The three figures walked unnoticed with the crowd. There was nothing unusual about them, although their unhurried pace was out of synch with the frenzy of holiday shoppers.
December winds blew cold against the faces of the crowd as they pushed past the store windows. Nina saw the soft light of a coffee shop, and the warmth of the interior beckoned to her.
“One quick cup of coffee is all I have time for,” she said to no one in particular.
The three figures heard Nina’s words, glanced at each other knowingly, and followed her into the little coffee shop. They chose a small round table next to hers.
“What can I get for you?” the young waitress asked impatiently.
“I’ll just have a Hazelnut coffee, with cream please.”
The waitress retreated as Nina massaged her temples. She looked at all the packages on the floor at her feet and wondered how she would pay off the credit card debt come January. Nina knew the things she worried about had nothing to do with celebrating her Creator’s birth. There has to be more than this, she thought. She was caught up in the dreams of a peaceful Christmas, when one of the strangers interrupted her thoughts.
“Excuse me?” she asked, caught off guard by a piercing gaze.
“I was just asking if you’re okay. You look like you’re having a bad day.”
Nina sensed the genuine concern of this man and instantly felt safe. She was surprised that she felt drawn to him and his friends. Smiling for the first time all day, Nina said, “Oh. Thank-you for your concern and kindness. I’m just thinking about the difficult people on my list that I have to buy for, and dreading the stress of extended families at Christmas time.”
“It’s sad how people lose focus of the real meaning of Christmas, buried beneath expensive gifts and decorations,” said one of the three, gently.
Nina couldn’t help asking the three curious strangers, “How do I find the peaceful Christmas I dream of?”
One of them smiled and said, “There was once a much quieter December, with real joy, real connections, and real hope. When opened, the wisdom of three gifts celebrated Jesus as our King, our God, and our Savior.”
Who are these men, Nina wondered. With curiosity, she leaned closer in her chair, urging them to continue.
“When Jesus was born, Gold was a gift offered to a King. Giving this gift symbolized how important and valuable was the one receiving it. A Gold gift will honor and celebrate when given.”
“Frankincense,” another continued, “was the purest incense. It produced a fine white smoke when salt was added, symbolizing prayers and praises of the faithful ascending to heaven. It was one of the world’s first cure-all medicines, a sacred substance that symbolized Christ’s divinity. A Frankincense gift should be given in celebration of the ways a person most enjoys spending time with God.”
“Like Frankincense,” said the third, “Myrrh was also used for medicinal purposes, as well as for scenting anointing oils. It represented Christ’s human nature. A Myrrh gift, like a fine oil or perfume, anoints the person it is given to.”
At that moment the waitress interrupted with the bill. The verbal exchange couldn’t have taken more than a moment, but when Nina turned back, the three figures were out the door walking toward the street. Nina was filled with disappointment.
Confused, she gathered her belongings to leave, and noticed a small book left behind by the strangers. She hesitantly picked up the leather bound book, and discovered it was a New Testament. Inside, written in scrolled letters, were the words:
Nina, the real gift lies in Jesus our King, our God, our sacrificial Lamb.
In His Love,
Nina found herself outside on the sidewalk, her steps less hurried and her mood a bit softer. Treasuring her new gift, she smiled to herself. The three strangers had disappeared into the bustling crowd. She wondered where they were headed and what gifts they would bestow there. She looked up and thanked Him for her gift.
“Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.” Hebrews 13:1-2 (NIV)