Book Preview: This is an excerpt from the book 31 Days at Bethlehem’s Manger, written by Shane Johnson.
A great devotional to pick up for December!
December 14 – Morning
“And when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto Him gifts; gold, and frankincense and myrrh.” Matthew 2:11
Christmas, for the world, has so much to do with receiving; but Christmas, for the Christian, has everything to do with giving. “When they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts unto Him,” the Scripture records. “What am I giving for Christmas this year,” should be the first question on our hearts, not, “What am I getting?”
The frankincense brought by the wise men from the East was an act of worship, an acknowledgement of His deity. Frankincense in ancient times was offered on altars in worship to the gods. The fact that these men had brought incense to the Babe indicates that, in their minds, He was the divine One.
Incense in the Old Testament was intricately involved with the offerings of the altar. The holy incense of the Tabernacle, which was not permitted for private use, was concocted by the perfumer and reserved for the sole purpose of worship (Ex. 30:37). Anyone who dared to use it for themselves was cut off from the people.
Likewise, in Leviticus, it was written that if anyone offered a grain offering to the Lord “…[he shall] put frankincense thereon” (Lev. 2:1). Had these wise men from the East unwittingly laid frankincense upon the sacrifice? Mary and Joseph, who were familiar with the Old Testament offerings, may have faintly understood these things.
Indeed, the infant would ultimately give Himself for us, “an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling savour” (Eph. 5:2). That incense would be burned at the cross and would ascend into the throne room of God, bringing pleasure to His nostrils. Like Noah’s altar of old, after the Flood, God would smell a soothing aroma arising from the cross, causing Him to say in His heart, “I will never again curse the ground for man’s sake…” (Gen. 8:21). The ultimate fulfillment of Noah’s offering found its counterpart at the cross. Let us send up offerings of
incense this Christmas through the praises of our lips to the One who came down to die.
The cross was cruel and bleak and dark
Beneath that flood of rage,
But Thy dear cross became our Ark
And brought us through unscathed.
We were like Cain, lost fugitives,
Young rebel Absaloms.
Thou gave Thy soul that we might live
In New Jerusalem.
Jesus, Thy great vast love sublime
Swells our poor paltry hearts.
In all Thy ways Thy beauty shines.
How good, how kind Thou art
“If you want to seriously meditate on the great truths of what really happened just over 2000 years ago, and how it shook both heaven and earth, forever, you will not be disappointed with any page of this fresh and rich devotional book written by a man I have come to respect very much.
Shane Johnson has provided us with two meditations for each day of December, predominantly with a focus on the Incarnation – God becoming a man, in real though sinless human flesh – to help us not only understand the plan of God, but to motivate us to worship and serve Him. The last few days in the book shift the focus away from the “Christmas” theme, as Shane points to a new year of putting this renewal of adoration into practice, by first addressing what we really believe.” – From the Introduction by Peter Bolton