She heard the whispers all around her. It was nothing she had not heard before, and her cheeks burned with shame, but she would not be deterred. She made her way through the crowd, daring not to make eye contact, until she could contain her tears no longer. She fell to His feet, weeping, washing His feet with her tears and drying them with her hair. And then she opened her gift: a precious box made of alabaster and filled with costly perfume. And she poured out every drop upon Jesus.
Suddenly, the whispers changed. Now they called her different names: wasteful, inconsiderate. But Jesus saw what they could not: He saw the gift and the giver, and He accepted her offering for what it was: an act of worship. He saw her sins, which were many. He saw her guilt, shame, and past. But He focused on her worship. He didn't ask for her to be perfect or to bring Him her perfection. He saw her broken offering and said, "She has done what she could." He went on to tell His disciples that her story would endure long beyond that moment...and it has.
When it comes to choosing the perfect gift, we face all kinds of social pressure these days. Some people are tough to buy for. But I cannot imagine the stress of trying to find the perfect gift for a King...and yet this is what I do every time I come into the presence of God. I know what He deserves, but I can only offer what I have: my worship. And the beauty of it is that this is exactly what He wants from me.
He had heard Jesus was coming to town, and so he rushed to meet Him. He had a pressing need that brought him into the path of the Master. When he approached Jesus, a withered left hand tucked safely away inside his cloak, Jesus simply said, "Stretch out your hand."
The man was faced with a choice. Jesus did not specify which hand. He could offer his right hand, his strong hand. No one would laugh. No one would whisper or judge him. He could save face by giving Jesus his best. But the man did the unthinkable. He reached into his garment and pulled out his left hand. His withered hand. His powerless hand. He stood before the King of Kings and offered Him not the best, but the absolute worst that he had.
So often we are told that God wants our best. And, indeed, we should want to offer Him the best we have. But there are times when Jesus stands before us and asks that we give Him not our strengths but our weaknesses. For so many of us, this is the hardest gift we will ever give because it means we not only come face-to-face with our flaws but that we offer them up to the King of Kings. He deserves our best, but He asks that we give Him even the parts that we are most ashamed of.
The man may have approached Jesus with a withered hand, but because he chose to offer the King the most unconventional gift he had, he left the Master's presence healed, with two strong hands.
They were skilled in the diplomatic practice of gift-giving, no doubt. When the wise men loaded their camels for the ultimate desert road trip, following a mysterious star to Bethlehem, they made sure to bring three special packages.
The first gift was gold. Gold was not only associated with great wealth in biblical times, but it was often given in royal gift exchanges as well. Visiting dignitaries would honor the kings they visited by bringing gold with them. By offering Him gold, they acknowledged Jesus as their King.
Frankincense, the second gift, was used as a fragrance to perfume the air. However, because of its costly nature, it was reserved as an aroma sent up in the practice of ceremonial worship of a deity. By bringing Him frankincense, they acknowledged Jesus as their God.
Myrrh, the final gift, was also a fragrance, often used in worship, but it had another important job: it was used to prepare a body for burial. In the temple, myrrh was used to prepare instruments for sacrificial offerings. By bringing Him myrrh, they acknowledged Jesus as their Sacrificial Lamb.
The first official gifts we read of Jesus receiving were gifts that pointed to who He is and what He came to do. In the following articles, we will explore some of the gifts Jesus received during His ministry on earth.
Little Jim was known for two things: his slow mind and his tender heart. When the time came for the church Christmas pageant, his Sunday School teacher cast him as the innkeeper. Although he only had one line, someone in the front row sat ready to help in case he forgot it. He had spent weeks whispering it to himself:
“No room in the inn.”
His moment to shine came when Joseph and a very pregnant Mary hobbled across the stage. They stood tall and delivered their lines perfectly. “We are looking for a place to spend the night.” Proudly, Jim remembered his line:
“There’s no room in the inn.”
But Joseph did not give in so easily. He begged and pleaded and Jim was moved. He looked at his prompter, suddenly unsure of himself, but obediently repeated his message: “There’s no room in the inn.” Joseph pleaded more ardently and this time Jim’s eyes filled with tears. He looked at his prompter once more, hoping for a different line. With trembling lips and a shaky voice, he whispered,
“No room in the inn.”
As Joseph argued, Jim’s resolve continued to weaken. Ultimately, however, he made the pageant director proud as he held fast to his single line. Finally, as Joseph and Mary turned to leave, Jim’s compassionate heart could take no more.
“Wait, Mary!” he cried out, to the director’s chagrin. “You can have my room!”
How different Bethlehem might have been if Jim had indeed been the innkeeper. Two thousand years later, as innkeepers of our own hearts, we often open our doors to things that clamor loudly but ultimately have little value. Sadly, our lives can become so cluttered with debris that even as Jesus knocks, we only wish we had room.
Neither Hollywood nor Broadway would ever come calling for an actor like Jim, but our world is in desperate need of others like him. As we move into this Christmas season and beyond, may we learn the art of welcoming in the things that truly matter in life.
There is something unnerving about a waiting room. No matter how comfortable the seats, how trendy the décor, or how fabulous the magazines, our attention is always focused on the door that will lead us into the purpose of our visit.
The people of Judah found themselves in a millenia-long waiting room. God had told Abraham that he would be the father of many nations but Abraham had to wait until old age before his son was born. God told Moses that he would be a great deliverer but Moses spent eighty years waiting for the chance. God told David that he would be a powerful king but he had to fight a number difficult battles before it was possible. When God’s chosen people fell captive to the empires of the age, He raised up prophets with yet another promise: I will send you a Messiah.
Their time in the waiting room would end with the opening of a door they never saw coming: a baby born in a little town called Bethlehem.
Their waiting room time, while long, served a purpose. Judah had struggled with faithfulness to God but it was in their waiting room that they committed fully and completely. They developed a system to educate their children and established synagogues – the very places that would eventually be used to spread the gospel of the long-awaited Messiah.
Waiting rooms are not the easiest places to stay but they provide a valuable preparation space.
We sometimes forget that while we are waiting, someone is preparing everything for us on the other side of the door. During this holiday season, whatever waiting room you may find yourself in, remember that He has promised to prepare a place for you. Let us determine to make the most of our personal waiting rooms until He opens the door and calls our names.