Once, when travelling from New Brunswick to Ontario, I ended up in a small town late at night. Having driven most of the day and being tired I looked around for a hotel to spend the night. To my surprise all four hotels in the immediate vicinity to the highway were full for the night. It was a strange and hopeless feeling to be in a strange town, late at night, tired and with no place to go.
When the decree went out for every Jewish man to return to his home village so he could be counted for the census (and get on the tax rolls) Joseph and Mary travelled to Bethlehem to fulfill the Emperor’s decree. When they arrived in the town they were surprised to find that all the Inn’s were full and there was no place for them to spend the night. What complicated the situation was that Mary was about to give birth to her child and needed the security, warmth, and cleanliness of a five star establishment. Instead, the best that could be done for her was the offer to spend the night in the stable, in back of the Inn, with the animals. It wasn’t much but it would have to do.
Here, surrounded by the sounds of animals along with the odor of manure and urine, on a flea- infested stable was born the Savior of the world. Instead of royal robes he was dressed in swaddling clothes, and instead of a soft down-filled crib he had straw for a bed. That evening no great ambassadors of the world made their way to His home to give their congratulations to the family and rich gifts to the baby. Instead a handful of outcast shepherds and gentile astronomers were the only visitors.
The three wise men from the east (the astronomers) did bring gifts, and interesting gifts they were. The first was gold, which besides being practical and something that Joseph and Mary could well use when they would escape from King Herod and go down into Egypt with the baby Jesus, it was the gift for a king and in that simple gift there was a recognition that this baby would be a great king even though he was born in a stable. The second gift was incense and that was the gift that was usually given to a priest. This baby born in a lowly stable would be the great intercessor of mankind and bring healing and reconciliation to the nations.
But, it is the third gift that the wise men brought that interests us the most because it was so inappropriate. Myrrh was the gift of death. It was the resin that bodies would be wrapped in at death to preserve and also mask the odor of decay. It was this gift that told us this baby, Jesus, was born to die. He was to be our King, our intercessor, and most of all He was to be our Savior.
At the age of thirty-three Jesus went to the cross as our substitute for the penalty of sin, and through His death and resurrection we have the assurance of eternal life. This Christmas there are thousands of people who will have no place at the Inn. They will find themselves, cold, lonely and discouraged, trying to keep their lives together through another night while the rest of us shop for presents, put up trees and plan family events. Take a little time this Christmas season to support with your time and money your local church, food bank or Salvation Army to help make life a little less harsh for those who have so little. May God bless us all this season, and may your Christmas season be one of joy and peace.