Many of us have three wise men as part of our nativity scene. However, these Gentiles did not visit Jesus until possibly two years after his birth. Christians refer to this event as Epiphany. The “12 Days of Christmas” ends with the celebration of Epiphany on January 6th.
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 2:9-12 NIV)
Matthew does not tell us exactly how many wise men actually made the trip. However, he tells us of the three specific gifts they brought to the baby Jesus. As a result, Christians traditionally use three Magi to match.
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These three gifts, gold, frankincense and myrrh, give an amazing witness regarding Jesus’ true identity and purpose.
Only babies of stature or royalty, if any, received gifts, especially such valuable ones. So for a poor Jewish baby, born in the lowliest and humblest way, to receive them would have been unimaginable. But that was the whole point. Nevertheless, their monetary value is not their real importance. It is what the gifts symbolize.
In Biblical times, gold was the most valuable of the medals even though it was in abundance. It denoted earthly riches, and thus related to royalty. Truly fitting for the King of Kings, though his is a heavenly kingdom.
The Israelites used gold to worship God. Among other things, God instructed Moses to cover the Ark of the Covenant, and its table and lampstands in pure gold. (Exodus 25) Therefore, gold indicated we would worship Jesus.
God also included frankincense in worship. He listed it as one of the required ingredients in the holy perfume.
Then the LORD said to Moses, “Take fragrant spices–gum resin, onycha and galbanum–and pure frankincense, all in equal amounts, and make a fragrant blend of incense, the work of a perfumer. It is to be salted and pure and sacred.” (Exodus 30: 34-35)
Priests placed the perfume in front of the Ark where God came to meet them. The people participated in the worship as well.
“And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside.” (Luke 1:10)
The gift of frankincense acknowledged Jesus as God. We would worship and pray to him just as we do the Father.
In Exodus, God directed Moses to prepare “sacred anointing oil.” God included myrrh among the oil’s ingredients.
“Take the following fine spices: 500 shekels of liquid myrrh….Make these into a sacred anointing oil, a fragrant blend, the work of a perfumer. It will be the sacred anointing oil.” (Exodus 30:23, 25)
In Luke 4, Jesus entered the Synagogue to preach. He read the following passage from Isaiah.
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (emphasis mine)
Jesus then began his sermon with, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
The gift of myrrh recognizes Jesus as God’s Anointed One. Myrrh also revealed why Jesus came to earth.
During Jesus’ time, burial practices were much different than today. Loved ones prepared bodies with spices and oils before wrapped them and placing them in a tomb. Myrrh was one of the oils used in the preparation.
This gift predicted that Jesus’ purpose was to die. God demanded a sacrifice for sin and Jesus would be the unblemished Passover Lamb to die for all our sins. His perfect life and brutal death paid for our transgressions. He took our deserved place on the cross, thus becoming our Lord and Savior.
God promised he would send a savior in Genesis when Adam and Eve first sinned.
“And I will put enmity
between you and the woman,
and between your offspring (unbelievers) and hers (believers);
he (Jesus) will crush your (Satan) head,
and you will strike his heel (refers to Jesus’ death).” (Genesis 3:15 notes mine)
God used the gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, to testify that our savior had arrived.
This just goes to prove sometimes it’s not so much the gift, but the thought behind it, that counts.
But that’s just my 2 cents.
May the saving grace of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ give you peace and comfort throughout the year and the rest of your days.