Lift Up Your Hearts: Happy New Year!

Well, I know it’s a little late, but Happy New Year!

We made it through 2020! I pray that 2021 will be a year of rebuilding, that you and your family be blessed and protected, that your hearts be filled with peace and love, and that there be a lot less drama. That would be nice. Of course, all we can do is pray and hope. As we make and try to keep our resolutions for the year, one of mine is to try to be much more surrendered to the will of God, and more accepting of His plan.

This weekend, sadly, the Christmas season comes to a close. I am not quite ready for that. Thankfully, the season used to go all the way until February 2, which is the feast day of the Presentation of the Lord in the Temple. This celebration takes place 40 days after Jesus’ birth, when the Hebrew people would make a pilgrimage to the temple to offer a sacrifice for purification. The Hebrews would offer their sons to the Lord as well. Anyway, what this means is that I will most definitely be keeping my lights and tree up until early February at my house. Unfortunately, our beautiful decorations in the Church will have to come down this coming Monday.

This past week we celebrated the Epiphany. Traditionally, Jan. 6 is celebrated as the day when the three wisemen came to Bethlehem. The story goes that three wisemen, who were kings from the east (probably from modern day Iran and Iraq), saw a Star in the sky which foretold them of the birth of a new king of the Jews. The wisemen travelled to Bethlehem to give the new King homage and to bring Him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. When talking to the school children during Mass this week, I asked them if they would want to receive these gifts for their birthdays. Everyone wanted gold of course, most were not too sure about the frankincense and myrrh. These gifts were all very precious in the days of Jesus: Gold has its many and obvious uses; Frankincense is a sweet-smelling incense that was used in offering worship to God in the Temple; Myrrh was a medicinal spice that was often mixed with oil and used for anointing prophets as well as the bodies of loved ones for burial.

Digging a little deeper, we discover that these three gifts point to very particular aspects of who Jesus is and what He came to do. First of all, the gift of gold is a kingly gift and pointed to His role as King of the Jews. The song We Three Kings talks about the significance. The second verse states “Born a king on Bethlehem’s plain. Gold I bring to crown Him again, King forever, ceasing never, Over us all to reign.” Frankincense, offered in worship to God by the priests, pointed to Jesus’ role as High Priest and represented the offering He would make to God the Father of his life. It also pointed to His own divinity. The third verse of We Three Kings states “Frankincense to offer have I; Incense owns a Deity nigh; Prayer and praising, voices raising, Worshipping God on high.” Finally, the myrrh represented Jesus’s role as a prophet to the nations, bringing the good news of salvation to all. It also represented His sacrifice and his death on the Cross. The fourth verse of We Three Kings states “Myrrh is mine, its bitter perfume, Breathes a life of gathering gloom; Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying, Sealed in the stone cold tomb.” As we can see, these gifts bear great significance, because of what they represent and foreshadow.

This coming Sunday, we celebrate the Baptism of the Lord by John the Baptist. After Jesus comes out of the water we hear “On coming up out of the water he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit, like a dove, descending upon him. And a voice came from the heavens, ‘You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased’ ” (Mark 1:10-11). This powerful scene shows that Jesus is the Messiah, which means anointed one. In this moment, He was anointed by the Holy Spirit and thereafter begins his saving mission. Thus, with this celebration, we begin to see Jesus carry out all that was foretold about Him even at His birth with the gifts of the Wisemen.

As we begin this new year, let us look to Jesus who has come as God and King, proclaiming the good news of our salvation by offering us His own life. With His many gifts that He has come to bring us, may we find greater peace, greater purpose, and greater love even in the difficulties that we may face in 2021. Many blessings to you all.