Midnight Packing

By Justin Rossow

Opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.

Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt and remained there until the death of Herod.

Matthew 2:11-15 (ESV)

I can just imagine Joseph packing frantically for a midnight escape and pausing to wonder what in the world to do with those strange gifts. Unexpected foreigners brought gold, a royal and valuable gift, worth enough to cover the expense of their sudden trip. Maybe Joseph would even have enough left over to buy his membership card at the local carpenters’ guild among the expats in Egypt. He had hoped to return to Nazareth, but …

Incense! What was Joseph supposed to do with incense? Incense is heavy! And it belongs in the Temple. Joseph knew the thick fragrance from worship, when the prayers of God’s people covered over the stink of their sin. Maybe he could take it to Synagogue in Egypt, for prayer …

And then there was myrrh; Joseph had to pack it carefully in one of his tunics—if that vial breaks, Herod’s bloodhounds would be able to smell them all the way to the border! But who gives a baby myrrh, an expensive funeral oil? Joseph hoped he would die before this myrrh was used …

I sometimes feel like Joseph: confused by the way things are turning out, doing the best I can in a life where I don’t exactly know where the money is going to come from, or how I am supposed to pray, or which loved one I will bury next, or who will be left to bury me.

But then I remember what I do have: the presence of Jesus, to whom these strange gifts were given. Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews, God’s beloved Son, the One who once was dead and now is alive forevermore.

The same Jesus who was given gold by the magi tells me I am His treasured possession.  The same Jesus who received frankincense tenderly receives my prayers. The same Jesus who accepted the gift of myrrh holds my death, and also my resurrection, in His glorious hands. I have about as much of a clue as Joseph did packing those unexpected gifts.

Then again, Joseph had Jesus.

I do, too.

This blog was originally published in Light in the Darkness: A Hymn Journal for Advent and Christmas from Next Step Press. Used by permission.

You can hear the author read this devotion as part of the podcast: What Child Is This?

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