The Advent of Gifts

The Advent of Gifts

And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.”  

Revelation 21:5

Once the Christ-child has been born within, and once we have time to accept and process the significance of that birth, what happens next? I believe what happens next is that we begin to manifest the gifts of this new birth. These are not the lavish material gifts we typically associate with Christmas, but they are gifts of the Spirit. More accurately, they are experience-enhancers that develop naturally as we awaken to the unity between our spiritual and physical selves. We begin to manifest the themes of Advent – hope, peace, love, and joy – in new and more profound ways than was possible before. And as the themes of Advent shine through us onto others, the fruits of those themes return to us in new and unexpected ways. In the Christmas story, following the birth of the child, the Magi came to acknowledge the child as the Messiah; and they came bearing gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Assuming the Christmas story to be analogous to our own, where are our gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh?

The physical gifts the Magi brought to the baby Jesus were what one would bring to an earthly king. The gifts the Christ-child brings, however, are gifts of the Spirit – gifts that allow us to become more fully human, growing closer to the unified being God created us to become. Remember, Jesus referred to himself as the Son of Man, which means the human one, or perhaps more accurately, the fully human one. These gifts are the result of becoming fully human, meaning 100% human and 100% spirit, as was modeled by Jesus. The gifts of the Magi are kingly gifts, but the kingdom that opens to those who become fully human is not a kingdom as understood in earthly terms.

Gold is a precious metal that was extremely valuable in Jesus’ day, as it is today. It symbolizes royalty. The gold of the spirit is equally extravagant and sets one apart as worthy of notice, not for ego-enhancement but because one’s distinct presence naturally draws others to them. It is not personal magnetism, however, but the attraction of the Holy Spirit drawing others to itself through the more fully human ones.

Frankincense and Myrrh are aromatic resins often used as incense. Frankincense was also used in perfumes and as a healing agent. Myrrh was used as an analgesic and as a fragrance to counteract the odor of decaying flesh. Frankincense came to represent holiness, while myrrh symbolized Christ’s passion and demise. The presence of one who is more fully human than most is not unlike the fragrance of strong spices that permeate a room. The aroma cannot be seen, heard, or touched, but it is recognized by and impacts everyone present. This quality of presence is a gift of the Spirit and is no less impactful on others than the strong aromas of aromatic resins. It draws others to itself and creates a desire to also become more fully human. This is the pull of and work by the Spirit once the spiritual and physical aspects of a person have been united. Such uniting, which is more of an awakening to the already-present union as opposed to a uniting of two distinct parts of our being, is often referred to as a spiritual marriage.

The changes manifested in one who has successfully married their physical and spiritual natures can be likened to the difference between one who wishes and one who hopes. In their book, Aging, Henri Nouwen and Walter Gaffney write, “A marriage built on wishes is in constant danger, but a marriage built on hope is open-ended and full of possibilities, since it is the partners themselves who count and not what they can do or have.”[1] Wishes are the stuff of unspiritualized earth and are products of our earthly fears and uncertainties. Nouwen and Gaffney continue, “When hope grows we slowly see that we are worth not only what we achieve but what we are, that what life might lose in use, it may win in meaning.”[2] Our perceived value is no longer dependent upon what we can do (earthly value) but in who we are (spiritual value); and who we are is a much more solid, worthy, and comprehensive foundation on which to build a life on and beyond earth. We are beloved children of God, but we cannot know this until we have integrated the gifts of the spirit into our everyday lives. Once we know our fully human nature, others will notice and will want it for themselves – not to be like us but to become more fully themselves.

I invite your thoughts, insights, and feedback via email at ghildenbrand@sunflower.com, or through my website, www.ContemplatingGrace.com. At the website, you can also sign up to have these reflections delivered to your Inbox every Thursday morning and browse the archives of my Life Notes, Podcasts, music, books, and other musings.

[1] Henri J.M. Nouwen and Walter J. Gaffney, Aging. Doubleday Publishing, 1966, p. 68.

[2] Ibid., p. 71.

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