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Monday, October 24, 2016

Daily Devotion for July 15, 2013

<i>The Magi</i> by Henry Siddons Mowbray
The Magi by Henry Siddons Mowbray, ca. 1915. (Full-size)



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lessons and scripture

Lord's Prayer

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever.


All My Trials is a traditional Bahamian spiritual in the form of a lullaby. Welshman Aled Jones performs it here with its original Caribbean flavor.

Prayer for the Morning

Holy Father, who watches over your children by night and by day; blessed Jesus, my food and my strength; sweet Holy Spirit, the light and guide of my soul; I thank you for this new day and pray that you will watch over me. May my thoughts, my words and actions reflect the Spirit that dwells within me. And may every minute of my life celebrate the gift of grace, earned by the blood of Christ, in whose name I pray.


To Be Free of Mental Distress

Lord Jesus, I find myself sometimes filled with depression and negativity over what I see as my failures in life; shame, guilt and anxiety beset me, and I grow sorrowful that I am not more, that I have wasted opportunities in my life. I sometimes feel worthless and helpless, with unwelcome humility forced upon me.

Help me, sweet Jesus, to turn my eyes upon you. Give me the hope I need, and help me face life with the courage of faith in you. You told your disciples to be anxious for nothing. I give to you my anxiety, Lord Christ, and lay my troubles upon your mighty back; and I pick up your burden, for you have promised that it is light, and that you are gentle and kind. Let me work for your glory and not my own, putting an end to the pain of my vanity, that I may serve you in joy and peace all my days.



All through this day, O Lord, by the power of your quickening Spirit, let me touch the lives of others for good, whether through the word I speak, the prayer I speak, or the life I live.


(Additional prayers may be found at Prayers for All Occasions.)
God be with you 'til we meet again.

<i>The Coming of Bride</i>by John Duncan
The Coming of Bride by John Duncan ca. 1917. The legend of Saint Brigit (St. Bride) had her mystically transported to witness the Nativity.

Psalm 22:9-10 (KJV)

You brought me out of the womb; you made me trust in you, even at my mother’s breast.

From birth I was cast on you; from my mother’s womb you have been my God.

Blue Latin Cross

Matthew 2:9-12 (J.B. Phillips NT)

The Gifts of the Magi

The Magi listened to the king and then went on their way to Bethlehem. And now the star, which they had seen in the east, went in front of them as they raveled until at last it shone immediately above the place where the little child lay. The sight of the star filled them with indescribable joy.

So they went into the house and saw the little child with his mother Mary. And they fell on their knees and worshipped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts — gold, incense and myrrh. Then, since they were warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they went back to their own country by a different route.

Notes on the Scripture

Discussion of the Magi begins in the previous commentary (q.v.).

We often have difficulty separating out the details of legends from actual facts taken from the Bible, and nowhere is this more true than the Magi. Answer this question: How many wise men were there?

The correct answer is, “we don't know.” The New Testament does not give us a number. Nor does it give us their names, discuss what they looked like, or describe them as kings. These are colorful and harmless details added by popular legend over time, but they are fictional.

Probably the legend that there were three of them springs from the three categories of gifts. These gifts are both symbolic and prophetic. Gold we associate with kings. The Magi heard prophecy that a king would be born, and thus, gold would be a natural gift. Matthew wants to emphasize that Christ was, in fact, born a king: not the heir to a throne, but a king crowned fully with glory the moment he was born. (Theologians might argue that he was a king before the Creation.)

Myrrh we associate with death and, even more specifically, preservation of a dead body, for it was a bitter embalming fluid derived from the sap of a thorn tree. It can be ingested as a painkiller and, if you will remember, was the first listed ingredient in the anointing oil recipe, ordained by Yahweh in Exodus.

But its primary association is with death and pain. Its presentation to the Christ child prophesies the importance of his death, and perhaps the painful nature of his death and even the thorns we associate with his last days.

The “incense” is probably frankincense, and most translations will actually specify frankincense as the gift. Again, this was the primary ingredient of a tabernacle recipe, this time for the incense burned before the altar. Those who have attended a high mass at a liturgical church will recognize the distinctive odor.

Frankincense represents spirit, and more specifically, the bridge between the spirit of God and the human soul. In Hebrew worship and in some Christian denominations (especially Catholic and Orthodox churches), this bridge is mediated by an anointed priest. (In fact the Latin for “priest” is pontifex, which literally means “bridge”; the Pope is, similarly, called “Pontiff.”)

The connection between the person of Christ and the Holy Spirit is enormously strong. Although we are not going to delve into the theological mind-boggle of terms used to explain the concept of the Trinity, they are generally considered to be identical in some respects. But all must agree that Christ will baptize with the Holy Spirit, for he says so himself. E.g. Acts 1:4-8.

Thus, this beautiful and comforting moment, when the Magi worship the Christ child and present him with gifts, prophesies the three great themes of his life: his coming to rule the world as the Christ the King; his death and resurrection; and his justification of man to God, by rebirth in the Spirit.

endless knot

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