise an arm towards the Lord, afraid to actually touch Him. Mary, rather than shielding her son from these newcomers, lifts Him up, saying, “He is for all mankind.” Jesus Christ did not come just for the rich and famous, but for everyone. After my students had watched the clip, I spoke to them about the significance of this fact. Bringing this truth to their level, and making it applicable to their lives, I reminded them that they did not need to be the smartest student in the class, the best musician in the club, or the best athlete on the team to make Jesus love them. He loves us all, and He loves us for what we can do, and what we can’t do. He asks us to be the best that we can be; He does not demand that we need to be the best at everything. Jesus loves us as we are, even if we can only get B’s in school, even if we can’t play the recorder perfectly, even if we don’t have the best foul shot on the basketball team. That’s why the first people to bow down and worship Christ are the shepherds, not the three kings. Even though it’s the three kings that have studied the stars and have traveled from the East in search of this new king, it’s the shepherds that the angel first invites to worship. Because Jesus did not just come for the rich and famous. He came for the lowest of the low, the outcasts, as well. Jesus loves us all, and there is nothing that we can do to love Him less.
But we are always invited to show Him that we love Him. After Mary explains that Jesus Christ is “for all mankind,” she goes on to say that “we all have our gifts.” We all have our gifts, and we are all invited to give our gifts to Christ. The three kings present Jesus with three tangible gifts- gold, frankincense, and myrrh but they give Him so much more than that. They worship the Lord, giving them their adoration and praise, their devotion and love. This is what we are all encouraged to give the Lord. When the three kings came to Bethlehem, they gave not only their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh; they gave themselves.
We are all invited to give ourselves to Christ. In my favorite Christmas song/story, “The Little Drummer Boy,” Aaron (the little drummer boy) comes to the stable with the hope that the three kings, with all of their wisdom and knowledge, will be able to save his injured sheep, Baa-baa. Facing the imminent death of his beloved lamb, Aaron arrives, desperately pleading for help from the kings. Sadly, upon seeing the injured Baa-baa, the kings tell the distraught Aaron that this is beyond even their ability, and that Baa-baa will need healing from a more powerful source. The implication is that this help will come from the Lord, the little king-child in the manger. As the song goes, the little drummer boy remarks that he has no gifts to bring. He has nothing to offer Jesus Christ, no gold, frankincense, or myrrh- nothing of value for the king. However, this is not true. Rather than riches, Aaron offers a piece of himself, his ability to play the drums. This is a gift that is uniquely his, a talent that he has always loved and derived pleasure from. After playing for the Lord, Aaron discovers that his little lamb is healed. After presenting his gift to the king, the Lord returns this gift, rewarding the little drummer boy for his faith and generosity.
We all have gifts to bring the little Lord Jesus, and during this Christmas season, we all are invited to discover what they are and to offer them to the Lord. Think about the gifts that you’ve been given, the talents that you’ve developed, the activities that you love most. These are the gifts that we are invited to give the Lord for His birthday this year, and every year. We’ve been given so much, and we are asked for very little in exchange. When we use our talents, we are glorifying God. When we are helping others, we are glorifying God. When we are studying hard or working hard, we are glorifying God. We do not need to be rich and famous to glorify God. We do not need to be the best at everything. We just need to be the best that we can be, and we need to be that for Jesus. When we give ourselves to Christ, when we use our gifts and talents for the good of others and use them to the best of our ability, we are giving Him the best birthday gift ever. We are giving Him ourselves, and that is all He’s ever wanted.
Mary Help of Christians, pray for us!