The Spectator

What would you take to Bethlehem?

The Wise Men offered gold, frankincense and myrrh — but where can you get hold of myrrh these days? The Spectator asked Britain’s great and good what they would give Jesus if He were born today

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The Wise Men offered gold, frankincense and myrrh — but where can you get hold of myrrh these days? The Spectator asked Britain’s great and good what they would give Jesus if He were born today

The Wise Men offered gold, frankincense and myrrh — but where can you get hold of myrrh these days? The Spectator asked Britain’s great and good what they would give Jesus if He were born today

The Most Reverend Dr John Sentamu, Archbishop of York

Firstly I would give Him myself. My life is the only valuable possession that I could give Him. We are all made in God’s image and likeness. Only a god-like gift is worthy of God. The offering of my total self forms part of my worship.

The second gift I would offer Him is my lips, acknowledging Him as Lord of everything. The prayer of General Thanksgiving in the Book of Common Prayer says it all: ‘We bless thee for our creation, preservation, and all the blessings of this life, but above all for thine inestimable love in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ; for the means of grace and for the hope of glory.’ Thanksgiving is the second gift worthy of the God of love.

Thirdly, I would give Him an open invitation to come and stay with me in Yorkshire. It is important that we do not just think of our gifts as financial transactions — giving our time to others and allowing them into our lives is an incredibly valuable and enriching experience. It would give Him a chance to get to know the wonderful people who live in ‘God’s own county’, where generosity and hospitality are strong traditions. Although whether I could persuade Him to join me at York City FC is another matter entirely!

Behind all this is the willingness to offer Him all possessions.

Sister Wendy Beckett

I would want to offer the Christ child the three gifts He has given us. Faith in the gospels and their practical implications; Hope in the goodness of His Father whom our Jesus ‘knows’; and Charity in the hearts of all people whether we see it or not.

Christopher Howse

Christina Rossetti suggested that those without a lamb available should offer their heart. I’ve tried this, and it is by no means easy. If Jesus were born now, He would find things lacking in adult life that were supplied by friends in His own time. Women, we are given to understand, helped look after Him, no doubt washing and mending His clothes. I wonder if they would today. So, although a life-subscription to a laundry is not an easily found gift, I’m sure some sort of trust fund could be set up for the purpose. Give Him gold, and He’d only use it for other people.

The Most Reverend Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster

The Three Wise Men came to Jesus ‘to pay Him homage’. Their gifts were signs of their acknowledgement of Jesus as Lord and Master. My gift carries the same meaning. It is a pay-as-you-go mobile phone so that I can be summoned by him, any time, anywhere. I am ready for His call and attentive to what He wants me to do. Incidentally, such a gift would have led to less anxiety for Mary and Joseph when Jesus went missing. He could have rung to say He was staying in Jerusalem, with the teachers in the Temple.

James Delingpole

I’d give Him an X-Box (note for older readers: video game-playing device). ‘Call of Duty: Modern Warfare’ (ultra-realistic shoot-’em-up). I think it will help Baby Jesus develop the right motor skills He’ll need in the great Clash of Civilisations. That turning-the-other-cheek stuff may have worked in olden-days Palestine, but the kind of Jesus we need in today’s terrifying world is the kind who rescued Santa from the evil Islamic terrorists in that memorable South Park episode where our Dear Lord opens His robes to reveal an array of lethal weaponry and announces: ‘I’m packin’!’

Norman Tebbit

I’d steer clear of giving Him any technology, because I don’t understand any myself. Who is that latest Tory guru? Oh yes, Phillip Blond. I’d give the Lord a copy of his most recent pronouncements in the hope that He might tell me what on earth they mean.

The Reverend Nicky Gumbel, Vicar, Holy Trinity, Brompton

In order to get some help with answering the question, I asked my daughter, ‘If Christ were born today, what would you offer Him?’ She replied without hesitation ‘My red leather jacket!’ — her favourite possession.

At the heart of Christmas is God’s love for us. They offered Him gold because it is the one metal that all humankind bows down to. They recognised God himself had come to be part of our world. They offered Him frankincense because of what He came to do. Frankincense is the symbol of prayer and points to a relationship with God — which Jesus made possible. They offered Him myrrh because of what it cost Him. Myrrh was a burial ointment. Jesus came to give His life for us. If Jesus were born today, I would offer Him ‘my life, my love, my all’.

Actually, I think my daughter’s answer is far more profound. It is easy to be general, hard to be specific.

Terry Sanderson, President, National Secular Society

I would give baby Jesus the name of a top-flight lawyer — I’m sure he’d qualify for legal aid, so no need to worry about money — to defend him in his forthcoming blasphemy trial. Imagine what would have happened if he had been found innocent. No Christianity. He could have ditched his delusions and gone off and had a lovely life with Mary Magdalene. On the whole, I think the world would have been a better place all round.

Vince Cable MP

I think the first thing I would give Him would be an Aramaic/English Dictionary to help Him understand the past and a boxed set of Mozart CDs including the Ramallah Concert recorded by Daniel Barenboim and an orchestra of young Arabs and Jews divided by war. I suppose I would also want Him to have the passport to a world-class university, which is probably a bit better than an apprenticeship in carpentry.

Emily Maitlis

If Christ were born today? A swine flu jab might come in handy. Particularly given His domestic surroundings.

Reporting by Will Heaven.