When I think of Advent, I often think about how we witness so many historical events that led up to the birth of Jesus. From Old Testament readings, to Mary’s Annunciation, to purple and rose colored candles and more. I started to realize, though, that maybe my involvement in Advent has been more like spectating than participating.
Don’t get me wrong, by spectating I was still conscious of what was happening each week, and how it all tied in to Jesus’ birth at Christmas. The difference is investment. When you invest your time, money, and heart into something you care more about it and its outcome. You have acted and participated toward it’s outcome. You change from being a spectator to being a part of the story.
In the NFL, there is a tradition that home games bring an advantage because of the “12th man.” There are 11 players for each team on the field at a time, so the “12th man” is referring to the fans of the home team. Because they bring their passion, personality, humor, and noise, they can affect the outcome of a game even though they aren’t on the field. Whether it’s giving energy to the home team or making it hard for the visiting team to concentrate, NFL fans can make a difference.
I realize that we can’t literally go to the manger scene on Christmas day, but we can invest our hearts and gifts to enter into the Christmas story spiritually.
I think we can learn a lot from the example of the three Magi, who invested themselves in the Nativity scene. Jesus coming to Earth was a gift to everyone. The gifts of the Magi were given in response to the great gift of Jesus, our Savior, King, and Lord.
They didn’t stay home and wait to hear about how it all turned out. They also didn’t go through all that trouble just to see the great event for themselves. There were two actions that they did when they arrived. The first was lying down prostrate and paying Jesus homage. The second…
“Then they opened their treasures” (Matthew 2:11).
They brought gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh and gave of themselves to this new king. Like I said before, they truly invested themselves to Him.
“Above all, we must imitate them as they place at the Child’s feet not only their gifts but also their lives” (Pope John Paul II, 2001).
What is the significance of the gifts that the Magi brought to Jesus?
- Gold – This was a gift for royalty, fit for a king.
- Frankincense – It was used to make incense, which in the Church is a symbol of our prayers rising up to God. So it is a gift reflective of our worship of Jesus, who in His divinity is worthy of our worship.
- Myrrh – This was a gum-like substance that was used at burials to help preserve the body, so it certainly looks ahead to the reason for Jesus coming to earth: to die for our sins. Myrrh was also used as a healing balm.
So what can we learn from the Magi and their gifts?
Open your heart.
Humility. The three kings weren’t even Jews, but they were able to recognize that Jesus was the Messiah, and the Lord of all. It took great humility for them to see that and lay their lives down before Him. Through humility, we too can recognize the reality of who Jesus is in all His divine glory, and how much He loves us!
Open your treasures.
Our proper response to the gift of Jesus is to give of ourselves to Him. Like gold, we can let Jesus be the King and Lord of our lives, entrusting ourselves to Him in all things.
Like frankincense, we can offer our prayers of thanksgiving, petition, adoration and worship to God everyday. Like myrrh, we can offer up our suffering to God and respond to Jesus’ death for us by giving our lives to Him.
Let your encounter with Christ change you.
“‘They returned to their own country by a different way.’ The Wise Men were in a sense the first missionaries. Their encounter with Christ did not keep them in Bethlehem, but made them set out anew on the paths of the world” (Pope John Paul II, 2001).
Soak in the grace at the Christmas Mass! In the Eucharist, we will all have the opportunity to be with the same Jesus that came 2,000 years ago to dwell among us. In that Eucharist, we receive the grace and mission to go out living the Good News of Jesus to all peoples in all places.
What gifts are you going to give Christ this Christmas? How can you use your time and talents to offer these gifts prayerfully?
What are some ways you can serve others and God?
As we prepare to welcome Jesus into our lives during Advent, what can we do to welcome the Lord into our life every day?
May you have a blessed Christmas. Let’s welcome Jesus into our lives this Christmas by opening our hearts, our treasures, and our futures to Him!
For more from Pope John Paul II, see