So there’s this app called Tik Tok, which I may dabble in. It is basically an app where people make short videos (10 seconds – three minutes) about anything. I do not make the videos but I watch the videos. Videos that typically come up on my for you page are about books, cute animals, recipes, make up, creepy bodies of water, music. I saw a particular makeup Tik Tok one day that has stuck with me. This creator made the statement that, we have forgotten what real skin looks like. That magazines are so airbrushed and photoshopped, that Tik Tok videos and Instagram pictures are so filtered, that we have forgotten what real skin looks like. And because we have real skin, when we look in the mirror, we will always feel dissatisfied and discouraged because we do not and cannot look like the filtered, airbrushed, and photoshopped images that surround us every day. We have forgotten what real skin, wrinkles, cellulite, pores, we have forgotten that real skin is normal because what the world presents as normal is a false perfection. And I think we can fall into that photoshopped and filtered trap with our faith too. We readily show God the cleaned up, shirt tucked, pants pressed, pearls on view of our life, when what God really wants, is our wrinkles and our achy backs, our foot pain and sagging skin, our cellulite and our pores. The best gift we can bring God, is ourselves. Just as we are.
Today, we continue our epiphany journey alongside the magi and find them presenting their gifts to the child Christ. Now, what are some common gifts for babies or children?
“Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.” Who wants Sophie the giraffe? Get the hottest new toy, a bar of gold, at your nearest Toys R Us. Now, why do they bring gold, frankincense, and myrrh? Because they are coming to pay respects to he who has been born, King. They bring gifts befitting his station not his age. But the gifts are something else too. They connect with all parts of Christ’s life. They connect with the royal, the anointed as well the messy, the tragic. Myrrh, in particular, comes from a kind of gnarled and thorny tree, and is used not only in holy anointing and consecrations but also in embalming and anointing after death. The gospel of John, 19 “Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jewish leaders. With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away. 39 He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds.[e] 40 Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen.” Gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Gifts that do not gloss over or filter what and who Jesus is. Is Jesus king of kings? Yes. Is Jesus holy? Yes. Did Jesus transform even death itself with his resurrection? Yes. Did Jesus experience persecution, rejection, and suffer a horrific death by crucifixion? Yes. Gold, frankincense, and myrrh lean into the full messiness of Christ’s life and God wants us to lean into the full messiness of our life. The magi brought gifts honoring all parts of Christ’s life, the shiny, the bloody, the victorious, the painful and the best gift we can bring God is all parts of our life too.
Now, of course, we want to put our best foot forward, we want to give God our best selves, our most faithful selves, and that is not a bad thing. But just like we have forgotten what real skin looks like, we confuse our best selves, our most faithful selves, with a filtered, tucked, sucked, and photoshopped self. Here God this is me, nooooo don’t look at everything I’ve shoved under the rug, or in the closet, or out the window. But we meet our best and most faithful selves not through filters and photoshop but through the rough times, on the other side of difficulties and struggles. We are human. You are human. Being human is messy and God wants our mess. The best gift we can bring to God is ourselves, just as we are. When we do that, we can discover our callings, talents, who God created us to be, our belovedness. When we bring our full selves to God, when we acknowledge all the parts of our life and lay its beautiful messiness at the foot of God’s love, that’s when transformation happens. That’s when we know the rough edges do not define us but are simply a part of our journey and a part of our story, a story woven with God’s presence and guidance. When we bring God the gift of ourselves, just as we are, we begin to understand the true depth and breadth of grace.
Romans 8 verses 38 and 39: “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Grace is God looking at us as we take off every filter, undo every cinch and nip and tuck.
Grace is God looking at us and seeing us. Scared about the future. Strong bodied, weak bodied, cancer bodied. Addictions and anxiety. Grieving new loss and old loss. On the days we can’t wait to go into work and on the days we sit in our car with dread. In healthy relationships and marriages that are falling a part. With adult kids that don’t call and whose lives we can’t live for them. With parents that are starting to forget things and teenagers growing up way too fast.
Grace is God looking at you, seeing all of you, and saying, I love you, just as you are.
And then, when God sees us and we see ourselves, we can truly begin to heal, to forgive, to release, to love, and to grow.
The best gift we can bring to God is ourselves just as we are. God wants our imperfect, unfiltered, unphotoshopped selves because that is how we come to know grace, that is how we come to know who God made us to be, and that is how we start to live the abundant life God made us to have.
“10 When they saw that the star had stopped,[g] they were overwhelmed with joy. 11 On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.”
This week, offer your gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Take courage, remove the filters and veneer, and feel God say, I love you, just as you are.