The County Fair
“After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.” - Matthew 2:9-11 NIV
Just before I was a Senior in High School, we moved to Frankfort, Ky. Frankfort, though the capital of Kentucky, was really a small town. Especially compared to cities the size of Lexington or Louisville. And as such, the county fair was really a bigger deal than I had ever seen or been part of before.
Frankfort and the Franklin County Fair were kind of like the lyrics to most any Country Song written about small towns and county fairs.
Lexington had the Bluegrass Fair and Louisville had the state fair. Both being very large productions with amusement park level rides, concert venues, and statewide appeal. Where as the Franklin County Fair was quite a bit smaller with local pageants and contests, carnival level rides, and smaller-end games of chance.
At this stage in my life, I was pretty good little basketball player. Primarily because I was somewhat tall at 6’6” and was a pretty good shooter.
All that being said, I went to the County Fair with a few of my new friends to hang out and see what girls may be hanging out at the fair. As we approached the basketball shooting contest, a couple of my buddies challenged me to a shooting contest. Each of us would do two shots for $1. Shooting with a normal sized basketball on a smaller that normal rim (that’s usually how the carnival/fair folks make their money and con you into spending yours).
The first two guys stepped up and badly missed their 4 shots. Next, the third guy took his shots and both of them rattled in and out. The second almost going through before finally bouncing out.
I was fourth. But before I shot, I asked the vendor to show me that the ball would, in fact, go through the goal. Sure enough, he stepped close and made a short shot.
That showed me all I needed to see. So, I stepped up and put a little extra arch on my shot and SWISHED the first ball, straight through the goal. Then came the second shot, and the vendor gave me a different ball. When I kindly asked for the original ball, I stepped up and SWISHED the 2nd shot, barely touching any rim again. And I won the night’s first teddy bear.
After we whooped and hollered for a moment or two, a young girl and her parents were walking by and she caught site of my newly won teddy bear. I heard her ask her daddy if she could have one. Instead of waiting for his reply, I leaned down to her level and off the cuff said, “You can have this one. But only if you come and watch us play basketball this season.” She widely grinned in agreement and thankfully accepted my gift. Her dad also stating his thanks and saying, “And we’ll come root on the Frankfort High Panthers this year.”
Something about giving away that Teddy Bear made me feel good inside.
So, throughout the night using just my $10, I won 9 more bears at the basketball shooting contest (until the vendor said I couldn’t play anymore) and made 9 more little fans, along with their parents.
And sure enough, though I had all but forgotten, those 10 families came to almost all of our games that year. And I learned a valuable lesson on the power and value of giving.
The wise men knew the value of giving and traveled from afar to share their gifts with the Child to whom the Star had led.
And they brought gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, along with all they symbolized:
Gold - Fit for a king. Pure, valuable and nearly indestructible. A royal metal indeed
Frankincense - A gift for a priest since it was mixed with oil and used to anoint priests. In Jesus day, it was used as an offering of thanksgiving and praise to God in temple worship.
Myrrh - A gift for the Savior. Myrrh is derived from the Hebrew word meaning “bitter” and was used to prepare dead bodies for burial to help cover the odor of decay. This final gift foreshadowed the suffering that Jesus would one day endure on the cross in fulfillment of His role as Savior
A child born in a manger in a stable used by normal farm animals. But not just any child, but God’s Child. God’s one and only Son. A Son that would grow into a man. But not just any man, a God-man, a holy man, a sinless man. Born to one day die. Die on a cross for our sins. Die so that we might experience grace. Die so that we could be forgiven. And then, defeating death, defeating the sin of the world, after three days, this God-man resurrected so that we, through this grace and forgiveness, might have life, eternal life, abundant life. And one day be with Him and His Father in Heaven. Once and for all repairing the separation, the chasm between God and His creation, man.
Jesus, the greatest gift of all. This Christmas, may we learn the value of Him and the free gift that He gave and still gives.
And may we learn the value of giving to those less fortunate than ourselves for the year (and years) to come.
Keep the Faith... Carpe Diem