I know that many of us like to start the year with fresh hopes for betterment of ourselves and of the world. Along side that, I think we can all sense that winds of change are blowing away old ways of thinking and old ways of living. I applaud the courage of every person who stands for change, whether within themselves, or as a member of a society that needs changing.
But I would like to remind us all that change is far more than pushing away the stuff you don't like. To do that only breeds resistance, and you know the old saying, "What you resist persists." That's very true whether on the personal level or in societal structures.
It's far better to go around that stuff and aim higher. By that I mean that we need to acknowledge that wrongs, faults, and injustices exist but to hold as our goal the establishment of something better to replace it. We need to have the courage and persistence to fight FOR what we want, not AGAINST what we don't want.
So whether your issue for this year is person, say, weight loss or stopping smoking or gossiping, or whether it is societal or global, say, climate change, plastic pollution, economic inequality, overpopulation (why do so many people ignore this issue, which is at the root of so many other issues we face?), wars, poverty, hunger, illiteracy, and so on, I strongly urge us all to imagine what its preferred opposite might be and to work for that.
During this frenzied, final week of holiday gift-buying, let's take a moment of repose and reflection and look at the final gift Jesus received on the first Christmas. Let's look at myrrh.
Myrrh is a reddish-brown dried sap that comes from a thorny tree, Commiphora myrrha, which grows in northeastern Africa and southwest Asia. Steam distillation of the sap creates an oil which is brown in color and has an earthy scent. In folk medicine, it can be used for pain, infections, and skin sores [NOTE: do not ingest this oil]. In Jesus' time, it was used for embalming. In this sense, the Magi were honoring the mortality of the newborn.
So often, we forget that we are all mortal. We will all eventually leave this earthly plane. Allow this thought to color how you treat others, not by being maudlin, but by treating each interaction as if it could be your or their last. Each moment counts. Each word counts. Don't let pettiness and stress get in the way of that realization. Live in each moment. Honor the present. Be the beauty that our world needs.
Last week we were looking at the significance of the gifts of the Magi to the newly-born Jesus and how that meaning can enrich our gift-giving season. Today let's examine the meaning behind frankincense.
Frankincense is a white resin from the Boswellia tree and has several uses. In folk medicine, it can assist with easing arthritis and asthma, improving gut function, and possibly helping to fight cancer. However, the more common use of the rare and expensive frankincense during Jesus' time was as a perfume or oil used in worship. In this sense, it symbolizes the divinity of Jesus.
During this holiday season, let's honor the divine within ourselves and each other. Let it guide how you treat others and how you treat yourself during this crazy-busy time. Honor the divinity within each person you meet -- the harried salesclerk, the rude drivers, the delivery people, the people who assist you in everyday life. And remind yourself that you, too, are divine, and can rise above the crabbiness that normally occurs from being too busy and too stressed. Breathe. You are divine. Breathe. Others are divine. Breathe. Breathe.
The holidays are fast approaching and I would like to invite you to take a minute, take a breath, and take a seat. Let's talk about the meaning behind our gift-giving frenzy.
I was thinking about the original Christmas, as described in the Bible in the second chapter of Matthew (don't worry, I won't preach and I won't pass around the offering plate here). According to that account, the three Wise Men, or Magi, brought to the newly-born Jesus three gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. What is the meaning behind them?
This week, let's look at gold. Obviously, gold has monetary value and may have been used to support Mary, Joseph, and the young Jesus when they fled to Egypt to escape King Herod's soldiers who were searching to kill the boy.
Beside that, gold has the symbolic meaning of royalty or divinity. In ancient times, gold was a common offering to kings and queens. So, the Magi were honoring the spiritual royalty within the newborn Jesus.
As we use our gold, through currency, to buy gifts for the dear ones in our life, let the thought permeate your purchase that we are honoring the spiritual royalty within each person who receives a gift. Let the habit of seeing others' inner king or queen guide how you treat them in this overly busy time. Honor the king or queen within yourself as well by taking time to breathe, meditate, and rest. You deserve to take that time -- you are royal!