Name your favorite Christmas movie! Go!
Mine: The Nativity Story.
Why? Simple. The three wise men.
In this Biblically-accurate retelling of the Gospel story of Jesus’ birth, we’re introduced to Melchior, Balthasar and Gaspar as they are watching two planets and a single star align into what will become the Bethlehem Star. As they talk through how the Hebrew Scriptures describe the coming of the Messiah, Melchior gets the wild idea that the three of them should go find the king who the star announces.
The other two are hesitant. Balthasar worries about such a long journey through the desert. “What about my cushions, my pillows? What about the foods I’m accustomed to? I’ll need my dates, my nuts, my spices.” Melchior answers, “If you need another camel, I’ll bring it for you! Join me! Both of you!”
Gaspar refuses to come. “They will be wasted months,” he says.
“Only one more camel?” Balthasar asks.
So, Melchior and Balthasar leave without Gaspar. (Can you imagine the Christmas story with only two wise men?) However, as they cross the desert, Gaspar catches up to them, and actually takes the lead.
“You forgot the map,” Gaspar quips, as his camel glides past the other two.
But the best scene in the entire movie is the presentation of their gifts to Jesus. Melchior first brings gold, to represent Jesus’ kingship. Balthasar presents frankincense, representing Jesus’ high priesthood.
Finally, it’s time for Gaspar to present his gift. Unlike the other two, he approaches the manger not with joyous awe, but with utter dread. It’s written all over his face. Before he presents his gift, he silently pleads for strength in the faces of his companions. He literally falls to his knees to place his gift on the ground next to the others.
You see, in the movie, Gaspar’s gift is myrrh, a funeral spice used to embalm dead bodies. Gaspar’s gift symbolizes the sacrifice that Jesus represented, because one day, the infant king would die as a sacrifice for many.
And Gaspar knew it.
Christ’s birth is worthy of celebration. The gifts we give each other represent the gift that God gave to us on the day Jesus was born. Peace on Earth and goodwill toward men was God’s idea first, proclaimed to the shepherds on the hills near Bethlehem on the night Jesus was born.
But Christmas is just the beginning. To focus only on the love God showed to us that glorious night by sending his Son to Earth as a baby minimizes the reason Christ came – to save all mankind from our sins. Jesus lived a sinless life and went to a Roman cross to give his life as the one-time sacrifice for the sins of the world.
The very sacrifice represented by Gaspar’s gift of myrrh to the infant Christ.
The temptation to treat Christmas as a standalone holiday is strong. During this season, it’s easy to focus exclusively on God’s love and downplay his holiness. Christ came to address man’s problem with sin, to make it possible for sinful man to approach a holy God through Jesus.
So, while Christmas is full of joy, and it should be, there’s also a strong element of reverence. Jesus came to do a good work in all of our lives, finished that work on a Friday 33 years later on a Golgotha cross, and brought it to fruition the following Sunday in a nearby garden tomb.
And if you bring Jesus into your life as your personal Lord and Savior, His victory over death on that Sunday is also yours.