One of my favorite moments of Christmas every year is seeing the joy on the faces of my children, grandson, family and friends as they open their gifts on Christmas morning. The wise men were overjoyed when they saw the star over the home of the Christ-child. Their long journey from the East had finally brought them to their destination. If you have ever taken a long trip home for the holidays (especially with children!) then you know just how long the trip is…and how long it feels. The wise men traveled on camels. We don’t really know how many wise men there were. We usually associate three wise men with the Christmas story because of the three gifts they brought to the young Christ-child. It would have been very likely that they came with servants and their families in a rather large caravan. There joy most certainly could have been due to finally reaching their destination, but in Matthew 2:2, we find the reason they came… to worship the newborn King.
As part of their worship, they brought Jesus gifts. The three gifts may not seem like something we’d give to a child today, but in those days the gifts they brought were the appropriate, standard gifts with which one would honor a king. Gold was a precious and valuable metal, just as it is today. Frankincense was used as a perfume or incense. Myrrh was used as an anointing oil. The Bible does not tell us of any significance to these gifts but we can find some symbolic reasoning to them. Gold is mentioned throughout the Bible and in Exodus 25:10-17, we find the Ark of the Covenant was overlaid with gold. Through the Bible, gold is associated with divinity and the wise men’s gift of gold was symbolic of Jesus being born as God in human flesh.
Frankincense is very fragrant when burned and often used in worship. Exodus 30:34 shows us that is was used as a pleasant offering to God as a symbol of His holiness and righteousness. Jesus willingly became our sacrifice in our place and the gift of frankincense was a symbol of His holy, righteous, sacrifice on the cross.
Myrrh was often used as an embalming spice. It is symbolic of bitterness, suffering, and affliction. What Jesus endured on the cross for us was the ultimate price paid for our sins.
As you are preparing for Christmas and finishing you gift-buying, wrapping the treasures you’ve gathered for friends and family, would you take some time to first celebrate the joy that the birth of Christ means to us and second would you consider what gift you have to offer Him?
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