Remember that first Christmas with your spouse and how you struggled to find the perfect gift that would speak of your love? How about putting together that perfect Easter basket for a special child in your life? I have spent hours in a Hallmark store looking for the right card to express my condolences to a friend who is hurting. It has to be perfect, yet we are imperfect creatures. The only time i ever recieved a gift that was perfect was when I recieved Christ as my Saviour. That’s not exactly a fair comparison to any other gift but it does make a point. Perfect gifts are not ours to give.
Two thousand or so years ago, three gifts were given to a perfect baby. I wonder if those long ago Magi felt intimidated as they knelt and laid thier gifts before the King. What could they possibly give that would be appropriate? Surprisingly, they came up with some pretty good ideas for that unusual baby shower. They brought three gifts that had to be divinely inspired since they captured the moment so beautifully, almost perfectly.
There is alot of interesting conjecture about who the Magi or Wise Men of the Christmas story might actually have been. All we know for certain is that they studied the stars, lived east of Judea and were so convinced of what they saw in the night skies that they traveled a long way to see the one they considered a King. As any considerate guest would do, they came bearing gifts. Gifts carefully chosen to honor the child and when they found Him, they bowed down and worshipped.
The first gift that is mentioned is gold. This precious metal has always been associated with royalty. By giving Jesus the gift of gold, the Magi were declaring thier support of His Kingship. but they were also worshipping the King. Gold is intertwined with the concept of worship in the Old Testament. The Hebrews were instructed to make a sanctuary or tabernacle in which God Himself would dwell (Exodus 25:8,9). God gave His people very detailed instructions not only to the construction of this wilderness temple but also described every stick of furniture that was to be placed in it. The items were made of gold or overlaid with gold against curtains of fine cloth. Although I have seen artist’s renderings of what the inside of the tabernacle must have looked like, I think we can all agree that whatever is in our mind’s eye falls far short of how stunning it must have actually looked like.
The gift of gold represents an acknowledgement of Christ’s Kingship in our lives and our desire to worship HIm as King. Give Jesus the gold of your life. Offer up your most honest submission and ardent thankfulness as worship to the King.
The second gift listed is frankincense. This is a gummy sap that oozes from the Boswellia tree. The resin hardens and is then scraped off the trunk of the tree. It can be burned or steamed to yeild essential oils. Frankincense has a sweet citrus flavor that is most often enjoyed by burning it but it can be eaten or chewed also. Medicinal uses include treatment for some cancers, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease and asthma.
Two thousand years ago, frankincense was a very important oil for fragrance and medicine. It is also believed that it was considered to be more valuble than gold. This was the fragrance that was burned as an offering in the temple by the High Priest.
The gift of frankincense represents Jesus’ divinity and position as HIgh Priest who intercedes for us (Heb. 7:25). In ancient times the priest would offer daily sacrifices but Jesus has done away with that system when He offered Himself on the cross. Therefore, the gift of frankincense is symbolic of the preistly offering. We may consider the temple offerings to be an archaic form of worship, no longer relevant today – but that would be a serious mistake. Romans 12:1 calls us to be a “living sacrifice”. 1 Peter 2:9 tells us that we are a “royal priesthood”. In other words, when we offer ourselves to God to use as He will, we are burning our little bit of frankincense on the altar of our lives. May it’s fragrance, offered freely and lovingly, be as pleasing today as those long ago priests.
Lastly, the baby Jesus was given Myrrh. This is another resin similar to frankincense. It comes from the commipheri tree, seeping though man-made cuts on it’s bark. The hardened resin is broken off and can be used as an oil or in it’s hard form.It has a piney, bitter odor when burned. Myrrh was well known to ancient cultures who used it in perfumes and oils, as incense, insect repellant, as a salve for wounds or as an embalming agent.
The gift of Myrrh was given to the man that the baby Jesus would become. It speaks of the bitterness of His earthly life and death. Luke 2:19 tells us that Mary “treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” Although the Magi are not mentioned in this passage, it does refer to all the signs and wonders of her son’s birth. What was she thinking when she held that last gift? Did she recoil when she realized what it was? Did the foreshadowing of something as dreadful as the cross register in her maternal mind? Probably not. The full impact of His earthly life and death are hard to comprehend even today, but this gift reminds us of the child born to die. If frankincense is our offering to hIm – then myrrh is HIs offering to us. It represents His sacrifice, given freely to us. The One who came to save, first had to die. As such He was able to offer the only perfect gift ever to be given or recieved, the gift of salvation.
Gold for the King of kings, frankincense for the High Priest and myrrh for the ultimate sacrifice. Unwrap the bitterness of myrrh and you will find the golden glow of the King. Take a moment to inhale the sweet smell of frankincense eveloping that gift box. And inside – a little baby who would turn the world upside down. The perfect gift for a hurting world.