When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. – Matthew 2:10-11
The wise men, the Magi from the east, came to visit the newborn King of the Jews, because they saw his star in the sky and came “to worship him” (Matthew 2:2).
They brought him 3 gifts: gold, frankincense and myrrh. We all know what gold is, but what are frankincense and myrrh, and what was their significance as gifts for a newborn king?
Both frankincense and myrrh are resins made from dried tree sap – certainly lacking the glamour of gold – but both were rare and expensive in their own right, as the trees which they are made from are found in the Horn of Africa and the coast of the Arabian Peninsula.
Frankincense was an aromatic incense that was burned by the priests in the temple, and is still used in Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox mass.
Myrrh was used as an ointment for treating wounds and one of its main uses was in the burial process – it was a kind of ancient embalming fluid.
Kind of a weird thing to give to a baby though, don’t you think? It’s not something you can pick up at Babies R’ Us! It’s not something you normally bring to a baby shower! “Oh, look: onesies and a baby bumper for the crib – and oh, a prepaid funeral and embalming. A casket… That is practical – and kind of inappropriate… Thanks…I guess.”
Somehow these Wise Men understood that the reason this King, Jesus, had come, was to be wounded and to lay down his life – that his life would be a sacrifice.
He was born to die, so that we might live.
And just as they brought their gifts to the newborn king to recognize his rule and authority over them – the same is done today. The ways we express that Jesus is king over us is by bringing gifts similar to those which the Magi brought to Jesus.
They brought him Gold — we also express that Jesus is Lord over us by giving to Him of our financial resources.
They brought him Frankincense. In the Old Testament temple, frankincense was a symbol of the prayers and worship offered up to God, which rise up to the Lord and are a sweet-smelling aroma to Him. Another way we recognize the Lordship of Jesus is by praying and singing songs of praise.
And Myrrh: the symbol of death. We recognize and declare Jesus to be King over us as we take communion and acknowledge what He did for us on the Cross, by dying in our place for our sins.
Be a wise man – or woman – and honor Jesus as your king by giving these gifts yourself this Advent season, and beyond.