Gift giving seems to be a big part of Christmas. And when you look at the first Christmas you see that giving gifts was a big part of that Christmas ,too. The Magi brought three gifts: gold, frankincense and myrrh.
Let’s read their story.
Matthew 2:1-2 & 9-11
Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the reign of King Herod. About that time, some wise men from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him.”
After this interview the wise men went their way. And the star they had seen in the east guided them to Bethlehem. It went ahead of them and stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were filled with joy! They entered the house and saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasure chests and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
Kind of some unique gifts to give to a baby. No baby blanket or set of pacifiers for Jesus.
During this blog I want to examine why those three things were brought over the endless other options.
GOLD: Here is what we know about gold. It is a precious metal. We don’t know the the weight of the gold but if it could have been 8lbs 3oz (which could be the weight of a certain baby… we have no idea). The value of that much gold would be $163,344. We really don’t know how much was given, but that really isn’t the point. The point is gold is a precious metal and today an ounce of gold is worth $1230.90. Some scholars believe that gold would have been given to Jesus because of his Kingship. Others point out that idols in that day would be covered in gold and worshiped. By giving the christ child gold, the wiseman recognized Jesus as God and worshipped him accordingly.
Frankincense: Here is what we know about frankincense. It is difficult for kids (and adults) to pronounce. But what is frankincense? It is a very expensive perfume, or as one website said “an aromatic resin”. It comes from a certain species of trees and you get it by cutting the bark off this tree and extracting it through its bark. Interestingly, the bible talks about this in the old testament uniquely to the priests. They would offer prayers with burning this incense. It is pretty clear that through this gift of frankincense, the wise men were communicating that Christ was a priest. The book of Hebrews calls him our High Priest.
Myrrh: The last gift that was given to the young Jesus. Here is what we know about myrrh. Myrrh is a gum-like resin similar to Frankincense. It is very strong smelling and it would often be associated with death. It would be used with the process of embalming because of pleasing yet strong aroma. It would also have medicinal properties as well. So why give baby Jesus a gift that is used in preparation of the dead? I believe the magi where pointing to another moment in Jesus’ life. The cross…that Jesus would suffer and die for the sins of the world.
I love how even the gifts that were given to Jesus point to him being our high priest, our king, and our suffering Savior. I believe God set things in motion so that even the gifts themselves show that Jesus was a fulfillment of prophecy. I am the way, the truth, and the life. no man come to the father except through me. John 14:6
So this Christmas, how do we stay away from commercialism and crowd out Christ from Christmas. We give Christ a gift. Our time. The magi gave unbelievably expensive gifts, one more expense the next. (in fact, some believe that the frankincense and myrrh would have been more expensive than the gold in their time). Yet I think the gift of their time was one of the most important. They traveled far from the east. But because they gave up their time, they encountered Jesus. The star didn’t come out just for the wisemen, yet they were the ones who responded. In order to respond, they had to give their most precious resource: Their time. This Christmas season, be generous. But be most generous with your time and be generous with your time when it comes with opportunities to encounter Jesus. Because when you do, you are encountering the Suffering Savior, King and Lord, and High Priest. That is a great gift to unwrap.