Gifts for the Messiah
By Michael Ditsky, PhD, Adjunct Professor of Counseling, Houston Graduate School of Theology
The Gospels of Matthew and Luke present two different versions of the birth of Jesus, the Messiah. There are thematic similarities in the Nativity stories of Luke and Mark. Both proclaim the “good news” that Jesus was the Son of God at his birth This news proclaimed to a group not present at the birth: by a star to the magi (Matthew) and by an angel to the shepherds (Luke).
Each group comes to Bethlehem to believe and worship. Each group goes back to where they came from. We do not hear from or about either group after this.
The Infancy Narratives found in Matthew and Luke have perplexed scripture scholars for decades. Was there a census? Was Jesus born in Bethlehem? What was the star? What time of the year was he born? Were there eyewitnesses of the birth? If he was born in Bethlehem, why is he known as the Nazarene?
We must remember that the early church was captured by the Passion, Last Supper (Passover), Death, and Resurrection of Jesus. Little attention was paid to His birth and infancy in the early spread of the “Good News.” Matthew and Luke look backwards to His birth to ensure that, even at birth, He was the Son of God, our Savior.
Raymond Brown, who has written An Adult Christ at Christmas: Essays on the Three Biblical Christmas Stories: Matthew 2 and Luke 2, often urged his audience “to find your own Bethlehem.” In other words, we need to travel in spirit to discover the good news of salvation so that we might believe and worship. The Infancy Narratives may remind us of our childhood dreams, but, as adults, they call us to do exactly what the magi in Matthew’s Gospel and the shepherds in Luke’s Gospel did. What gifts do we bring? What do we proclaim about the Messiah, the Anointed One, the Christ?
As we contemplate the birth of Jesus this Christmas, let us consider our calling as faithful servants of God’s Word. In rereading the Infancy Narratives, may we find the joy of the magi and shepherds as we too prepare gifts for the Christ-child.