A young couple had an unexpected surprise; a baby was on the way. They were both in school and finances were tight.
Neither relished the added expense, complexity, and time strain to their schedules; and they struggled to accept the situation. Family and friends were either thrilled to hear the news or surprised and thoughtless in how they expressed that the timing seemed wrong.
After a few thoughtless responses, the mother-to-be found herself getting quite defensive. Once the first three months were over and pregnancy began to show, she decided she could no longer stay in the small college apartment without being upset. Several neighbors made harmless comments that infuriated her and she became quite bitter. During the summer break they moved to a town close by.
As they were packing and moving their belongings, a neighbor came over to say goodbye. She was visiting on a student visa and had not been easy to understand with her accent. She handed them a package and spoke words they could not understand. They thanked her and tried to appear pleased, uncertain what the package was for and whether they should open it or not. The neighbor smiled and pointed at the woman’s bulging belly and the couple realized this was a baby gift, the only gift anyone had given them thus far.
On opening the package the woman’s breath caught. What beautiful fabric! She held up what appeared to be a scarf or perhaps material to make a nice skirt. She decided the woman must be giving her a maternity skirt and thanked her. She returned to the move and added it to the items being packed, and forgot about it.
Months later, the new baby arrived and the couple settled into devoting more energy than expected to the new life. The infant was colicky, and seemed unhappy unless he was held constantly. The new grandmother came to visit and help the couple for a few weeks. While there, she began unpacking the last of the moving boxes and found the gift. She brought her daughter the package, and asked what was to be done with it. The baby had just started crying again, and her daughter responded irritably that she didn’t care, she didn’t need a maternity skirt any longer.
Her mother inspected the fabric and a small folded paper dropped out. They were instructions to a baby sling with pictures explaining how to use it. Suspicious and protective, the grandmother disdainfully asked her daughter why she had purchased such an item, holding up the instructions. Just then the baby began to cry again with more force. Her mother took the infant and tried to soothe him.
Her daughter flipped through the instructions, exhausted and wishing she could find some way to escape for just a few minutes. On a whim, she pulled open the material and tried fitting it on as the instructions depicted. Taking the infant from her mother and ignoring her protests, she soon had the child secured to her. Instantly he stopped crying and fell asleep. In that peaceful moment, the young mother realized the value of that gift.
Moral of the story:
Matthew 2:11 And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense and myrrh.
It never occurred to me that the wise men brought baby gifts as we read at the end of Matthew 2:11. I had always attributed the wise men’s gifts to Christmas and the reason why we now exchange gifts on Christmas. This story unfolded as I explored baby shower gifts. My colicky son made our sling worth twice its weight in gold!
The treasures they presented were not really useful for a child, it wasn’t a toy he could play with or an outfit he could wear (maybe the frankincense would be helpful for bad diapers). These were expensive gifts, and both frankincense (honoring to God) and myrrh could be used for burial and embalming.
I’m sure Mary was gracious about these costly items, but she may have wondered what to do with them. Maybe she realized this was the kind of gift you present to a king. Besides being a present for a king, I think it poetically points to the purpose for his birth, to die. Morbid thought, but one I marvel at. God knew the solution to the impossible sin problem for all of us, and what a wonder that it came in the form of an innocent, helpless child. It demonstrates how deep and personal my need was for help, a perfect life lived in place of my own.