As I think back on the Christmas gifts which are most memorable to me from my childhood, I always linger on the same gifts. These gifts have very little in common with each other. In fact, I have only been able to link them by two common threads. One, they were Christmas gifts. And two, they were unexpected.
Without question, the gifts I received as a child which had the most lasting impact were the unexpected gifts. I remember, as a first grader, wandering in to the living room on Christmas morning finding a model train set mounted to the largest piece of plywood I had ever seen. There were multiple tracks, little trees, little buildings, and little people, and the most authentic looking (and sounding!) train I could ever imagine. To my first grade eyes, it was the “coolest” thing I had ever seen. I hadn’t asked for a model train set – but it was the perfect gift. I would later learn my father had stayed up all night on Christmas Eve assembling this locomotive treasure.
The next year my parents bought me a bicycle. A shinny, black and gold Huffy. My first reaction, in my head (I was a quiet second grader), was, “Wow, if I had known I would I gotten a bicycle had I asked for it, there is no telling what I would have asked for…” Truthfully, I was a little bit scared of the bicycle. I still didn’t know how to ride. I wasn’t very adventurous, at least for a seven year old. However, by the next Christmas I was riding my bike up and down the street, and this classic mode of transportation would become one of the defining parts of my childhood.
I think the best gifts we receive in life are often the unexpected ones. The ones for which we fail to ask; the ones we do not even know we want or need. This is how it was for the Magi. Sure, we most often associate these “wise men” with the giving of gifts to the Christ child. However, think of the unexpected nature of the gift they received! They followed a star, searching for a child-king. It only seems logical they would have expected a child born into a prestigious royal family. While they may have found a king, I do not think they found that for which they were looking. Surely they did not expect a child born into a poor Judean family.
In this way the Magi are representative of all of us. We didn’t ask for the gift God sent. For the most part, humanity didn’t even know we needed the gift. God sent his son, in a way no one could have imagined – and we were so surprised most of us didn’t recognize him. None of us have ever received a more precious, unexpected gift.
Read the Magi’s story from Matthew 2:1-12. Reflect for a moment on the wonderfully unexpected discovery of these wise men.
Grace, peace, and joy,