The tradition of giving gifts to people we love or respect (or even fear) goes back many centuries. In the Old Testament, for example, Jacob sent lavish gifts to his brother Esau, with whom he hoped to be reconciled—although he had cheated him out of his inheritance many years before (see Genesis 32:20-21).
But our tradition of giving gifts at Christmas certainly has its roots in the visit of the wise men to Jesus. They were from a distant country, but God had given them a sign in the heavens—a special star—telling them of the birth of a new King for God’s people. When they arrived in Jerusalem they asked where this newborn King could be found, and the religious scholars told them Bethlehem, as the Old Testament had prophesied. They went there and found the young child, and gave Him their gifts. They also, the Bible says, “bowed down and worshiped him” (Matthew 2:11).
What lessons should we learn from their visit? First, it should remind us of who Jesus is: God’s own Son, sent from Heaven to save us from our sins. In the midst of the busyness of Christmas, turn your heart and mind to Him this year, and—like the wise men—bow down and worship Him as your Saviour and Lord.
But the wise men’s journey also should be a warning to us. The religious scholars knew where the Saviour would be born—but they never looked for Him. Don’t be like them, but follow the wise men’s example—and discover God’s greatest gift to us: Jesus Christ.