As a kid I was always excited to see what gifts would be waiting for me on Christmas morning, waiting to see what cool new stuff I could play with, or, at least, pretend to be excited about until I found something I really really wanted: encyclopaedia and shower gel, awesome…where are the toys, where is the ball!
Then, when we saw my grandparents the next day the whole thing would repeat: soap, wow, thanks Grandma, socks, awesome, thanks Grandad, super practical, but where is the new computer game?
But, little did I know that those gifts which might have looked a little dull to me as a young boy were probably the most practical and useful gifts that were coming my way that particular Christmas. I didn’t know why I’d need a new set of compasses and rulers for school, or a pair of summer shorts when it was 2 degrees outside (that’s celsius, too) but someone did, didn’t they, otherwise they wouldn’t have bought them for me.
Think of the gifts that Jesus received from the wise men (Matthew 2.1-12); Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh. These gifts might have seen a little odd, but, they had a very practical purpose.
Last time I checked, one ounce of gold cost around BD689 , and in Jesus’ time it would have been even more valuable.
The spices (frankincense and myrrh) were also very valuable, and at the time may have even been as costly as gold in terms of weight. So, very practical gifts. The family could have sold them and lived off the money. Most likely, they used the gifts as a source of funds to travel to, and be sustained in, Egypt.
But, there is also a great deal of spiritual symbolism in the gifts offered.
What did these gifts represent symbolically, prophetically, for the future?
Gold is associated with royalty and deity in the Bible, regular folks like you and me don’t have much gold hanging around at home (I don’t anyway) and it was a gift given to kings around the time of Christ’s birth. The wise men’s first gift of gold symbolised Jesus’ role as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Not only did the gold represent Christ’s deity, it also represented his Kingship. Gold is often associated with kingship and ruling authority in the Scriptures (2 Samuel 12.30, for example).
Jesus Christ was, is, and always will be, fully God.
After the resurrection Thomas declared,
“My Lord and My God”
Frankincense was a type of incense burned as a sacrifice and used by priests during services of worship around the time of Christ’s birth. Frankincense is a strong smelling resin that you get from the bark of a certain species of tree. The most popular use of frankincense in the Bible was the burning of incense by the priests, so, the wise men’s gift of frankincense symbolised Jesus’ priesthood.
In Exodus 30.34-36, God gave specific instructions for a special blend of incense to be burned exclusively by the priest.
“The Lord said to Moses, “Take sweet spices, stacte, and onycha, and galbanum, sweet spices with pure frankincense (of each shall there be an equal part), and make an incense blended as by the perfumer, seasoned with salt, pure and holy. You shall beat some of it very small, and put part of it before the testimony in the tent of meeting where I shall meet with you. It shall be most holy for you.”
The frankincense that the wise men gave to Christ symbolised His priesthood. The Bible plainly teaches that Christ is our High Priest (Hebrews 4.14-16).
Myrrh is a gum-like resin, similar to frankincense, and it comes from a bushy tree. Myrrh smells good, and it had many uses in Biblical times. Myrrh is most frequently associated, however, with suffering and death. It was often used as an embalming fluid since the strong smell would help mask the stench of a decaying body. At the death of Jesus we read this,
“Nicodemus also, who earlier had come to Jesus by night, came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds in weight”.
The wise men’s gift of myrrh prophetically signified that Jesus was born to suffer and die. The gift of myrrh symbolised the ultimate purpose that Jesus would fulfil, His ministry, His mission here on Earth.
So, these were not random gifts. The gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh carried prophetic meanings. They meant something very practical in the immediacy, but, they were really gifts for the future. They symbolised Jesus’ roles as a king, priest and sacrificial saviour.
The wise men travelled far to give Jesus gifts.
- They gave Him a gift of gold that symbolised his kingship and deity.
- They gave Him some frankincense that symbolised His priesthood,
- They gave Him some myrrh that symbolised His suffering and death, for us.
Even before they set off, before they prophetically picked out His gifts, before they put them in a nice gift bag with a tag, ‘To Jesus love Magi’, there was an even better gift given.
In the ultimate expression of His love for you, God gave His creation the gift of His Son incarnate.
He is the gift of a clean slate before God.
He is the gift of reconciliation.
He is the gift of eternal life.
He is the gift of the opportunity to have a right relationship with God.
He is the gift of forgiveness from our sins.
All we have to do is take the gift.
Will you take it? Have you taken it?
Will you take the free gift of salvation that Christ wants to give you right now?