Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts…

“On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh.” (Matthew 2:11)

Back in 1992 my wife and I were poor. Maybe not in the world’s standards, but I was only making about $11,000 a year working at the hospital evenings and going to Bible school during the day. We had a 5 year-old and a one-year-old, and we had no money for Christmas. The middle school pastor and his wife at the church we attended were fast becoming friends of ours, and we found out that year the youth group had this tradition of picking a needy family to bless at Christmas time. We found out because WE became that family. Tons of presents, a trip to the grocery store and probably more that I’ve forgotten about over the years. We were humbled they chose us, and so incredibly grateful. The ironic thing is. the very next year I was the middle school youth pastor at the church and helping our group pick the next family to be blessed.

Fast forward to 2008. Over the years our income had its ups and downs, but there has been no doubt that we’ve been blessed. God has taken us from one situation to the next, and with each one made sure there is a roof over our heads and food in our boys’ stomachs (now 4 of them, at the time ages 11-21). The home we were in that year was a dream for us… plenty of room for hosting ministry stuff (we do a lot of that, still working with the youth at the time after all of these years), a great big backyard, room for my desk so I could work from home — and by far, it was the largest and most beautiful home we’d lived in. I almost wanted to apologize anytime anyone came over and commented on it… it never seemed like we were “supposed” to be there. But we were, and God had provided for it. It wasn’t ours (we rented), but it became a true home to us.

That year as the economy had taken a hit, so had my income. Not at the church, but with a second job I had which had always brought in the bulk of my income. It was also ministry, but sales-related. I helped to equip churches with an evangelism strategy which is probably the cheapest and easiest out there… but with tough economic times, even churches had stopped spending and in turn, I’d stopped earning. This had put us behind in some areas, and we daily found ourselves asking God to provide and bring in enough to help us each month. So, we found ourselves in a bigger house, with more possessions and more space than we’d ever had, but on paper the only way to explain it would be that we were poor once again.

One night a couple weeks before Christmas, I came home from our church’s prayer meeting to find the Christmas tree blanketed with gifts. When I asked about it, my wife told me that while I was gone there was a knock at the door, and when she got there to see who it was, all that was there was a great big box of wrapped presents. Each had the name of one of us in the family. So they took them out of the box and put them around the tree. We don’t know who they came from… the only evidence was that my youngest saw the back of what looked like a teenager running off at the end of the driveway — get this — wearing what looked like a red-hooded sweatshirt.

The next night I found myself sitting across the table from our youngest (11 yrs old) at McDonald’s. We were on our way to the dollar store to fulfill a tradition of several years. As all the boys had come through elementary school, we would load them and a bunch of the kids from church into cars and take them to the dollar store. Each would have a list of who they needed to buy for and enough money for the presents. This way they could very inexpensively take part in the age-old Christmas tradition of giving gifts to family and loved ones. I’m proud to say, even now my sons have all taken on that heart to give, with a couple of them even saving money they get from birthdays in anticipation of what they can buy for others at Christmas. As we were sitting there, I was thinking about the gifts that were dropped off the night before, and I began to recount to him the story of that Christmas back in 1992, and at how I am amazed at how good God is. He knows our situation. As I’m telling my son all of this and how I think I just may blog about it all later, my son says with a bit of worry in his voice, “Dad, don’t tell people we’re poor!” And that started up a great conversation where I asked him a few questions.

“What family did God choose to place His son into?”

“Joseph and Mary’s.”

“What did they do for a living?”

“Joseph was a carpenter.”

“Were they rich or poor?”

“Poor.”

“How do we know that?”

His answer at that age was profound, “Because they sacrificed two doves instead of a lamb when they presented Jesus at the temple, and that was the sacrifice God allowed for the really poor.”

Then I asked, “Well… if it was good enough for Jesus, then why isn’t it good enough for us?” Thoughtful silence.

It was a few minutes later I brought it around to those gifts we received the night before, asking him who came and brought gifts to Jesus after His birth.

“The wise men… the kings.”

“That’s right… and did they care if He was poor?”

“No.”

“That’s right… they came and brought Him gifts anyway.”

“On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh.” (Matthew 2:11)

As we finished our talk that night I told my son I didn’t care what was in those gifts that were brought to our door, and how it would make no difference if they were bought at the dollar store or at Dillard’s — that what they meant to me was , in a very simple way God has said to me, “Barry… I am more personally involved in your life than you even know… and I care more about your wife and boys than even you do.” I was once again reminded we have a God who is not far off, but who loves us more than we can know. He is not impersonal. He is not removed from my situation, because He Himself started out His life here on earth worse-off than I think we will ever be. He knows, He cares, and He is taking care of us once again.

Our drive home was a quiet one… my son and I listened to a Christmas story on the radio as we drove around looking at lights. And I’m pretty sure he has a different understanding now, too. God sent us our “magi” that Christmas… He spoke to the hearts of someone to bless us. Not to just give us a gift card or money, but to take the time to pick out all those little gifts, then to wrap them and label them individually, drop them at our door, and run.

I’m not sure if they will ever fully know what this simple act meant… but I know that in their way they were no different than those who showed up with gifts some 2000 years ago. It is as it was then… an act of worship for our King.

And all I can say is, “Thank you, Jesus.”

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2 thoughts on “Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts…

  1. kelli Frith says:

    Thanks for the reminder PB! We too are understanding God’s provision better than we ever have. And if we weren’t going thru the difficult time that we are, maybe we would never have understood it! I pray that God CONTINUES to bless you guys in supernatural ways. Your whole family is such a blessing to the Body of Christ & all of us who are privileged to know you personally! We love our Sullys!!

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